Straight Outta Dallas: "There are a lot of people who look like us but don't have anyone to look up to”
For their second album, CHROMA is planning an ambitious presentation of Latino hip hop with verses about Hispanic experiences over classic but eclectic beats.
The music scene in Dallas has important Latino bands on the Billboard charts and the rap scene in Texas has many big names of its own with large reputations. Bridging the two movements is CHROMA, a Latino and American hip-hop band, able to work with the ambivalence of both genres and sound original. Their songs sound like they have a message behind them and are not for just pure competition or freestyle.
With songs as bilingual as they are, they have built a hip-hop crew that follows classic four-by-four patterns while sounding contemporary. They burst onto the scene with their first album and a powerful live show.
This year, the group has treated their fans with Primavera Deluxe, which is an extension of their previous album with remixes and new songs.
The beginnings of good rap groups always start with buzz in the neighborhood and the introduction of new members.
Kalid Abdul and Bleu Santana started rapping together in 2017 and their group has since grown to six members. Polito was brought into the group by Kalid, who had known him since they were kids. Soon after that, Jon joined the group as a manager. Andés was Polito's brother, who joined after collaborating in graphic design. Marvin was Andrés' friend and is in charge of the band's visuals.
Their holistic approach to their music and melodies liken them to French Nine8 or Tyler the Creator's Odd Future. All three are multi-faceted groups that can mix the now of popular trap music with the deep, meaningful lyrics of classic hip-hop.
When asked about their creative process, the members of CHROMA were excited to deliver a complete, fleshed-out project to their fans. They work together within the bonds of friendship to understand the project from both a musical and presentation angle. That approach is seen in the differences between The Year of the Puma (2019) and Primavera Deluxe (2021), in which all their ties as a group have solidified, sounding like a gathering of friends celebrating with their verses.
In the first LP, they are rappers sharing their sorrows and concerns with a punch while respecting the patterns of old school hip-hop. In Primavera Deluxe, there is a festive confidence, more organic rhythms and a willingness to use more modern beats out of the school of Drake, but maintaining the style of old school rap.
Jon: It helps us a lot that we are first-generation Hispanics. We have been in the U.S. and are from Latin America on our parents' route or were born there. Me and Kalid are from Mexico. Polo's and Andres' parents are also Mexican. My brother Bleu is from here but I am from Mexico and my parents anyway. Marvin is also from Central America. That helps us to have the same vision about bringing our Hispanic routes and combining it with the North American hip-hop approach. That's what has helped us to have this chemistry and move forward so fast.
Polito: There are very strong traditions of hip hop in Texas in cities like Houston. What I think it's been missing is Hispanic hip hop. I feel like that doesn't even exist in the United States, although, is getting very popular around the world with figures like Bad Bunny or J Balvin — like Spanish trap music. We would like to make music both influenced by our roots and the Spanish language as well as Texas rap in general. I think it's an interesting cocktail. There's a lot of people that look like us but, don't have anyone to look up to. I think that is what we do for the Texas scene.
Jon: Mexican-American culture is very different in Los Angeles, Dallas or El Paso. I think we are a group that represents Texas, but more than anything else, Dallas first.
Kalid: I think that the message we try to convey with our music more than whether it is happy or not is that it can be heard and makes them feel better about themselves in all ways, accepting themselves as they are. Living life with friends or love, with those positive things.
Jon: The image of the group is very vibrant, but what I like about the kids is that they know how to delve into real issues and topics. There are songs to dance to, not everything has to be deep. But there is a balance.
Polito: The message of joy in Primavera comes from the pandemic. It forced you to find new ways to find happiness. I think the album is also about coming out on the other side as a better person, someone who is able to appreciate happiness a lot more.
Bleu: Something that I admire a lot about A-Wall is the way he does songs. I think he has some excellent concepts that he puts into the music and then knows how to make you sing and feel it. From the moment we met him, we knew that the chemistry would be very positive.
Jon: I think I told them to release a deluxe version. This way we were making the life of the project as long as possible while solving the year's hiatus and giving the people who were following us more music. They were tired of recording for a whole year, but the remixes came from producers whose sound they liked. So we ended up doing the remix with Pretty Boy Aaron and Ya lo sé.
Bleu: The songs "You Must be New Here" and "Guitarrita" weren't finished when we decided to make the first playlist. We finished them later and now they're very good with the remixes.
Marvin: I just want to say that I think that as teams we are something special, I haven't seen anything like this. We're actually doing something new in a new way.