"Violence is cowardly": Rap and poetry bring a new reality to Mexico's slums
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Tepito, located in the heart of Mexico City, is going through a social revolution thanks largely to the urban rap group Radio Tepito Sound System, which is out to bring a new reality to a poor neighborhood notorious for violence and drug trafficking.
The band with its 10 young musicians distances itself from crime and uses its raw poetry to portray the struggling masses, urban atmosphere and violence on the streets.
"Speaking is the best weapon, not violence; violence is cowardly," rapper Daniel Cruz told EFE.
Music will never be the whole story for the Tepito group - they are the philanthropists of their neighborhood, collecting and distributing clothing, toys and food for the needy.
With these good deeds, members of Radio Tepito Sound System hope to teach their neighborhood the meaning of all for one and one for all.
Cruz says the group seeks "to change the image Tepito shows the world" and reveal its largely hidden side of undeniable cultural riches.
The youths, who mix music with their studies, do not remain indifferent to the tumultuous life around them, for that is the inspiration for many of their lyrics.
Adan Romero, known as H.R., said that since his teen years he has seen several family members die, both young and old.
"Those are not things a 15-year-old ought to see," the youth said with misty eyes, though adding he is proud to sing "for those people who aren't here anymore."
And he sends a clear message: "Being from Tepito doesn't mean being violent."
He also talks about the worst times these slums have to offer.
"Many take advantage (of difficult times) to inflict violence, stage robberies, take drugs...I use them to make music," he said proudly.
Cesar Cova said he started writing poetry in elementary school to ignore the grim atmosphere surrounding him.
The artist said he was repeatedly warned about the dangers on the street, something that helped turn him to music.
"My lyrics talk about everything. The truth is, we live in a neighborhood where you can expect anything," he said.
The group was born when Cesar Cova and rapper Jonathan Alvarez called for musicians to teach young people "to shed their vices by playing music."
"We taught kids singing, music, rhythm, poetry," Cova said.
Today it is rap, trap and fusion with R&B and reggae that combine to pour out the sound of a band that takes its inspiration from the urban chaos of Mexico City.
Radio Tepito Sound System is just one example of the cultural upheaval that is acting as a game-changer in poor neighborhoods like Tepito, where talent begins to play a more important role than crime.
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