Interview with hip-hop’s premiere bilingual rhymer, Scheme.
Scheme: BiLingual Bars
CHM: My first vast question, why did you decide to take that route of rapping in Spanish and English? Why not be a Mexican rapper who raps solely in English?
SCHEME: My intentions when I started making music didn’t go any further than just creating it. I was too young to understand the bigger picture at the time. I just enjoyed the process of creating; I was able to hang out with my friends, have a good time and in the process create art; that was all that mattered. As time passed I understood the power in creating. With that power came responsibility. I wanted to tell the stories of the people around me and how I was raised. I’m Mexican. That is where I came from culturally. At home I spoke Spanish, and followed cultural traditions. But my life as an MC and my home life always seemed separate. As time passed I realized how I can tie them together and I began making attempts to do it early on. Even in my first projects I had some of it lingering around, but it wasn’t until I released Chicano that I tackled it head on. That song taught me that there is a story out there that needs to be told via Hip Hop that no one is really tapping into. Since then I’ve made strides to connect both cultures that raised me. I only began creating music in Spanish because I felt some of our stories just need to be told in Spanish. I can’t talk about the struggle of coming to this country like my parents did, how hard it is to find a job, how it is to have to hide from immigration … the people who live that for the most part, from the perspective I’m taking on it, speak Spanish. In order to connect with them, I needed to tell our stories in Spanish. I always wanted to be respected for my music period. Music is universal.
CHM: Similar to me, you’re also a first generation Mexican-American, how has your family reacted to your music and your choice of career path?
SCHEME: Until recently have they come to accept what I do. Hip-Hop music was never the norm at home. Ramon Ayala, Carlos Y Jose, Los Cadetes, Rancheritos, Traileros, Invasores, Ruben Naranjo; that is what my family’s playlist mostly looked like. And I loved all of that music as well. But as a kid being raised in Chicago, I just related to rappers a bit more. They were saying the things I was seeing and living. My family just know I would leave home and go to the studio or go to a show, but that was it. I never blamed them though, they just didn’t know better. They probably thought it was a phase, or a hobby; but in my head this was my career. It took a couple of things to happen and years of me constantly working on it for them to finally realize this wasn’t a phase, and that I actually had people out here listening to what I had to say. After that, they began to pay a little more attention to what I did. I’ve been blessed to have an amazing family, we just necessarily didn’t see eye to eye when it came to my music, but that never stopped me. Now they are proud of my few accomplishments and I appreciate it.
CHM: Is anyone in your family particularly musical?
SCHEME: All my uncles and aunts from my pops side always sang, played the accordion, el bajo and had the music in them. My pops always wanted to learn to play, but never had the time, up until these last years, where he’s picked up the accordion and has learned a lot. I’m real proud of him, because that was something he always wanted to do. Now he plays his polkas, and does his thing when we all hang out. Music was always a big part of our gatherings though, and just being at home, the music always had its place.
CHM: At what age did you discover your passion for music? Did that discovery lead to your life-long commitment to hip-hop music?
SCHEME: When I was real young I just liked putting on a show when the whole family was together. I was around 3 or so. I would breakdance and just show out (laughs). For the most part I’ve been a low key person. I’m out going and talkative, but I have to have that kind of relationship with you, but the music always brought out another side of me. I realized I liked writing when I was like 11. It began with just writing raps with my friend Ricardo. It stopped for a while, then I picked the pen back up in high school, when I saw my friend Gustavo writing. I remembered how much I liked it, and never stopped since. From there I started figuring out how to record and never looked back. It’s all been a learning process. Self-taught. That’s the beauty of Hip-Hop. It lets kids with hardly any resources, create.
CHM: What music did you grow up listening to?
SCHEME: A lot of Nortenas, my sister Margie liked a lot of Spanish and English rock growing up, so because of her, I was exposed to that as well. Then when I was 8 I was introduced to Hip-Hop through Cypress Hill, and I kept digging for everything I could find and get my hands on. I didn’t have the funds to buy a lot of the music I wanted, so I would record them off of my friends, or just buy mix tapes that were cheaper and had different music on it.
CHM: You seem to have quite a large following in Chicago, how many years in the making is your fan base?
SCHEME: It’s been some years now. It’s crazy though, because sometimes I get these brothas coming up to me saying I’m a legend to them, and that baffles me to begin with, because I don’t feel I’ve accomplished much to get that title, but I truly appreciate the compliment. Then I can turn around and someone tell me they just got put up on to me last week. I’m at a place where the people who have been following me, are real fans and know my history, but many still consider me a new artist. I like that though. I like being in that position for now. It gives me room to grow.
CHM: Your recently released track “Crooked Ones” was produced by Analyst and you announced the Respect All, Fear None EP solely produced by him – how did that collaboration come about?
SCHEME: I first heard the homie Analyst a couple of years ago when he sent me some beats for projects I was working on at the time. I honestly don’t even remember what social network we came across each other on (laughs), but we did, and that’s all that matters now. I always appreciated his range and his ear for detail. We have an underlying understanding of the kind of music we want to make and everything has just been a natural process for us. He’ll send me beats constantly, and whenever I have an idea, a sample I want him to flip, or a concept for a song, I’ll get a beat from him in a day or 2. You don’t find that in a lot of people. Those are the kind of things that differentiate the people who make it and don’t. He’s a great all around producer and I’m glad he’s part of my music team; we definitely have some great music coming.
CHM: What can we expect on the next EP, Respect All, Fear None? Any features we can anticipate?
SCHEME: Features are still up in the air for this EP. My main focus for this project was to get Analyst and I on the same page musically, and get people acquainted with him and I working together. I see us growing as artist together, and him being a produced I work for a while. We had been releasing songs together here and there, and none of them had a home, as far as a project. So we figure we get some of those songs that were standouts, and make a project around them. This EP will turn into an LP down the line as well. This is the beginning of the Scheme and Analyst discography, we just wanted the people to get acquainted.
CHM: Because you’re collaborating with Analyst, is there a new or refined sound you’re honing in on for the EP?
SCHEME: My purpose with every project is just to make the music I want to make. Songs that come natural and subject matter that has a purpose. Working with one produce on a project always creates a special sound though. There’s always a cohesiveness that can be found in projects which only a few producers touched, sort of like when I did The Manifesto with The Sound Merchants. There are certain things that can easily be translated in the music when you are working that closely with someone, as opposed to having a lot of different producers in one project, unless you have a great executive producer making sure all the pieces fall right into place.
CHM: Do you plan to continue your career rapping in both English and Spanish?
SCHEME: Definitely. The opportunities that have come from making that change, and the possibilities that are out there; and most importantly the fact that the people have let me know they enjoy the music in both languages, assures that I’ll keep pursuing it in my career.
CHM: Where do you get most of your drive and inspiration from?
SCHEME: Honestly, in my family and friends. I want to be able to help all of them, and be the one to break the cycle for all of us. My parents always told us, they came to this country so we can do better than them. So to me that meant to work for ourselves. They had no choice but to work wherever they could to raise us. My parents worked in ranches 7 days a week, from sun up to sun down. They’ve worked in factories, bakeries, anywhere you can think of. I wanted to make a business to work for myself. Music became that for me. I just want to break the mold for the generations to come in our family. If I’m not the one that does it, at least I planted that seed in my nephews. They’ve seen their uncle follow his dream and chase after it with everything he has. If it’s not me who breaks it, it will be them. And that is what drives me.
CHM: How do you define “hustle” as one of Chicago‘s illest bi-lingual emcees?
SCHEME: I learned my hustle from my homie Cesar [Visual]. That brother taught me how to go out there and push my music and make money off of it at a real young age. He made me realize that you just have to go out there push it to the people. Some of these rappers are too cool for that. Well you stand over there looking cool, I’m over here trying to make this money. The Mole men also taught me the hustle. I learned a lot of what I know from them as well. I will never forget that. But the word hustle itself, to me, just means making it happen by any means necessary.
CHM: What else would you like to add?
SCHEME: Look out for the upcoming projects. I have a lot in the works. But I’m not going to be moving the same way I have been these last few years. A lot more strategics and planning going on with these projects. The wait will be worth it though. I appreciate every one of you who has supported me up to this point.
Written by Jordhan Briggs