FEATURE: Omar Cruz: Steppin’ Up
Omar Cruz emerged on the underground L.A. mixtape circuit in the mid to late 2000s. His popularity from projects like City of Gods (2004) and Blow (2005), lead to a major joint venture deal with is own label, B.Y.I. Entertainment and Interscope Records. Not only is he gearing up to release his debut, The Sign of The Cruz, in 2009, but he also has a new hosting gig on MTV Tr3s’ "Pimpeando," a remixed version of MTV's "Pimp My Ride" that airs on Mondays at 4 P.M. and 9 P.M. Despite a busy schedule, the Mexican/Colombian MC talks to XXLMag.com about his music, representing for Latinos in hip-hop and why "Pimpeando" is a dope show for anyone to watch as long as they have a vested interest in cars.
XXL: How’d you get involved with "Pimpeando"?
Omar Cruz: I’ve been signed to Interscope for about a year and a half now, working on my record so I had done a few things for MTV Tr3s like "Sucka Free Latino." It was just a few shows in Manhattan but that lead to their interest in me hosting the next season. I did an audition for it and they liked it. That was that. At first, I was not sure about it because I’m not somebody who is like really interested in doing it because I’m a recording artist, my passion is for hip-hop. But in retrospect I’m very glad that I did it because it allowed me to connect with an audience that may not have known my music, especially with the state of the industry now. You have to raise your profile as much as you can.
XXL: You’re half Chicano and grew up in L.A. Not to be cliche, but were you already a car enthusiast?
OC: Yeah. If you’re from Los Angeles car culture is big [and] it’s not just Chicanos. This show brings you inside L.A.’s car culture period. The car culture is just as heavy in the Latin community as it is in the black community because it’s like an extension of our pride. Look what Funk Master Flex has done with the car show; it’s a phenomenon that crosses cultural barriers. It actually unites; it brings a lot of unity between the blacks and Latinos.
XXL: How does "Pimpeando" differ from "Pimp My Ride"?
OC: The show is kind of a spin off of "Pimp My Ride" but I don’t go to people’s houses and put fish tanks inside the cars or anything like that. It’s more of a lifestyle show. It’s more of me pulling up in something sweet and then someone does drifting, off-roading or low riding. There was a recent episode that aired with cars and girls [but] it wasn’t just modeling and sitting on the car. It was indie car race drivers that are competing with dudes or getting into the cars themselves and getting their hands dirty. I would say it’s a phenomenon for today’s culture—pop culture period. Show me a video that doesn’t have a car in it.
XXL: Let’s talk a little about your music. You have a single with Frankie J, is that the first single from your album?
OC: You could call it the first single. We’re looking to release the album this year but with the show doing as well as it is, we want to let it do its thing and then release it in ’09.
XXL: You talked a little about the car culture bringing unity in the black and Latino community. How can you accomplish the same thing with your music?
OC: I did a song with The Game. He’s actually on my album. I’ve worked with him on a few other projects as well so we talked about this. We sat down and we said that us working together will definitely improve relations because if they see us doing it then it just provides a better environment. We do music. We can’t control a lot of the extracurricular activities that go down in the streets. But what we can do is show that amongst each other—especially with him being pretty much the prominent West Coast rapper—him working with me lets me know that he looks at me as a prominent Latino hip-hop artist on the West. Homie is well aware of what’s going on in the streets so it made sense for us to do that.
XXL: Is it frustrating when people label you as just a Latin rapper?
OC: It does frustrate me but I’ve seen crossovers like Pitbull, Fat Joe and Big Pun—what Pun did was amazing. He put out a record and people didn’t care that he was Latino. He was just a beast. I’m an MC but I happen to be Latino [and] I’m not using it as a crutch. I think that’s where a lot of artists fail. At the end of the day, I’m just an artist who happens to be Latino but the music speaks for itself. -Starrene Rhett