BY ROY ALBERT ANDRADE, K1LLER, Inc.
PACOIMA, CALIFORNIA - Juan “Sleepy Malo” Iturriaga was born in Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico on October 4, 1979, and was brought to the U.S shortly after that historical date. He lived in the San Fernando Valley, and started recording music in 1999 with Southland, an independent record label, based in Southern California. Sleepy Malo co-founded Southland with Mr. D., and recorded Pac Town Riders Vol. 1, a 13-track studio album, with Big Spider, a local rapper from the neighborhood. Malo was featured in a proliferation of studio albums, and in due time became a celebrity. The words, “Chicano Rap,” surfaced in the early 90's, becoming a sub-genre of hip hop and gangster rap. Names, such as Lil Rob, Mr. Capone-e, Mr. Criminal, Sleepy Malo, Solo Sinatra, etc. opened the doors to aspiring Hispanic gangster rap artists in the 2000's.
In the mid-1990s, Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, helped form the group Brownside, which was a Hispanic version of the notorious rap group, N.W.A, and Jonny Z, was supposed to be the front man, identical to Eazy-E. Other record labels and independent Hispanic artists followed suit, but failed in the rap industry. However, some were smart and figured "how" to make a name for themselves in the "rap game." Kid Frost, A.L.T., Mellow Man, and other Hispanic recording artists formed Latin Alliance, a music group, and released a self-titled album in 1991 through Virgin Records, a major record label founded by billionaire Richard Branson. It is accredited as being "one" of the pioneering albums of "Chicano Rap." B-Real, Big Pun, Sick Jacken, and other Hispanic recording artists developed names in an industry that critics claimed was for "Black's Only."
"A lot of people think they can rap, and are uploading new material on the internet everyday. There are a million rappers in America! Even my grandmother raps," jokes Sleepy Malo. "Especially, within our own race, there were rappers claiming to be banging (active in gang activity) it, and claiming their barrio, fictitious or not, in songs that were producing garbage... So corporate executives, booking agents, performance rights organizations, promoters, music journalists, music educators, satellite, internet, and radio stations ostracized us from the rap scene because of that! True artists like myself felt the ramifications of their acts. We got pushed aside. They said, "You want to rap? Okay! This all you're going to get! Pocos Pero Locos! As far as quote unquote airplay! Everything takes time... Ya know? M.O.B.G is going to take it to the next level... Nature will take its course."
West Coast rap influenced Sleepy Malo to rap and form M.O.B.G Entertainment with Jorge "Spooky" Martinez. He is one of the first rappers to come out of the San Fernando Valley and the only one that’s still around, besides his M.O.B.G counterparts. “That’s why that song “Pacoima, California” I said, ‘So I got to give it up to my boy Big Spider, I’m the lone survivor, of the Pac Town Riders.’ A lot of rappers, not only from the Valley, but around the U.S. tell me I influenced them to rap.
“We came from the Proper Dos, The Lighter Shade of Brown, and Kid Frost era. Rest in peace to DTTX! And see, back then, it wasn’t labeled Chicano rap, it was rap. DTTX was in Las Vegas. I hit up Gangster Twist and explained to him DTTX’s medical condition. He was in the hospital and died from an alcohol related illness. He died where Tupac Shakur was murdered. He was a real cool dude, but he had a real bad drinking problem. Gangster Twist went to the hospital to pay his respects on M.O.B.G ’s behalf. In my eyes it was another hip-hop legend who died.”
Sleepy Malo is currently working on a 16-track studio album titled, Summer of Sandman, with rapper Sleepy G, and has another studio album he is working on with Gangster Twist, another MOBG recording artist. “Gangster Twist is young, energetic, and keeps it 100! So, we click! We are so much alike. He’s a real cool person.” Solo Sinatra is another MOBG recording artist. Sleepy has known Solo for over a decade, and they have continued to grow in the music industry. “Solo is my partner in rhyme. When we put our heads together in the studio, we really get creative," says Sleepy Malo.
Hide, a rap promoter, enters the K1LLER, Inc. branch office in Torrance, California, and shares a few words with our digital media company. “I met Sleepy Malo in 2009, at MC Pancho’s house, in San Pedro, California. He was with Southland at the time, and I knew immediately, I had to take him to Japan. He is marketable and could easily build a fan base in my country (Japan).”
“Since I was a kid, I would watch Karate movies, and dreamed of going to Asia. In 2005, I was given the opportunity to travel to Japan and perform, but had legal problems here in the States. I was on probation and my probation officer refused to let me travel… I always said, ‘You know what? If, I know my music, I will eventually fly to Japan, and the opportunity is going to come around again. So that’s why I thank Hide because he made it happen. In 2014, he booked us for a 2-week tour and we performed at numerous night clubs… Just getting there… It was a 12-hour flight, and just getting there though… Was a childhood dream. I tell everybody that Japan is my second home. Ya know what I’m saying? Because, the places we hit, they greeted us with open arms, and made us feel welcome.”
Hide could not resist to laugh, and said, “We like the Chicano-style, and culture… Cholo-style! It’s bankable… We have lowrider shows in Japan!”
“If I eat too much sea food, I get gout! So, I have to eat sea food in moderation” explains Sleepy Malo.
Sleepy Malo collaborated with Midget Loco, Steel Banging Musik, on The California OG Tour and are making appearances around the Golden State. Malo’s goal this year, is to release more studio albums. “I’m still here like The Notations!”
"I must say, these past weekends... The California OG show in Lancaster is a good example of unity in the rap game. Seeing talented artists like my homies, Sleepy Malo, Doll E Girl, Gd Up Gangsters, and KC Ent is a blessing. This is what the game has been missing. In order for us to elevate to the next level we must show unity, and push hard together no matter what label you're from. Many say Chicano Rap is dead, but it's up to the chosen few to keep it alive. This is just the beginning of something new. There's no time for division, only time to rise for our gente. We can't destroy the foundation that was laid down for us many years ago. It's time to keep it moving... Chicano Rap isn't dead! Some of our gente just fell off and lost the love for it. It's time for us to breath life back into it. Much love to Spanky, M.O.B.G, for this dope pic of my close homie, Sleepy Malo, and me performing on stage for our fans. We both came a long way. We are both pushing for Chicano Rap Unity and are taking our careers to the next level!" Said Midget Loco.
Shawn W. Anderson