Vago first caught our attention by producing the bulk of Estee Nack’s amazing Joan Manuel Serrap project, producing 5 of the 7 tracks and putting his mark on the game. He soon followed that with more work with Estee, as well as placements for al.divino and Recognize Ali. This summer produced all of Nueva Ola, a joint project with Che Uno. Here he talks his roots, how he developed some key relationships and future plans.
RD: You’re one of the rising names in the production world, can you give the newer listeners some background info on yourself?
V: I’ve been listening to Hip Hop since the early 80’s. UTFO, Run DMC, Whodini, Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel etc. were all in rotation as a young kid, b-boying, following in the steps of my older brother. We used to get these mixtapes from our Filipino neighbors that had cousins in L.A, that always had the latest shit. That lasted about 2-3 years. Soon after, my bigger bro started listening to rock and heavy metal, I followed suit, as most younger bros do. In those years of being heavy into rock and metal, I learned how to play guitar, bass and drums, listening to my favorite bands and learning how to play songs by ear. Interestingly, hip hop still played a role in the background for about 3 years in the form of NWA, Ice T, Beastie Boys, Too $hort, Kid Sensation, Sir Mix-alot and of course Run DMC. Hip Hop came back around to the forefront of my life at around the age of 18 and has been number one since. I began as an emcee in the early 90’s, but was always semi-obsessed with digging through vinyl, looking for samples for our producer at the time. I first dabbled in beat making when I was 18 but never really started heavy til around 21. We’re here now!
RD: Let’s talk gear, what kind of toys did you start out with, and how has your setup evolved?
V: The journey into making beats really started the day I discovered I could sample music on to a computer. I remember that day, it blew my mind!! Before that, I was cross dubbing shit on cassette tapes. Also, I knew that most samplers at the time, had a maximum of approximately 8 – 13 seconds of sampling time and computer sampling time was pretty much unlimited. I downloaded a free computer program called Multiquence and started messing with loops and making my first beats. Later, I moved on to a program called Acid Pro, which was a massive upgrade and then soon after, Propellerheads Reason came into the picture and I’ve remained on Reason until now. Reason has progressed in a major way and myself alongside with it. Big up, Propllerheads! As for external gear, I don’t have racks of gear to brag about like many producers. I have a computer, a mic, an audio interface, some monitors and a few guitars, that’s about it. Straight up, there’s no need for anything else.
V: That started with a good homie of mine putting me on to the Triple Black Diamonds record by Estee and Al. That album is fucking fire! I heard dude throwing some Spanish in the rhymes and thought, ‘yo, I’m gonna hit dude up and send some beats’. I linked with the homie Estee via Soundcloud and he got back with an email. I sent him a couple of folders and I ended up landing 5 joints on JOANMANUELSERRAP. That was the foot in the door which led to placements with Rec Ali and the gawd al.divino. Big shout out to Estee! Also, shout out to my bro Recognize Ali.
RD: Earlier this year you produced Nueva Ola EP with Che Uno, did you go into a different mindset producing a full project?
V: Not really, no. My dude Che Uno (@che_uno) and myself used to be in a group together called Los Poetas. I was doing all the production for the group. We released a full LP and an EP. The Nueva Ola EP is a different vibe from Los Poetas , so the mindset may have been different in that sense but not in terms of full projects. I’ve been doing full projects with artists for a minute.
RD: Che mixes Spanish and English in his rhymes, we have seen this from Sick Jacken and more recently Crimeapple. Give us your thoughts on the emerging amounts of Latin talent in underground hip hop.
V: Shit is amazing! It’s only right that Latinos have a heavy presence in the scene, now and always not just in the underground but in the mainstream as well! Back in the day, Latino emcees were sparse and although Latinos have an equal hand in the creation and birth of Hip Hop, it wasn’t that easy to find too many Latino rappers. I think I can speak for a lot of Latinos that have been into Hip Hop from early times, that anything Latino was a success for us. Mellow Man Ace, Kid Frost, LSOB, Cypress Hill, Fat Joe, Messengarz of Funk, Hurricane G, Son Doobie, Kurious and the Beatnuts, were some of the artists at the forefront in the late 80’s and early 90s. Shit, even Gerardo was big for some of us haha, we took what we could get in those days.
RD: Many of your works involved dramatic sounds, namely strings. Is that intentional, what are you listening for when digging for or developing sounds?
V: I dabble into all music when it comes to sampling shit, so nothing and nobody’s safe. I’m into pretty much any genre of music you could think of, so depending on the artist, one of these vibes will come through in the sample. Anything that catches my ear will get sampled, I’m not biased when it comes to sampling. Certain artists like different types of vibes, so it’s more like matching the beats with the artist.
RD: Is there any upcoming placements or projects you can announce to the good people?
V: I recently finished an album with my dude, Checkmate (@checkmatetherapper). Instead of dropping the album as a whole, we decided to drop it as singles. Also, my guy Asun Eastwood (@asuneastwood_toma) and myself are about to drop a full LP entitled Sewer Science, that should be out sooner than later. I’m also working on an EP with the homie Primo Profit (@primoprofit) and another EP is in the works with my guy SyckSyllables (@syllables_plaga) from La Plaga. More Rec Ali joints coming soon as well.
RD: Where would you like to be as an artist in 5 years?
V: For real, I just take the days as they come. In 5 years I’d like to be doing the same shit I’m doing now, but on a larger scale. Life usually pushes or pulls you into the direction you need to be in. For now, I’m blessed being able to make a living off of my passion, music! If that can escalate and I can constantly keep creativity at a peak, all else will fall into place.
V: I’d definitely hit up all the artists I’ve already done previous work with, but I’d also reach out to a gang of emcees that I respect. This idea for a compilation has been coming up frequently as of late. It’s gonna happen!
RD: Anyone you want to Shout out?
Follow Vago on IG www.instagram.com/vago604