June/July 2012 Issue - Chicano Channel Magazine
Pete Herrera, or Chingo Bling as his fans know him, has definitely made a name for himself in Hip-Hop, with his Chicanoized parodies of Hip-Hop hits and his comedic Wetback Wednesday webisodes. Through hard work, hustle and by being hands-on with all aspects of his career, Chingo Bling was able to represent Chicanos on the stage, airwaves and on the big-screen. After about a decade of starting the Chingo Bling brand, Chingo is ready to take his career and brand to the next level.
We had a chance to sit down and talk to Chingo Bling about how he started, where he is headed and much more.
While attending Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, Chingo Bling worked at the college radio station and it was actually his mother’s suggestion that he become a rapper that sparked the idea in this Business Administration major’s head. “I would get on there and mess around a little bit, but I never really took it serious and never wanted to do it. My mom was like, ‘you’re running around wasting gas, promoting these other artists’, because I was doing retail marketing, putting up posters and other tasks. She was like, ‘well, you might as well rap’, and I was like, ‘what the hell am I going to rap about, I don’t sell drugs, which is what most rappers rap about, so I’ll rap about tamales.”
As Chicanos, the majority of us know what the words “Chingo Bling” mean together: a whole lot of bling, in slang, albeit widely accepted slang. We asked Chingo how he came up with this stage name, “It just popped into my head, I liked it because it’s very edgy, the first word is like a cussword, it’s silly, it’s catchy and it’s everything I wanted in a name.”
In addition to his stage name, Chingo Bling also has a lot of aliases and nicknames that he goes by: “The Ghetto Vaquero”, “The Tamale Kingpin” and “Mañosa Magnet” are just a few of Chingo’s nicknames. “I have a lot of nicknames and aliases so I can play a lot of personas and characters and not have limitations, because sometimes it sucks as an artist, people get used to a certain thing or a certain style and the crowd doesn’t want to see you evolve. It’s like people tell me, ‘I’m used to this’, or ‘you can’t do a song about that, you’re supposed to do songs about this.’”
Whether you like it or not, Chingo Bling is doing just that, evolving, not only with his music, but with his overall style as well. Lately we couldn’t help but notice that Chingo Bling has steered away from his cowboy hat and boots and has chosen to sport a more casual and stylish get-up when making appearances, consisting of a snap-back hat and tennis shoes. So we had to know why the change in the “Chingo Bling” look, “I do it when it’s appropriate, when the time is right, but at the same time, I’m going against the grain and dressing a little different for many reasons. Really what it is too is that I don’t know anybody that wears the same thing today that they did 10 years ago. I think it’s iconic, I loved that particular look [cowboy hat and boots], I was inspired when I came up with it, but right now we’re trying to show people a different side.”
Chingo Bling is definitely a branding guru, from his music, DVDs, t-shirts, Chingo Bling bobble heads, children’s coloring books and the list goes on. We were curious about what the next phase in his career holds for him and what else he might be trying his hand at, “I am really focusing on fashion and clothing stuff this year. I am working with a lot of designers, different guys that have their own clothing lines going and luckily they’re willing to work with me. None of them are selfish, none of them are like, ‘na, you’re competition, I’ll just do my own designs’, we work out a little deal, collaborate and I love it.”
Chingo wants to utilize his ability to work on clothing designs to put out quality work and as another way to represent Chicanos/Latinos, “One way that I want to help represent La Raza, is by impacting pop culture, by doing a good job at things. I want somebody to be wearing one of our shirts or designs or watching one of our films and have someone from a completely other race be like, ‘yo, where’d you get that, who makes that?’ And for that person to be like, ‘oh that’s Chingo, he’s this Mexican dude that raps and does all kinds of stuff’, and for that person to be like ‘wow, I never thought that I would ever really like something Mexican’. Because I feel like a lot of times, as a people, we want respect, we want a little credit for all the hard work we do and all the beautiful things we contribute to the Country.”
One of Chingo Bling’s latest mix-tapes is entitled “Masahouse” in which he collaborated with Swishahouse, one the first record labels to put “chopped and screwed” music on the map. Chingo Bling let us in on the collaboration with the legendary DJ, Michael Watts and G Dash, “It was an honor to work with those guys, it’s like a historic label, like a landmark. They represent Texas very well and they have a distinct sound, so by collaborating with them, DJ Michael Watts and G Dash, was cool. Honestly, I like collaborating with black artists and black DJs because sometimes it feels like the Raza backs you up even more, it’s almost like credibility and sometimes it’s like you get more attention. I could have dropped that mix-tape without a DJ, but being able to use the Swishahouse brand and Michael Watts’ name, it’s like ‘yo, I need to take a listen to this.’”
Chingo Bling’s latest single entitled C.L.A.P (Celebrating Life and Partying), is already a hit in the clubs and will be coming out soon for purchase on iTunes. Chingo Bling’s lyrical approach has changed since his musical parodies of famous Hip-Hop songs and since his 2007 album entitled, “They Can’t Deport Us All”. He spoke about this album with us, “That title is kind of militant, it’s kind of abrasive, kind of polarizing, so that was my approach back then, I was younger. Now, I don’t stress about that stuff, it’s still very important to me, but I feel like my way of making change now is by doing a good job in a movie and representing.”
Chingo Bling has a role in the soon-to-be-in-theaters film “Filly Brown”, a Sundance Film Festival hit. Chingo plays the manager to an up and coming female Chicana rapper named Filly Brown, played by Gina Rodriguez. He told us about his debut film role, “It’s a pretty decent role, I have quite a few scenes. I got to improvise, so I got to do my thing and be natural and try to make people laugh.” As far as any acting in Chingo’s future, he mentioned to us, “I definitely see a lot more acting in my future, I’m going to go to a casting call that I heard Robert Rodriguez is doing, I’m actually learning how to write my own scripts and I’m going to do whatever it takes, even if I have to make my own films. That’s the same way I got into the music business, nobody was going to come knocking on my door and say, ‘hey we want to give you some money and sign you’, that’s not how it works. I looked at resources I had around me, I did a lot of research, did my homework and that’s the same thing I intend on doing with films. Hopefully when Filly Brown hits theaters September 21st, my performance can raise some eyebrows and I can get approached about some more gigs.”
In addition to taking pride in his productions and brand, Chingo Bling is also a proud father. Although his daughter is a toddler at this time, we were curious what he would tell her if she were to ever tell him that she wanted to quit school and become a singer, as both of her parents are performers in the music industry. “For one, I think the educational system needs a lot of work, the textbooks are outdated and it’s very monotone. Instead of sitting in a circle to discuss things, it’s like, ‘you all sit in rows and I’m going to tell you.’ People don’t realize it, but to me, design is very important, like what Steve Jobs did with picking his fonts and designing his phone a certain way. If the book is not designed to keeps kids attention, the kids are looking at the book like, ‘yo, these pictures are outdated, look at this dude’s hair cut, what the hell are these people wearing’, it’s not a fashion thing, but they can’t relate to these people. They look like authority figures, they don’t look like they are from my neighborhood, it looks very stale and very boring, so if my daughter said, ‘I want to quit school’, I’d say ‘hey let’s figure out alternatives’, honestly. I’d be like, would you rather do home school? I’m from a different era, a different generation, maybe my parents, grandparents and older folks would look at the arts and think of it as, ‘oh you want to join the circus’? It’s risky, they don’t see the value in it, I wouldn’t mind.”
As we were conducting this interview,in a Bud Light Hummer by the way, a band was performing their set at Pachanga Fest in the background and it inspired Chingo Bling to mention his daughter and elaborate on the arts, “I wanted my daughter to be here today. I wanted to do the family-man thing and hold her hand and walk and listen. I appreciate artists, I appreciate people that create music, it takes a lot of discipline and very good skills. To me, music is almost like God’s language, like an international language. I would encourage her with whatever she wanted to do.”
The majority of Chingo Bling’s base is undoubtedly Chicano, which is also the most steadfastly largest growing group of Americans, but that have the lowest voter turnout. This year is a very important election year, so we had to ask Chingo’s thoughts on voting and his outreach on these topics, “I would like to start the dialogue and get the discussion going, so that we can, as a group of young urban Latino kids, just establish ten things that are really important to us, ten things that we have questions about, ten things that we would like to see done just so we can see what our issues are, where we stand, what are our frustrations.”
Chingo Bling also let us in on his insight to why he believes the turnout is low, “Our parents or grandparents or whoever’s from Mexico, we have to remember that a lot of them gave up on the political system because it’s super corrupt in Mexico, everyone is hopeless, like ‘Fuck this shit, I’m just going to go on about my business and just worry about me and my family’. A lot of time in the hood or in blue-collar neighborhoods, sometimes we look at two candidates as we have to vote for the lesser of two evils. This is one of my theories, when my daughter gets into her phase and wants to throw a tantrum about, ‘I want to wear this Daddy’ and I’m like, ‘no Mija, I can’t have you walking out of the house like that because, because you’re totally mismatched and I’m not going to look like a bad parent’, so I play the Political Party System on her, I tell her , ‘look, you get to pick what you’re going to wear, you have option A or option B, either way, I approve’. The metaphor is that she is the public and she feels like she has a choice, but she don’t, you have to wear what I tell you, I win! [laughs].”
Chingo went on to explain where his pessimism comes from on this topic, “Sorry to be so pessimistic, but honestly what makes me hesitate about getting too involved is because I feel like I’m viewed as an opportunist, where it’s like, ‘Ah Chingo’s never one to miss a chance to voice his opinion and increase his Twitter followers and act like he’s involved’, so sometimes I don’t feel like wearing ‘the hat’ and I’m just going to do what I want to do. It’s almost like I’m being rebellious, but I feel like I’m misunderstood, so that’s why I would like to make it a discussion and a dialogue and let them decide on their own. I’ve been utilized for those types of campaigns in the past and sometimes it just started sounding like too constructed of a message, it starts getting monotonous and then you have your “Pop Latinos” telling you to vote, like Shakira, that’s cool because she has influence, but it’s like, okay Shakira I want you to sit down and really talk to me, I want to hear you longer than a five-second drop on voting, I feel like that’s more effective.”
Chingo Bling is undeniable proof of someone who is successfully self-made in an industry where nowadays it seems like everyone is vying for a spot at the top and the competition is fierce. Here at Chicano Channel Magazine, we agree and support the evolution of Chingo Bling as a performer and as a person, and will continue to support artists like him that represents us so well and who also serves as a good role-model for the younger Chicano population, sending the message that hard work and brains can lead to success in any field you choose. We also endorse his political message of not twisting arms in politics, but stressing the importance of involvement, knowledge and exercising your choice, whatever that may be.