Interview with New Breed
Macho and Elsie Ortega
Boston-based and boss-voice blessed, Elsie and Macho Ortega are sure enough a New Breed.
— interview by Dwayne Lacy —
Macho has been tossing rap lines for years, appearing in a cameo on the Blood Brotherz first reggae project from the mid-90’s, also with Gospel jazz pioneers Allen & Allen, and then joining with sister Elsie as the duo New Breed on “What’s My Name”, remixed by DJ Maj.
On the re-emergence of underground crew Tunnel Rats project, New Breed joined the crew and delivered multiple doses of their Puerto Rican edged rhyme to the Tunnel Vision project.
Now on their own debut Stop The Music, New Breed is being hailed from all quarters as one of the hottest arrivals on the holy hip hop scene.
Elsie and Macho took time out to talk about being in the Tunnel Rats, about their Stop The Music debut, and more.
Gospelflava.com: As a part of the Tunnel Rats crew, how do you describe your vision?
Macho: "It’s broken up into two pieces. The ultimate vision is something called Youth International, which really hasn’t been unfolded to a lot of people. It’s basically a youth ministry, setting up places across the country and ultimately internationally, where teenagers can come to a place where they can receive training."
"We’ll teach them how to record music and become men and women of God. The immediate vision of the TR’z is the to make dope music and let people hear the message."
Gospelflava.com: Are you trying to reach anyone in particular on the Tunnel Vision project?
Macho: "Yeah, mainly the listener! We’re not really trying to reach one type of person or another, because we have so many different types of artists [in the Tunnel Rats crew]. Different people reach different people. Raphi catches the underground hip hop cats, LPG reaches the battle cats."
"The song 'Remember' will be mostly felt by those who grew up in the church. New Breed is universal as far as who likes us whether you’re from the church or not. On our own project, Stop the Music, we have a song called 'Dry Bones' which is a straight paraphrase of Ezekial 37. Then we have 'My People', a song about growing up Puerto Rican. It has a singin' hook to it with a Spanish vibe."
Gospelflava.com: Elsie, can you explain the concept behind the song "Ladies" on Tunnel Vision?
Click on the above album covers to connect with the respective reviews. Each project features New Breed in some fashion or other. |
Elsie: "I think that it's just part of us [women]. I think that a lot of women are just passed by, and there's not a real big voice for them. So we just wanted to do something that brought their voice out. [The song is about] stuff that we've gone through as women, we just want to let the women know that there is someone talking to them."
Macho: "On Stop the Music, Elsie has a song called 'Don't Listen to Your Heart', and it’s going to be new ladies anthem. It has a Lauryn Hill doo wop vibe to it."
Elsie: (talking to Macho) "It's gotten good feedback from the guys. Don't just push it on the girls!"
Macho: "No, I like it! I can listen to 'Don't Listen to Your Heart' more than I can 'Ladies', because you don't want to travel down the road bumping a song that says, 'Ladies'" (much laughter)
Gospelflava.com: There has been a growing discussion in the Christian Hip Hop community about the heads that mention Jesus in their songs (like Cross Movement) and those who rarely mention the name of Jesus in theirs (like Tunnel Rats). What’s your take on that issue?
Elsie: "I think it that it depends on the person. I think that people that grew up in the church feel that that's how they present what they are saying. Other people that are more into hip hop speak about what they want and are not afraid to do that. Some artists may feel that they may be judged by the church crowd because they’re not preaching enough or saying the Name enough."
"You have some that are just talking straight from their heart. Not to say that those who say the name of Jesus all of the time aren't. It just depends on the artist and what their main target is. I don't think that either artist is any less than the other."
Macho: "Tunnel Rats and Cross Movement are always the extreme opposite comparison. People will ask each other, "do you like Tunnel Rat Gospel hip hop or do you like Cross Movement Gospel hip hop?"
"Different crews for different jobs, different tools for different jobs. That puts it all into a nutshell. Cross Movement is compelled to preach the Gospel like the apostle Paul. I understand that."
"If Jesus was rapping, that would be like Tunnel Rats. Jesus spoke in parables and spoke about general life stuff. Jesus was battling people also. It's just a different take and different culture."
"I grew up in church and was a youth pastor for a while. I use to feel like if I say it (meaning the Gospel of Jesus Christ) a certain way, people would not understand the message."
"It's the Spirit of God that leads people to God. It's not how well I make someone understand, even though I do my best to make the Gospel clear. It's not me throwing it down someone's throat."
"One sows the seed, another waters, and God ultimately brings the harvest."
"If Cross Movement is first and we are second or vice versa, it's still the Spirit of God that brings people to the Father. Certain people that the Tunnel Rats will reach Cross Movement will not reach. Certain people that Cross Movement will reach, we will not reach because of our different approach. Again, different crews for different jobs, different tools for different jobs."
Gospelflava.com: What is the song 'Tunnel Vision' talking about?
Macho: "If you want to analyze it and make a philosophy about it, then it would be to walk by faith and not by sight. Honestly, there's no deep message. Dert gave me the beat and we just went with it. We’re talking a little about the industry."
"'Long Road' captures a little about what everyone (in the Tunnel Rats) was feeling. I wrote this song like two years back. It's some frustration mixed with some anxiousness. I didn't mean for it to be the title track."
Gospelflava.com: Let’s move on to Stop the Music, the debut joint from you and Elsie.
Macho: "The Stop the Music project is a real good album. The beats are bangin’ and it's really solid lyrically. It has "What's My Name" on there. We got a track with LPG called "Headlock" and a track with Raphi too. We got some radio stuff, some underground stuff and some in-your-face stuff. It's basically us from the last four years to present. "Dry Bones" is like three or four years old."
Gospelflava.com: Elsie, what’s it like working with a sibling?
Elsie: "It's cool, I guess, (ha ha). I know people probably think that it's weird, but we've been together our whole lives. It was just something that happened with us working together, it wasn't forced. I did a show and asked Macho if he wanted to do it with me. We did it and people loved it."
"We know each other's style. We know how we are and how impatient we get. So we know when to back off. We know how to vibe together."
Gospelflava.com: How is it traveling with the Rats?
Elsie: "It's cool. We're like family. We have our fun times and times when everyone is getting on each other's nerves"
Macho: "When we met with Rats at Cru-vention in 97, we had heard of them and they were just meeting us. Dax approached us to ask us to join the crew. We took a year to pray about it to make sure."
"People had approached us before about joining their crews. When we prayed about this one, God said yes and it became an instant connection. We met up in Florida the next year, and it was straight family."
Gospelflava.com: What is it going to take for Christian hip hop to really breakthrough?
Macho: "It takes the right timing and good business. It needs one big launch, and consistency. Dope records coming out at a consistent basis. Things have been too few and far behind. [It’s going to be ] when the world says that the beats are bangin, the lyrics are good, and there is no gimmick."
"With the church folks, you are fighting against religion, and that's an ongoing battle. You have to appease them or just ignore it. The kids will pick it up. They are going to be the next church, but there are lot older cats that are feeling it."
Gospelflava.com: What's on the agenda for New Breed in 2002?
Macho: "We are going to be booked for all of the major Christian music festivals. We have a two-fold ministry. Firstly, we are encouragers to the church. Kids love for us to come to their church and encourage them. We know their frustrations growing up in the church and that it's dope being a teenager and growing, knowing and serving the Lord."
"We know the pros and cons of growing up in church, I've grown up in church all of my life. The altar experiences and learning how to praise Him at age 13 and 14 years old is exciting."
"But you can also get caught up in church gossip, politics and church breakups. Those things frustrate teenagers. Certain church culture and religion sort of limits them. So we understand their frustrations."
"At the same time, we can go to a secular open mike place. We are hip hop emcees who happen to be Christian. So we can go to a church like the Potter's House with my boy Chris Hill or go to a open mike place where a church kid cannot go."
"We're trying to stay busy and build up Tunnel Rats Music."
The Tunnel Rats were gone for five years and now they are hear to stay. And not just as a supercrew. Take a listen to New Breed’s Stop The Music and you’ll easily see that the individuals have a ton to offer.
Others from the Tunnel Rats camp are looking to drop some joints in 2002. Wait for it, LPG, Raphi with Cali Quak and Sev Statik with Speak Life will all dropping projects on us in 2002.
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