If you’ve been anxiously awaiting more Latino hip-hop that makes you nod your head yet think twice, you need to know more about Los Rakas. Ricardo Gilliam a/k/a Raka Rich and Abul Dominguez a/k/a Raka Dun are primos panameños that hail from Oakland, California by way of Panama. They brought their passion for liberation music – peep their track “Sueño Americano” – their lyrical sensibility and love for multiple genres together in 2004. The signs of what would become a successful musical career came early with several mix tapes and on-line distribution of their music. Fast-forward 10 years later to 2014 and they have released their first major label debut and worked with icons like Blondie to current heavy hitters like Diplo. They’ve even made the rounds on major music events including Snoop Dogg’s Smoke Out Tour next to legends Cypress Hill and Manu Chao and most recently Coachella. Their refusal to fit into one musical genre – they blend rap, soul, Latin and EMD – and their hunger to make music their way has even landed them a partnership with Hennessey. ‘LLERO caught up with Los Rakas in Miami to get the lowdown on what it means to be “raka” and find out what the duo have on tap this year and beyond.

‘LL: First thing’s first, how would you describe Raka music?
Raka Rich:
We started off doing hip-hop; dance hall, R&B and we’ve just evolved into so many different things. We listen to so many different genres of music from Jamaica, from Puerto Rico and Colombia. That’s what Raka music is: a mix of all different styles of Latin music.

‘LL: Raka is more than music. It’s also a whole “Soy Raka” movement. What does it mean when someone says, ‘Soy raka’?
Raka Dun:
Soy Raka quiere decir, “Soy una persona orgullosa de donde vengo y orgullosa lo que soy.”
Raka Rich: Una persona diferente quien no tiene miedo ser diferente.

‘LL: What or who are your musical influences right now?
Raka Rich:
I would say we’re really into dance hall music right now. It’s just one rhythm and one beat and you can make 10 different songs from that one beat. I like dance hall music because everybody’s gotta put their own print on it. All these people already murdered it, how are you gonna murder it next?

‘LL: Who would you most like to collaborate with – dead or alive?
Los Rakas:
Not in any specific order here’s our wish list: Michael Jackson, 2Pac, Bob Marley, Biggie Smalls (Notorious B.I.G.), Whitney Houston, Missy Elliot, Buju Banton, Erika Badu, Old Skool Salsa singers, Old Skool “soul” legends such as The Commodores, The Temptations, Jimmy Hendrix.

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Tanisha Love Ramirez lives and works at the intersection of pop culture and current affairs. Best known for her ability to use breaking lifestyle and entertainment news to frame larger conversations concerning gender, race and social enterprise, Tanisha shares her special brand of “news with a point of view” as a freelance contributor for Cosmo for Latinas, The Huffington Post, AskMen, Jezebel, and New Latina.

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