Rapper turns tragedy into music tribute

By Trey Randolph

The Ranger Online

Issue date: 3/6/09 Section: Features

Originally published: 3/5/09 at 9:37 AM CST
Last update: 3/6/09 at 1:53 PM CST The hip-hop world is not limited to Los Angeles and New York anymore.

Underground artists of all walks of life are quickly coming up in many cities and towns around the country, including San Antonio.

Jason Flores, 20, freshman sociology major and Gateway to College student, better known in the hip-hop world as Intre, is one example of San Antonio’s contribution to the underground hip-hop movement.

Flores was born in Los Angeles and lived in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Inglewood with his mother.

At the age of 14, Flores and his mother moved to San Antonio to escape the racial tensions that dominated Los Angeles at the time.

“There were real major issues going on in Los Angeles, the whole Rodney King stuff,” he said. “It was real racial.”

He described third grade memories of racial intolerance aimed at himself and his mother.

“My mom would walk me to school and we’d just get racial comments,” he added. “I (saw) a dude hit my mother because we were Hispanic.”

He said he has lost six close friends in Los Angeles to gangs and violence and tries to relay his experience through music.

“You don’t forget that kind of stuff, and I’ve got to live with that,” he said. “So in my music, I express that. I let people know what it’s really like out there, even if I have to give them a harsh reality.”

A couple of his friends had moved to San Antonio with Flores and his mother but ended up moving back to Los Angeles.

One of those friends, his cousin Vice Gutierrez, was killed July 16, 2007, after returning to Los Angeles.

Flores’ new CD, “V is for Vice,” is dedicated to his cousin.

“He’d always support me, so I dedicated this whole project to him,” he said.

Flores said after Gutierrez beat up a gang member, his door was kicked in by other members of the gang, and he was murdered in front of their grandmother.

He said their grandmother had a heart attack because of the murder, but has since recovered.

He said while some of his friends were involved in gangs, violence in Los Angeles was not reserved strictly for gangs.

“Two of (my friends) were involved in gangs,” he said. “The other ones that weren’t involved in gangs died because of gangs, from gangs. Basically, everyone died because of gangs, even though they weren’t in it.”

“Stuff like that is just not to be taken lightly,” he added. “San Antonio (has) gangs, too, and it’s actually pretty bad here, but it’s more of an option (here).”

Flores has been rapping since the age of 8, when he found Nas’ acclaimed first album “Illmatic” on a bus in Los Angeles.

“I didn’t know how to speak English until that point,” he said of his exposure to hip-hop. “I learned everything else academically, like multiplication, everything, off hip-hop.

“That’s why it’s such a significant part of my life,” he added. “Ever since 8, I just never stopped.”

In addition to Nas, Flores cites underground rappers Immortal Technique, Big L and Stack Bundles as important influences, and says he’s been told his music sounds like “Joel Ortiz meets Stack Bundles.”

“My sound is just real different,” he said. “It’s kind of like a little bit of the old hip-hop element, but it has my life in it.”

He said his music reflects who he is as a person and how his life has evolved to this point.

“I have so much passion for this, man,” he said. “The reason why I have cuss words is ’cause that’s how my life really is.

“It’s like my release,” he added. “Without hip-hop, I’d probably be in jail honestly. From a lot of levels, it literally saved my life.”

Flores recorded the CD in about two weeks with production assistance by Nilo Stari and beats by DJ Doomzday.

He attributes his quick work in the studio to having a “pretty serious” work ethic and said he has been recording since the age of 11, though he did not release his previous recordings.

“This is my first major one (that is) actually in my hand,” he said. “I used to record my own projects, but I never fully invested a lot of money into it like I am on this one.”

Flores said he increased his skills and kept himself relevant by participating in numerous rap battles in Los Angeles and San Antonio.

“I was 13 battling dudes in their 20s,” he said. “I never lost a battle.”

Despite his battle background, he says he does not intend to compete in battles any more.

“(I’m going to) start doing some serious shows,” he said.

He has previously done shows with such rap heavyweights as Fat Joe and Angie Martinez, and he opened for Lil Flip at Picasso’s Bar on Babcock Road last year.

He said he is organizing a show for his 21st birthday May 2, with other local artists such as Question?, Ty-One and Crowd Pleazas.

“It’s gonna be a pretty big event,” he said.

The location isn’t set, but he is looking at venues such as The Loft, or even a ranch outside of town to “really do it and have real fun.”

Flores said he was briefly signed to Vandal Records, a San Antonio-based underground label.

“It didn’t work out, but I learned a lot from that experience,” he said.

Ulee Warner, a drama freshman here, appears as a guest vocalist on Track 5.

Flores said he was partially inspired by the political undertones of the movie “V for Vendetta” as well as his love for his fallen cousin.

Flores said he is working with Eugena Wright, a California-based publicist whose Web site lists such marquee artists as Marques Houston, Kilo aka Down and even Pat Boone as clients.

He said he hopes Wright promotes his next project, which he hopes to begin in May, to major record labels such as Shady, Aftermath and Interscope.

He also plans to soon work with the groups Substance Abuse and Dilated Peoples and hopes to improve the current climate of hip-hop.

“I think (hip-hop) is in a real bad state, and I’m just trying to do something about it,” he said.

He added he feels he is in a good place as a Hispanic artist in San Antonio because of the amount of Hispanics in the city and the lack of established Hispanic rappers from the area.

“I’m really trying to be that one,” he said. “I’m trying to change the whole direction of hip-hop right now because a lot of people are just rapping for the money, and there’s really no substance.

“That’s why a lot of people who used to listen to hip-hop don’t like it (any) more,” he added. “I’m trying to bring that back the only way I know how.”

He said he sells CDs at Famous CDs & Tapes on Culebra as well as Image in Ingram Park Mall.

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