Class of 2007: Jimmy Roses

Pub date August 28, 2007
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

CLUBS Hip-Hop Appreciation Society, MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán), Black ‘n’ Brown Alliance

QUOTE "We’re in a position to start reaching out to our peers and our gente and be like, ‘Hey, man, we’re here. Let’s get it crackin’. It ain’t the ’70s no more.’ "

Representing the Hispanic wing of the hyphy movement, Jimmy Roses won Latin Rap Artist of the Year at the 2006 Bay Area Rap Scene Awards, but he’s not resting on his laurels. Nor is he satisfied to dwell in a niche. As one of the premiere artists on the Thizz Latin label — an imprint of Mac Dre’s Thizz Entertainment — Roses aims to bring Latinos into the hip-hop mainstream while inspiring peace and unity on the streets. For Roses, the whole notion of hyphy and thizz got twisted to mean purely drug-addled or aggressive behavior when it’s actually more about getting loose, mixing it up, and dropping your gangster guard a bit. "That’s what was good about what Mac Dre did with the hyphy movement," Roses explains. "He brought the whole feel-good element … that made it easier for more ethnic backgrounds to participate."

Roses has "been through it," running the streets and even spending a little time locked up. He’s honest about those experiences but doesn’t glamorize them in his music; he consciously avoids gangster imagery in his lyrics and CD artwork, appearing on the cover of his 2006 self-titled debut looking less like a Norteño and more like a bad-ass "rydah" in leather jacket, motorcycle gloves, and low-rider "loq" sunglasses. "I don’t have to be a cholo to be a Mexican," he says. "I’m proud of that heritage and that culture. That’s my bloodline — that’s my past time. [But] we don’t have to rap like we’re struggling in the barrio."

The hustle that Roses promotes is more of the legitimate come-up kind, encouraging kindred Latinos and ‘hood youths to make something of themselves. Yet his approach isn’t that of the preachy, so-called conscious rapper. To ensure he has listeners’ ears, Roses uses the language of the streets, accompanied by music full of Bay slaps and stylish hyphy synths, typified by the catchy track "Who Rock the Party," which garnered airplay on KYLD-FM (WiLD 94.9) as well as stations throughout Central California and the Southwest.

Roses admits that street hustling, as well as the thug-rap soundtrack that typically goes along with it, has a negative side. Growing up in working-class South San Francisco, he became "oriented with all of that street mentality stuff. It’s inflicted a lot of hardships on my family." But, he adds, "I still love the streets. I love the people in the streets — I do, because you can’t help where you’re from." For Roses, what matters is where you’re going. (Amanda Maria Morrison)