My girlfriend got me back into listening to the group Control Machete. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about them for a long time. They were one of those groups that I was into in the late 90’s/early 2000's, then I somewhat forgot about them. It was the same with her. One of Control Machete’s songs came up on her computer and she was hooked all over again, and so was I. We started discussing the song "Danzon" from their Artilleria Pesada album. The song was collaboration with Ruben Albarran from Café Tacvba and members of The Buena Vista Social Club. We argued who sang the chorus to the song. She insisted it was Ruben but I thought it was Omara Portuonda. I was way off. Ruben’s voice is somewhat feminine so I just assumed, and you know what they say about assumption…
Control Machete was the first Mexican Hip-Hop group I’d ever heard that was a true hip-hop group. They didn’t play instruments and they didn’t try to mimic The Beastie Boys, like some of their counterparts. They didn’t flow in Spanglish like the groups in the hip-hoppers in the U.S. (Mellow Man Ace, Cypress Hill, Big Pun, Fat Joe, Of Mexican Descent) It was two MC’s, Pato and Fermin IV, and a DJ (Toy) They had obvious hip-hop influences mixed with the ones that came from growing up in Monterey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Fermin had one of the roughest voices in rap music that sounded a little like the Don Ramon character from the Chavo Del Ocho T.V. show. Control Machete’s DJ, Toy Hernandez, dug up samples that the best beat makers in Hip-Hop would envy. They were proud of being Mexican but not in a super-nationalistic way. Lyrically, Pato and Fermin IV instilled their listeners with pride in their culture as a way to inspire and to speak against poverty, ignorance, and oppression that constantly plagued Mexico. They were too heavy for the Fresas, ( Mexican slang for hipster) who looked to Europe for all their cues, but for the kids growing up in the barrios that grew up listening to hip-hop, they were a breath of fresh air.
They released three albums. All their albums sold well even before their mainstream exposure on U.S.' biggest stage. Their song, "Si Senor," was used in a Levi’s ad called Crazy Legs, directed by Spike Jonze. The ad played during the Super Bowl. It was funny to walk around my neighborhood after the ad was shown and watch all the kids trying to emulate the crazy legs moves. Ah…the power of advertising.
They group divided around 2002. Fermin IV went solo and release a CD on his own. Pato and Toy released Uno, Dos, Tres, Bandera in 2003. Toy continues to remix tracks by such artists as Ely Guerra,Gustavo Cerati, Celso Pina, and Up Bustle and Out.
Fermin IV became a born again Christian and is a pastor at a church in Mexico City. According to MI ESPERANZA, a Christian television show based in Mexico, Fermin spoke of his conversion from a rap superstar to Christian Pastor as “Nothing he was looking for, that Christ found him,” freeing him from a world of alcohol, drugs and breaking rules. He still raps today, but for the church and for Jesus Christ. He also has no regrets of his past because it led him where he is today.
Here is the Crazy Legs commercial and a bit of the "Danzon" video, filmed in Cuba.