Los Rakas

Pan-American Bay Twist

An Interview with Los Rakas

Written by Janaina Yera-Paez

The Bay Area is one of the biggest melting pots in the United States. People From all over the world come here to live, work and travel. The Latin culture specifically has been very influential in creating a presence in the city, especially in the realm of music. There have been many talented artists that have come out of the Bay Area and a Panamanian group by the name of Los Rakas can be added to the list.

Los Rakas is a musical group that consists of two Panamanian cousins by the name of Abdull Dominguez and Ricardo Giliam; however, their stage names are Raka Dun and Raka Rich respectively. They currently reside in Oakland, California, which is just right over the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. They are known for having pioneered the whole Pan-American Bay twist here in the Bay Area. These two artists grew up surrounded by music, which plays a huge part in Latin culture. They started producing their own music and in 2006 debuted their first video “Mi Barrio.” Los Rakas are a very versatile group as their lyricism consists of Spanish, English, and sometimes a fusion of both, otherwise known as Spanglish. The genre of music that Los Rakas produce would be considered a funky fresh mix of old and new style hip-hop, reggae, plena and dancehall. With such a wide range of genres and great musicality Los Rakas have an edge over other groups, granting them with a diverse fan base from all age groups and backgrounds.

In this article you will get the chance to dive into the lives of Raka Dun and Raka Rich. You will see how they started, what has inspired them over the years, and what they have planned for their future.

What was your first encounter with music?

Raka Dun: Always liked music, would sing his favorite songs and started making music when he was 16 years old

Raka Rich: Listened to music throughout his whole life. Listened to all genres of music and started rapping when he was 15 years old

Music is naturally built into these Panamanian cousins.

When did you know you wanted to do be artists?

Raka Dun: Seen a documentary on Cuban hip-hop and that was what inspired him

Raka Rich: Tried rapping a few times, but he knew that he wanted to become an artist the first time he recorded a song in 2003, “Gold in my Mouth.” Recording this song only inspired him to record again and make the product ten times better

Did being an immigrant hold you back from creating the music that you wanted due to the fear of being deported?

Raka Dun: Being an immigrant never posed a problem to Raka Dun. He wrote what was in his heart, whatever he felt and not caring what may have come of it. Being an immigrant and an artist was never a problem because they were not internationally known and never caused a problem to create the music that he loves. There is nothing holding him back from creating the music that he was meant to create, even if Los Rakas were known internationally it still would not pose a threat to him and his music.

How has growing up in foster-care impacted your outlook on life and how you incorporate it into your music?

Raka Rich was in foster care when he was younger and looks at it as an experience that has made him what he is today: a stronger individual due to these experiences. Having lived through foster care Raka Rich feels as if he can conquer any obstacle given to him by God. The way that Raka Rich has incorporated being in foster care is through motivation to do better and strive for the best, as well as giving hope to other kids and paving a path for them to follow.

Raka Dun was taken in by his Spanish high school teacher in Oakland, California, who taught him a lot about himself, about what is means to be black and more specifically what it means to be Afro-Latino in a city that was not exposed to a large majority of such ethnic people.

Even though you are both Panamanian cousins has there been a cultural clash between the two of you, given that Raka Rich you were born here in the United States and Raka Dun you were born in Panama?

Growing up with the same culture and working as a group makes the process organic and very smooth sailing. It allows them to interchange between their roots in Panama and their roots in Oakland, understanding the struggle in both locations. Having the same culture and values allowed for them to see eye to eye when others did not agree with the decisions that they were making for instance the language in which they produced music in or their group name. Staying true to their culture and what they stand for has allowed them to create “organic” music that all the fans can depend on to be authentic and not what is considered to be streamlined in the mass media. “Music, you got to keep it real”

Given that Rakataca has a negative connotation, meaning ghetto in Panama, why choose to call yourself Los Rakas?

Definition of Rakataca: Ghetto, hood boys and girls

As Raka Dun and Raka Rich went through group names Los Rakas was just a brained stormed idea that clicked automatically with Raka Dun as the official group name without hesitation. Being a Rakataca was what they were, they came from the streets of Panama and that is what is at the very core of their existence. Although Rakataca is considered to be from the streets or ghetto it was something that they no longer had access to now living in Oakland. The area of Oakland in which Los Rakas lived had many similarities in the sense that it too was considered the streets or ghetto. With living in a familiar area, to them they wanted to represent their Panamanian roots in Oakland and take on the stereotype of Rakataca because that is staying true to who they are.

Since taking on the group name Los Rakas, they have now changed the meaning of Rakataca, now meaning someone who is proud of where they come from. They have started a movement for the Panamanian people. Los Rakas have changed the negative connotation of Rakataca to being proud of who you are and where you come from even if it is from the streets. Having created this movement has caused both Raka Rich and Raka Dun to become more open minded and has ignited their own revolution.

With your song “Soy Raka” you embody a negative connotation of what many people may consider to be ghetto here in the United States, which is guns and gold teeth used as a fashion statement. Why depict such an image if you are trying to steer away from the stereotype.

Los Rakas make their music about what they see, what they have grown up around in the streets of Oakland, giving their music an organic flavor. Rakataca may have a negative connotation, but the hood or ghetto has that same image and it isn’t about trying to hide where you come from, but more so about embracing who you are and being proud of it. That’s not to say that you have to embody the negative stereotypes by embodying the mold that has been drawn out for those to follow and be judged for it. Their music speaks of their life experiences and the stories of many that they have seen before.

I want to congratulate you on your success as artists as I know you have done many performances with big names and held our own tours, which you are currently, are on.

How has your life changed from when you first began in 2006?

More Stress! Before it was about making music for fun as a hobby now it has become a job, a career, a business and much more. They have started their own company Soy Raka in 2011 and their first project was Chancletas y Camisetas Bordada, an album that was number one on iTunes for some time. When Raka Rich mentioned that he wanted to become an artist when he reordered his first album and knew he could do better and had to do better is the same concept that they are now carrying in their business. It is about topping the last project that they did so that they stay relevant in the media and not fall by the wayside. This is not to say they no longer enjoy what they do because they still have fun, but it has become more than just them writing lyrics as it is their road to success.

How hard has it been maintaining family and friend relationships with such a busy schedule?

Many family and friends have been upset with them because they have such busy schedules and they have minimal time to keep in touch with those that they would like to talk to on a day to day. They attempt to explain their situation to those family and friends, but it is difficult for them to understand their time constraints in running their business. Although family and friends may not understand why they never have time, this is the fuel to Los Rakas motivation in succeeding. Paving the way for future generations to follow in their footsteps and make something of themselves.

Has your fame caused you to lose friends?

No friends have been lost since the day that Los Rakas started to the present. Those who they hang out with are those who have been there since they were little, before they were known as Los Rakas. Many of these people who they started off with were their family. No friends were lost due to fame because if they were, they were never considered to be friends in the beginning. They are always surrounded by the same people that have been in their circle since they were little, allowing them to have excellent communication between one another.

Raka Rich one of your songs that I love is "Nunca Cambiare." What is the driving force that keeps you humble and down to earth? Same to you Raka Dun?

Raka Rich: His mother is the one to bring him back down to earth when he may begin to seem as if he is being full of himself. Another humbling inspiration that has had a great effect on him are the children that look up to him. Wanting to be a positive role model for those kids and most importantly for his son.

Who are the most influential people in your life personally?

Both Raka Rich and Raka Dun have had many influences throughout their lives from the women in their families to their close friends that have helped them create hooks to songs that were in the progress of being made. They are able to pull influences by those positive people that they have around them.

I know that you have worked with many artists, but which artist has been your favorite artist to work with? Who would you like to work with in the future?

Favorite Artist: E-40, Cali Buds, Krypto, The Team, And Many Producers

Future Artist: New Artists

How did it feel to perform on the same stage as Ericka Badu and Snoop Dogg, two rather big names in the music industry?

They have become so grounded that it no longer crosses their mind that they are chilling back stage with legendary artist, more so focused on how they are going to kill it at their own performance, the reason why they are their. It is the drive that keeps them focused and humble, not being affected by stardom. At the same time they feel honored to be in the presences of such huge names, but don’t have the chance to dwell on it until a few days after all the events have taken place.

What is the next step for both of you in your music careers?

To keep building on their company Soy Raka, enter into the movie scene and selling Raka merchandise. All in all showing those who didn’t/don’t believe that you can come from nothing and become successful and not by just being a rapper, but busSelect Imageiness men.