June 17, 2014


Combatant Profile: Cortez's Comeback

Shady Films / watchLOUD.com
Shady Films / watchLOUD.com

Cortez is a man burdened by stereotypes. Hailing from Bed Stuy in Brooklyn, New York, he’s one of the few Total Slaughter emcees who grew up near hip-hop’s birthplace, and he’s the only one that’s Hispanic. “Everyone expects me to rap like Big Pun,” he says. “No disrespect, Pun is one of my favorites, but I don’t have to rap fast and with the syllables and all that. Every other Spanish nigga, half of them try to sound like [Pun], I’m not even gonna front.”

He’s faced other biases as well—being from NYC, he feels he’s often perceived as a ripple amongst a never-ending wave of East Coast rappers in an industry that’s gobbling up all things Southern right now. Despite having had two record deals in the past, he also feels discriminated against as a battle rapper. “We’re keeping the culture alive, but we’re also creating a lane. There’s people now who just want to be battle rappers. Before, battle rappers used to battle to get a record deal and cross over. Now, niggas is like, ‘I don’t even make music, son. I just battle.’”

But that Spanish thing still lingers.

In 2013, Cortez was enduring a slump. His stock as a veteran had fallen, and he decided to travel out to Dizaster’s hometown Los Angeles to battle him. In retrospect, he credits Diz for taking a battle he didn’t have to accept at a time when Cortez had a smaller profile but the two had also been throwing jabs at each other for three or four years prior, so the face-off was bound to happen.

The battle appeared even until about halfway through when Dizaster pinned a joke to Cortez’s Hispanic heritage and called him an apple farmer. Cortez, used to having his ethnicity used against him, was ready to fire back, He spotted Daylyt, a Grape Street Crip, in the audience and conjured up the perfect rebuttal.

“You called me an apple farmer last round and my feelings were hurt/ But I guess since I’m from the Rotten Apple, you’d think I’d be easy pickings and you’d plan to pocket/ But I’m raising two pairs that can arrange and bury you unless them Grapes can squash it.”

They’re not life-changing rhymes, and like most battle raps, they don’t translate on paper, but with one slick response, Cortez shifted the energy of the entire battle onto his side. He makes it look easier than it really was—he thought of the Grapes line when he saw Daylyt in the crowd, and the spontaneous response came to him instantly.  If that’s not entertainment, what the f**k is?

After the Dizaster battle, Cortez began to see his stock rise in circuits like King Of The Dot and Smack/Ultimate Rap League. Now he’s here, in the middle of the perfect storm that is Total Slaughter, and he’s ready.

Rappers have been warned: the Spanish kid from BK is now beyond bias.

– Text by Max Weinstein, originally posted on WatchLOUD.com