Weed, Snoop Dogg And A Sony Deal: Mexican Rapper Alemán And His Road To Viral Success In Music And Business

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Relaxing at home, famous Mexican rapper Erick Raul Alemán Ramirez, a.k.a. Alemán, grabs a bong of Paleolithic dimensions, fills it with weed and lights it up.

“I’m preparing a bonboncito [a play on words on ‘bong’ and ‘bombon’] for the interview,” he warns. “I’ll be able to speak better, more relaxed… You know I have always been transparent and never minced my words; people know me.”

His bong is not suitable for travel. It is an untransportable bong, almost real estate, only for at-home use, huge just like the puff the rapper inhales. “Having fun is paramount. The workload lightens a lot when you have fun… Cannabis itself doesn’t make you lazy, nor does it make you successful. It all depends on the foundation you have. I always wanted to be a bona fide, intellectual marijuana artist who could go further.”

One of the most accomplished, old-school cannabis rappers in Latin America, Alemán has recorded with everyone from Snoop Dogg, B-Real of Cypress Hill and Berner, to Duki, Khea, C. Tangana, Akapellah, Nicki Nicole and Trueno. His path to fame was paved with hard work, perspicacy and, of course, ganja.

‘Even My Friends’ Moms Smoked Cannabis’

Erick grew up in Cabo San Lucas, in Baja California Sur, Mexico. His region is a peninsula, surrounded by sea, sharing its Northern border with the United States. The only way to get to the rest of Mexico, really, is by plane. “We are surrounded by sea.”

In this insular situation, young Erick’s musical and cannabis culture was formed, heavily influenced by California’s society.

In his youth, his friends surfed and smoked. But not him; he was afraid of what his parents might say. However, the stigma around cannabis was, for the most part, non-existent in his social life: “Even my friends’ moms smoked cannabis.”

Little by little, Erick dabbled in the world of pot. And he liked it. He liked it a lot. “My friends were always surfing. I would go to the beach to smoke a joint, to watch them surf and to write in my little notebook, to write my rhymes there.”

At the age of 21, having accumulated some local fame as a rapper, having come out of the cannabis closet with his parents and having released some songs like Circo, maroma & teatro (“my first song that was bumping on cars, at parties”), Erick went to Mexico City “to try his luck in rap, to chop rocks again, to knock on doors, to be known, to be seen in live shows.”

Uncle Snoop

“We’ve always wanted there to be a face of hip-hop here in Mexico,” says Alemán. Today, that face is his. And he earned that place on the back of hard work and perseverance.

“Bro, the truth is that there is no secret to success. Just a lot of hard work and being authentic. Also investing in yourself. The first chance I got, I ramped up my video production, I invested more money than what I had,” he declares. “From the days when I had nowhere to sleep, to today, when we live in a mansion, the only thing that has changed is the view, but we are still the same…”

“There is also another factor: that people choose you, that they see themselves reflected in you. And I feel very grateful that people have chosen me.”

His affiliations with the mainstream rap world have also helped. His collabs with Snoop Dogg, B-Real and Bizarrap are among his most listened-to tracks in his repertoire.

But how did this young Mexican break into the world of mainstream hip-hop?

It was producer Scott Storch, keyboard player for The Roots, who would take him up (up North and to the top of the charts), after Erick dared to challenge the supremacy of mega-viral Tekashi69: “Yo soy el 100% Mexa [I am the real Mexican here]”.

“First came the feat. with B-Real. Stortch had already named me in front of Snoop Dogg a few times, but it was my manager and partner, Darwin Norvak, head of the Homegrown Mafia label, who closed the deal.”

Cannabis was always, always, a very effective lubricant as well.

“The first time I talked to Berner was lighting up a joint, talking about strains. When you’re into cannabis, you realize there’s a mystique to it and you really connect more with people. With Snoop, it was the same: all cannabis. We all were smoking, asking what the other one was smoking.”

It’s The Dollar, Dollar Bill

Erick dreams of being able to follow in the footsteps of Berner and his uncle Snoop: getting into the cannabis business is the ultimate goal.

“The day cannabis is legal in Mexico, I’d like to give people first-hand access to the best-quality weed and its medicinal effects,” the rapper voices.

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“Countless times in Mexico I’ve been invited to release a product. But today, being a public persona, I can’t do it because it’s not regulated yet. There are permits for cultivation and medicinal use already… So I’m just waiting for all this to happen.”

“But that hasn’t stopped me from conducting my research: I’ve been developing my own strain for two years, bro. I’m ready. As soon as it’s well regulated here in Mexico and I can start opening up the industry to the people, I’m going to start working. I want people to have the best quality weed on hand… For years I’ve been doing the field work. People have seen me with the product.”

While he waits for legalization, Alemán takes on other businesses.

Home-Grown Business

Erick and his partner Darwin spent many years in the world of self-management, with their label Homegrown Mafia. Independence was very important to them.

However, shortly before the pandemic, Sony came along with an offer they couldn’t refuse: Millions of dollars and continuity for Homegrown Mafia’s independence.

“It was the first multi-million dollar contract for a Mexican label,” says Erick. “It was something that allowed me to live up to the expectations of my own label, my friends, my colleagues. I gathered them and got them all deals… And that [having contracts] was fundamental during the pandemic, when we didn’t have shows to play at.”

130,000 Witnesses

The story of the best joint of Alemán’s life is quite unique. It was an act of civil disobedience in front of 130,000 (yes, one hundred and thirty thousand) people. It happened in the Zócalo in Mexico City during a free show alongside Calle 13’s Residente.

“Mexico City is also my home. This is where I started, where people support me…. That day they told me I couldn’t smoke, because the show had been approved by the President,” he recalls. “But I couldn’t help it. I was very excited, I was ecstatic to see so many people and so many lights. And I thought, at a moment when a mosh pit opened, ‘the only thing I’m missing is a joint.’ And I had one in my bag. I took it out, lit it up… The first drag I hit was the stuff of dreams!”

Beyond the dream fulfilled, Alemán fantasizes about sharing a joint with María Sabina, a very popular shaman from Oaxaca who got to provide psychedelic mushrooms to the Beatles. “She’s a sage, a sister. She went beyond the lines of knowledge and reality… I would like to know about life and what lies beyond.”

But the artist also recognizes that there is still a long way to go: as long as cannabis is illegal and its users criminalized, the mission will not be accomplished.

“How can it be that alcohol and tobacco are legal, but cannabis is not?” asks Alemán. “Not to mention all the medicinal benefits cannabis has. That’s the main and primary thing, but the recreational part is also important. I’d rather smoke a joint and stay at home or go outdoors and be able to smoke a joint without anyone bothering me. Cannabis has to be legal because cannabis changes the world, brings people together and makes everything more beautiful.”

“It’s also important to talk about job creation potential and the flow of money that legalization generates. Here in México, that would be a giant step,” he concludes.

Alemán will be touring in the coming months. Below is his schedule of confirmed and to-be-confirmed shows.

May

– 13 Puebla

– 14 Querétaro

– 20 Private CDMX

– 26 Cuernavaca

– 28 Guadalajara

June

– 03 Saltillo

– 25 Oaxaca

– 29 Los Angeles

July

– 01 Toluca

– 03 Mc Allen

– 08 Aguascalientes

– 09 Morelia

– 16 Culiacan

– 23 Mexico City

– 29 Durango

August

– 05 Villahermosa

– 06 Tuxtla Gutierrez

– 14 Monterrey

– 19 Merida

– 20 Campeche

September

– 03 Torreon

USA – Dates to be confirmed in September

– Atlanta

– Philadelphia

– NYC

– Chicago

– Denver

– Dallas

– Houston

– San Antonio

– El Paso

– Las Vegas

– San Diego

– Anaheim

– Riverside

– Los Angeles

– Phoenix

– San Francisco

– Sacramento

– Portland

– Seattle

October

– 06 Guadalajara

– 15 Cd Juarez

– 16 Los Cabos

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