By Kat Bein
By Laurie Charles
By Shea Serrano
By Jeff Weinberger
By Kat Bein
By Shea Serrano
By S. Pajot
By Terrence McCoy
Dinero feels his roots most strongly in the Spanish language: "I got Spanish curses/leaving you stuck to interpret the verses./I'm the worses/I flow so sick/I gotta travel with nurses." The only typically Cuban touches in the lyrics are the obscenities, with pinga and zingar high on any Cuban-American tough's list of words to remember from the homeland. Things get a little more island specific at the end. The single closes with a traditional Cuban son while D Mingo chants the Yoruban blessing "ache para ti ache para mi.... Mi santos me protejen" ("life force for you, life force for me.... My saints protect me"). "Don Dinero" reconciles his material and spiritual sides by juxtaposing sexual scenarios and spiritual allusions.
"This song is just an introduction to who I am," the rapper points out. "It's the happy Don Dinero. I'm showing you what I love, what I want you to see. It's my flavor -- salsa into hip-hop." Although his upcoming album is light on Latin rhythms, thematically Dinero tries to stay close to his roots. "I'm gonna give you a lot on my album," he says, "not just Latin beats, but I have to give you that in order to be true to myself."
"Life Is a Battle," the B-side to his debut single, tells another side to his story in the rap game. No stranger to mean streets and struggle, Dinero's rapping style shows the undiluted influence of Rakim, KRS-One, Biggie Smalls, and LL Cool J. A repeated classical Spanish guitar phrase backed by lush synthesizers puts "Life Is a Battle" in the ranks of ghetto opera. "It's what I live and see," he says of his violent subject matter. It's also a way to connect with listeners. "My sacrifices, my experiences," he argues, "I want people to say, “I been through that too.'"
The politics dropped into Dinero's lyrics take in both the urban warfare wrought on nonwhites in the United States and the more specific concerns of Cuban exile. At some moments in "Life Is a Battle," Dinero questions the American dream through the voice of someone who will never live it: "I'm the reason crime is high and you lock your door." At others he looks away from the U.S. urban scene to the island he has never known: "And to my niggaz/Cuban and Korleon/I know it's hard being Cuban in this game all alone/I got yo back/us togetha/yo/we're takin' the throne/let's keep reppin' the island/till they let us go home." Until Cuban-American rappers can retake Havana, Don Dinero has his sights set on the Magic City. "I want to lock Miami down," he exclaims. "I mean, if any city in the world should be feelin' us, it should be Miami."