Cold Medina's Journalism Background Helps Him Make Socially Conscious Rap
“I try to report both cultural and personal events through my writing. I’m trying to bring up issues that are relevant to everybody.“
Photo by Cristina Isabel Rivera
At first, it was difficult to form an opinion on Miami rapper Cold Medina. Most of his work I was able find online is either collaborative or dated. He’s usually sharing the track with another MC, and at times his music sounds like the beats and rhymes you create with friends during a postweed binge after discovering R.A. the Rugged Man for the first time and feeling, like, really, unusually, inspired. But upon taking a closer look into his music, the seams for a successful rap career begin to show.
His influences are markedly clear. His sound gravitates toward the socially aware; think Nas or Immortal Technique. In his lyrics, there’s a glimpse into the mind of a thoughtful, inquisitive young man, struggling to find himself as an American of Latin descent. Like, on his song “Liberation,” where he raps, “Supposedly the woes in me will even help me grow to see/I am not defined by a pistol or a rosary.” He was a journalism major at the University of Wisconsin, and the critical eye he developed there helps him zero in on the issues that matter.
He’s a sensible and smart dude, with no shortage of societal concerns. And like the best rappers, he’s mad eloquent.
Successful rappers should always be aware that hip-hop was first and foremost a way to speak things that weren’t supposed to be spoken. It was a way for African-American people to express the angst and pain that was generationally repressed, at a time when they didn’t have the outlet to do so. Sure, there was jazz, and rock ’n’ roll cites its roots in the marsh and blues of Louisiana. But before hip-hop, there was no musical vehicle for the low-income households of America to say, “Hey, we're here too!”
Christian, Medina’s given name, wants to use rap as the emotional outlet it was originally intended to be. “I try to report both cultural and personal events through my writing. I’m trying to bring up issues that are relevant to everybody.“
Achieving that is easier said than done, though. How does one take the pulse of a large body of people and appeal to everyone? That’s where Medina claims his journalism career will help him. “I have a journalist’s eye. I’m always thinking about how culture is impacted by everyday events. In D.C., where I did an internship at Bloomberg, it was interesting for me because I would be surrounded by these millionaires and politicians, and then there were other areas where I’d find homeless people everywhere. That’s two groups of people, interacting in the same environment, and every decision made affects both groups differently.”
I brought up a conversation I had with a friend recently. My friend, who is an avid hip-hop fan, hated To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar’s latest jazzed-out festival of blackness. His reason: It wasn’t fun. Christian understood the gist of what I was getting at and said, “I think sometimes the hip-hop we hear on the radio can warp the perception of what a rapper or an MC is supposed to be. There’s nothing wrong with Fetty Wap or Drake or Future. I love those dudes. But the public sometimes forgets that what Kendrick, Nas, or Immortal Technique do is just as valuable. In a way, I’m trying to do what those guys are doing.”
It’s difficult for people to give a shit about cultural issues that don’t affect them. It’s become increasingly clear that people have their own opinions and biases and want them supported, not challenged. Christian was accepting of that. “I don’t want to be oblivious to the difficult situations that arise in life. And sure, people might just want to drink the Kool-Aid. But I’m trying to approach reality in a way that people might find agreeable. I dig Brother Ali and rappers that are trying to beat you over the head with their message, but that’s not really my personality.”
That personality he speaks of was formed through a life that found him playing the role of outsider on many occasions. “When I was younger, we moved around a lot. You become the new kid a lot, and spending a lot of time alone, I got into writing. I started writing poetry. Through it all, I heard my story in hip-hop, and in high school, I began to do spoken word. That was the first time performing my writing.”
Though Miami's hip-hop community is fragmented and can at times be disorganized, Medina hopes to be part of a new scene that's emerging. “I’ll keep making music," he says at the end of our interview. "I have to be the voice of the people who don’t have one. And the hip-hop community in Miami is beginning to come together. There are a lot of great artists in Miami, and we all need to connect."
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