You've got to strive to survive on Kendall Drive just to stay alive.
More people live in the massive area known as Kendall than anywhere else in Miami-Dade County. And since the founding of Crazy Hood Productions over 20 years ago, it has been a home for real hip-hop.
Now two young artists, Deeno and John Lewis the Fifth, are keeping that rich tradition alive with their own sound and a new music video for the song "West of the City." Here's what the guys had to say about repping West Kendall, being Dominicans, the talent in their sector, and legalizing marijuana.
See also: Miami's Top Ten Rappers on the Come-Up
Crossfade: Wasup, how'd you guys start making music together?
John Lewis the Fifth: Actually, he's a friend of my sister. But we met a couple of years back through the love of graffiti. We're into the arts. We didn't even do music at the time. We just liked arts, graffiti, and hip-hop.
Deeno: His sister told me about her little brother, about what he was into. I went to the house and we kicked it and that's what started the bond. We been making music together as a team, but we're each independent artists. We have several tracks together, but haven't set a group in stone, but we're just always working together.
What inspired the song "West of the City"?
Deeno: We heard the beat and we really liked it. We was just kickin' it, burning. And after that, we were like, "Let's rep West Kendall," there's nobody really doing it and we felt the need to keep it real.
John Lewis: We trying to bring real hip-hop out of South Florida. Usually all you hear about from here is trap or house, but we got the idea like, "We grew up here in West Kendall," so we're bringing a new culture to West Kendall, something unheard of, so people feel they are a part of something.
How'd you get your names?
John Lewis: My name is Juan Luis Vasquez. I took the Roman numeral 5, which is Juan Luis V, and made it into John Lewis the Fifth.
Deeno: My real name is Angeridno, which no one can say or remember, so people call me Deeno, and I just ran with that. It's been working so far.
There's a lot of Dominican references in the video.
John Lewis: We're both Dominican. And we've been heavily influenced by Dominican music, growing up with our parents. We rep our culture through our music. That's how we incorporate it. Anytime any culture see they flag, they get excited. But it's not just Dominicans. It's Colombians, Venezuelans. We're all intertwined.
Deeno: That's hip hop culture. Apart from the U.S., there's a lot of poverty-driven stories from different countries about starting from the bottom, and we try to represent for that, heavily.
You've worked with the video director before too right?
Deeno: Yeah. Roberto Mario. He's already shot four of my videos, and John Lewis too.
See also: Ten Best Miami Rap Anthems Ever
What's it like out in West Kendall?
Deeno: West Kendall is the underground grime. There's everything out here, just like the inner city, drugs and violence and hard-working people trying to make it everyday. Nobody is fed with a silver spoon out here. At least not me.
Just wanted to clear up the part about kendall being "hood" we're not trying to condone violence nor have a ghetto appeal to us , just some regular dudes trying to rep real hiphop emerging from South Florida.
What do you think of legalizing weed in Florida?
Deeno: Definitely, man. I think it will be a big plus for the economy, a lot of development and income. It's everywhere. People can't say that people don't smoke. It's gonna solve problems. It's just better for everybody. Everybody will be more relaxed. No shooting nobody. Just smoke a little weed.
What inspires the '90s hip-hop sound in your music?
John Lewis: We just tryin' to bring that real hip-hop, with nice beats, over jazz-influenced melodies.
Deeno: I'm from the Bronx originally. We moved to Kendall when I was 15, and I been here since then. But I always liked that style of music. I was influenced by '90s culture: Nas, Common, Mos Def, but also Trick Daddy, and there's others I appreciate. Old Pitbull was nice. He really brought out the Latino culture.
John Lewis: I grew up here my whole life, but my brothers grew up in New York. I always tried following whatever they did, and they listened to Nas, Mobb Deep, that's what they liked. At school, I listened to Southern rap, and hip-hop with my brothers, and that created a good fusion.
Where do you record?
Deeno: Different spots, one is D. Shim Productions in South Dade on Quail Roost.
Who made the beat for "West Of The City"?
John Lewis: That beat was by an online producer named Cory J. But there's producers here like Slow Architect, who did the beats for the other two videos we have together. I'm also a producer too.
You gonna do an album?
John Lewis: We're both workin' on individual projects.
What about other rappers down in West Kendall?
John Lewis Many rappers. Stitches grew up out here. We have a big, big community. Slow Architect is a producer, Gabriel da Vinci is an artist/producer, Dianis Lee is a singer, Kidd Wes is an artist, King Docious is an artist. There's a lot of us out here.
What do you hope to achieve with your music?
Deeno: To keep it as real as possible. If I say it, I mean it. To keep it authentic. And I would love to be like Jay Z, and to be one of the greats and veer off into acting and do a clothing line as well.
John Lewis: I want it to be the rest of my life. To be able to release a studio album that goes platinum. I wanna just take it a step further and to produce in different genres. And as an artist, to always be hip-hop.
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Deeno and John Lewis the Fifth. Friday, July 18. C&I Studios, 541 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-357-3934 or visit c-istudios.com.