Last Man Standing
Most hip-hop MCs are hungry, but LMS is starving like a late dinner guest to the Last Supper. You can feel it in his delivery, you can see the look in his eyes, but most of all you can hear it in his words. "Knowing the power of words, you can really reach people," says the 24-year-old Hialeah resident born Ulysses Mangual. "I don't find it surprising the way rap is being pushed on the masses, where it's like the people in control are using it to dumb people down because they know the power of music. I feel my lyrics are needed in hip-hop music right now."
Coming from a traditional hip-hop background of battling and rocking shows, with a flow reminiscent of Chuck D, Twista, and Big Pun, LMS creates music that speaks for itself. His rhyme content spans everything from street-corner sit-downs to political commentary. "There needs to be a balance. Everyone is following trends, and artists aren't sounding like themselves. To the radio, everything is a party, glorifying drug use, violence, and degrading women in music," he says. "There are hardly any songs talking about getting an education or what's going on in the world around us."
He acquired his handle, an acronym, through battling in high school hallways, where he used to end his bars with the line "first man battling, last man standing." The moniker encompasses Mangual not only as an MC but also the real person behind it.
Born in New Jersey, before moving with his working-class Puerto Rican parents to South Florida when he was eight years old, LMS grew up as the youngest of four brothers in tough Jersey City. "We grew up well but fucked up, in a sense, living in Jersey City, which was not a great neighborhood," LMS says. "One block you could walk through and the next you couldn't. The church across the street from us had bullet holes and was a crack house before then." As the youngest sibling, LMS took his fair share of knocks but also picked up a diverse range of musical influences. One of his brothers was a straight-up b-boy; another listened to rock. Their father played congas with salsa singer Hector Tricoche, and their mother always had the windows open and the stereo blasting when she cleaned the house Sunday mornings.
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"My earliest memory of hip-hop growing up was Rob Base 'It Takes Two,' but I didn't decide I wanted to rap until seeing the movie Sunset Park," he says. "When Fredro Starr of Onyx was freestyling in the locker room about the players in the game, the way he flipped that rhyme was incredible to me then, and as a little kid, that's what I wanted to do." But when LMS moved to Miami in the early Nineties, it was a different ball game — freestyle and booty music ruled the airwaves. "When it came to hip-hop down here, Miami radio didn't get it. They would play Naughty by Nature's 'O.P.P.' every day when it was already old in NJ," he says. "That was my first taste of how Miami radio is so cookie-cutter, playing the same songs over again."
LMS was kicking rhymes and beat-boxing during recess when he was a sixth-grader at José Martí Middle School in Hialeah. "But it wasn't until later on that cats found out I was a beast on the mike," he admits. "I had to battle for respect and to sharpen my skills; I was getting good at writing and started recording music at 16. Back then I wasn't too into the Miami scene but rapped with local cats like Shakespeare and Minus in school and was listening to rappers like Xzibit, Mobb Deep, Pete Rock, and Eminem."
After graduating from Barbara Goleman Senior High School in Miami Lakes, and after a brief stint at Miami Dade College, LMS entered a battle during the first night of a new weekly party at Club G's in Miami Lakes. He won, garnering himself a performance slot a few weeks later. Soon he became the host of that memorable weekly hip-hop jam, which ran for almost a year in 2003. "That was really the first time where I got in on the local scene. I had known cats, but now they had a chance to see me develop," he says. "For a year we had a hip-hop spot in Hialeah-Miami Lakes, with performances, graff, and b-boy battles, and this is where I also met up with my crew, Dub P." Since then, LMS has continued to rock shows, opening for acts such as Kool Keith and KRS-One. He has also dropped two mixtapes, The Pagemaster, through Write Beat productions, featuring a fresh collabo with Dynas & Garcia on "Miami's Finest"; and last year's standout, In the Meantime.
On In the Meantime, L serves as radio host, where he plays his own selections during drive-time hours, including the head-knockin' "Make Way for the Best" and the reflective "I Try," featuring Bree, on which he spits, "There's power in the words that we put within a verse/So don't take it for granted, nigga, even with a curse/'Cause a bad word with good meaning is better said/Than clean songs with kids singing of getting head, right?" (At the moment, both mixtapes are for sale on his MySpace page for two dollars apiece, so put down that Big Mac and log on to www.myspace.com/pagemaster.)
LMS is working on new joints with producer Hazardis Sounds for the latter's upcoming release, Hazmat Vol. 2, and a couple of other off-the-record moves. "The local scene in Miami, musically it's brilliant," says LMS. "The mainstream DJs down here need to give us a lot more recognition. My clique — Dub P — then Dynas, Garcia, ¡Mayday! ... this music should be getting a heavier rotation compared to how many times I've heard 'Soulja Boy.'"
Instead of keeping his energy pent up, LMS brings it to his shows, where he makes audiences aware of the status of an independent artist and then schools them while keeping their hands in the air. "My music is the truth, I'm giving you me, my life. You're getting hip-hop where the MC talks to you like a person; I'm telling you my stories and hoping that you can relate," he says. "Music has become a reality show — all based on image and not the quality of music. Our power as artists should come from the music we make; save the image for Hollywood."
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