The story of Sergio and Francisco Gomez, better known as Akwid, the Mexican-American hip-hop duo from South Central L.A., is a familiar tale of unforeseen fame complete with the usual underdog subplots that make for a compelling MTV rockumentary. In an amazingly short amount of time, the two brothers launched their debut album Projecto Akwid, and despite meager airplay, the record became a critical and commercial success prompting the Latin music industry to take notice. In 2003, Akwid received their first Latin platinum album, a Grammy nomination for best “Spanish Rock/Alternative Album,” and three nominations for the Latin Billboard Music award. This year the band won two Latin Billboard Music Awards: best Hip Hop Album of the Year and best Mexican Regional Album of the Year.
One could argue that Akwid’s phenomenal success has less to do with defying the odds in a highly competitive business obsessed with the almighty dollar and more to do with a booming Latino youth population, fortunate timing and a growing need among Latinos to reconnect with their roots. It’s no secret that Latinos born or raised in the U.S. grow up speaking two languages in order to reconcile divergent cultural realities: being Latino and American.
Sergio and Francisco are no exception. At home, the two brothers grew up speaking Spanish, listening to banda music, Mexican ballads and mariachi music; in the streets of South Central L.A. they spoke English and were influenced by NWA, AMG, DJ Quick, HI-C, and African-American urban culture. What set them apart from their peers was their urgent need to combine two contrasting musical genres, which on the surface appear to have nothing in common, with the intention of creating a distinct new sound. The result: audacious Spanish rhymes accompanied by a unique mix of Mexican banda music and West Coast-style hip-hop.
Musica de Banda or “band music” originated in the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa, and is one of the most popular forms of Mexican regional music today. The typical banda ensemble includes trumpets, tubas, trombones, keyboards and percussion; guitar and violin sounds are used sparingly. A more hyperactive incarnation of traditional Mariachi music, banda’s bumping tuba rhythms and stuttering horn breaks were the perfect aural signifier for this act.
Embracing black culture was also an important and logical step for Akwid’s development. They make no apologies despite some strong criticism within the Latino community. “Hip-hop was just something that we liked. It was music—we were raised in South Central L.A. and that’s what we heard when we were growing up. We didn’t know who was making it, but growing up we also heard the regional Mexican and La