Hey, welcome back to Watermelon Sushi World! We’ve missed you. Here we are in a brand new year with a brand new interviewee.
Remember our last featured guest, Pei Ju Chou? Because she emigrated to the U.S. as a teen, she often felt as if she had one foot in two worlds—Taiwan's and America's. So, Pei created a documentary—Stuck on the Boat—featuring the stories of “1.5 generation” children.
Like Pei, this month’s featured guest--Mario Louis--also arrived on the shores of the U.S. as a teenager. Besides being a prolific rapper and music producer, Mario also served in the U.S. military and is preparing to tour with To the Fallen Records.
To Mario, we say, “Bonn Ane”--Haitian Creole for Happy New Year! Check out the Haitian hunk in the pix above and below, and follow him at these links:
Here’s Mario’s story:
Q: Lately, Haiti has been in the news for its tragedies, but it can't be all bad. What city were you born in, and what was it like living there?
A: I was born in the L'artibonite section of Haiti. My dad left for the States a week later, and then mom moved back to the capital, Port-au-Prince, when I was three months old.
Growing up in Port-au-Prince was rough, but it was beautiful. Despite all the struggles and political unrest, it was my home sweet home. It's the kind of place where you expect anything to happen at anytime. Nothing surprises you after awhile, and then life goes on.
Q: How old were you when you left, and what was it like leaving and coming to America?
A: I left Haiti at 15. It was painful. It was kinda like mixed feelings. I was happy to be reunited with my dad and to know a better life and opportunities were waiting ahead, but it was painful leaving it all behind. My family, my friends, my neighborhood.
Q: Why do you think that so many African Americans, and Americans of other ethnicities, know little about the Haitian Revolution and its significance to the history of black liberation?
A: The Haitian Revolution took place in the late 1700's and ended in 1804 with the African slaves in Haiti defeating the French army. The same way the Internet is popular in our time today, slavery was the biggest business around the globe back in those times. It was a conflict of interest for the American government to deal with the free Africans in Haiti, when every African in the United States was still enslaved. The last thing they wanted was for African Americans to be inspired to start another "Haitian Revolution" in their own backyards.
Q: How many languages do you speak, and what are they?
A: I speak four languages. Haitian Creole, being my first, was spoken at home and in the streets. Then, French, which was always on TV, media, books, and spoken in school with the teachers. Both Spanish and English were mandatory in junior high school, but I had already learned a lot of Spanish since my dad’s side of the family lived near the Dominican Republic border. English was the last one I picked up.
Q: What were the hardest and easiest things to adjust to after you moved to the U.S.?
A: Everything was hard moving to New York. It was basically starting your life all over again. Here, I come from Haiti, where everyone knew me and I knew everyone. Then, I wake up one day and nobody knows anything about me or cares to know. It was hard to communicate with peers in school at first. It was a big change, and the hardest part was accepting that change and adapting to it day by day. So nothing was easy really easy, but it didn't take me too long to adjust because I was never shy to ask questions or make mistakes.
Q: What led you to join the U.S. military and how long were you in it?
A: I was just looking for avenues after high school. Many of my close friends were getting involved in the streets and I was watching some of them go to jail. Others were being deported back to Haiti. I wanted to go play college basketball, but couldn't get into the schools I wanted. So that's when I joined the Marines. But right before I went in, I got accepted into UMES in Maryland. I still had the option of walking away from my military contract at that point, but I chose to stay in the reserve for six years after boot camp. It's still one of my proudest accomplishments to date.
Q: Tell us about your music--how did you get started and what’s going on with your career now?
A: I used to listen to a lot of reggae when I was a kid and that's how I learned my first song structures and how to rhyme. Then, my cousin introduced me to rap and I started hearing AZ, Nas, and Xzibit. After I moved to the States, I started writing my own stuff in high school and people used to be amazed. I remember one time somebody had my notebook and, for like a whole day, my rhymes were being passed around the school and people were coming to me like, "Yo, you always quiet, but I ain’t know you rapped. You nice wit it, son."
When I went away in the military, every down time we got turned into a freestyle session. In college, I started doing talent shows and performed on military bases. But it was all a hobby. When I wanted to get serious with it, I realized it was costing too much to buy beats. So I learned how to make them myself. Then, recording was costing me money. So, I bought all the basic equipment and taught myself how to record. I was so addicted to the whole process that I acted as if I were a record label on foot. I got into graphic design and created my CD covers and flyers. I then released my first project "Silent, but Deadly" in late 2007. I sold it out of my trunk, online and received lots of offers from DJ's, promoters, and semi-pro basketball leagues to perform.
As of now, I'm getting ready to release "Trigga Muscle: a Tribute to the Troops and Fallen Warriors". One of the singles recently got released on a compilation through To the Fallen Records, which is an independent label distributed through Universal Music Group/Fontana. They've helped me reach a larger audience and are preparing to tour various military bases.
Merci beaucoups, Mario. Wow! Four languages, a prolific musician, and cutie-pie to boot.
Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez, as you may know Sexy Voices of Hollywood (SVOH) was launched as an Internet edutainment show to help finance the Watermelon Sushi film. You can listen to it every other Wednesday on YouTube or any number of Internet channels. You can also “like” the SVOH Fan page on Facebook and sign up on the SVOH Event page to stay tuned for upcoming shows. You can also purchase an SVOH t-shirt, follow SVOH on Twitter, or friend SVOH on MySpace. Sexy Voices of Hollywood is everywhere!
Don’t forget, you can also show your support for Watermelon Sushi World by joining our Hip Hapa Homeez group page where we post news about multiethnic communities, transracial adoptees and multiculti moments. And, you can “like” our Watermelon Sushi fan page, follow our impromptu tweets on Twitter, or buy a HapaTeez t-shirt on Café Press—where every purchase will earn you a rear crawl credit on the film, so be sure we have the correct spelling of your name.
No matter how you show us your love, HHH, we love you back.
For now, Watermelon Sushi World moves to a monthly format. Look for us on the first Wednesday of each month. Until next time, may I be the first to remind you, I am and will always be…
Your Hip Hapa,