LA Punk to Banda Rap

Time: 6:20 minutes
Excerpt: "El Vez sings with Alice "Bag" Armendariz. He takes the melody of Elvis's "Suspicious Minds," and Carribbean-infused Rolling Stone's "Sympathy for the Devil." Then, he fades up the mambo and turns on mexican/country flavored guitar to pay tribute to undocumented mexican workers."
full transcript

The Bags

In the late 1970s, the bags featured the first l.a.-based punk women lead singer, Alice Aag.  She was born Alicia Armendariz  to Mexican immigrants who lived in east L.A.  Alicia's furious screams  defined  the aggressive vocal style of the  Hollywood punk scene.  Alice's vocals rose up over distorted electric guitar and sped up bass and drums to create  a thick, dissonant texture a trademark of the early punk sound,  echoing  L.A. tension.

El Vez

The Zeros were another original California 70s punk band.  In the early 1990s, former Zeros member Robert Lopez took on the stage name El Vez.   Then he cooked up riffs from early rock and roll, glam rock, and punk and sang pro-latino politics. His backup band the Memphis Mariachis held the groove while El Vez rocked the stage!  In the song "Immigration  Time" El Vez sings with Alice "Bag" Armendariz.  He  takes the melody of Elvis's "Suspicious Minds," and Carribbean-infused Rolling Stone's "Sympathy for the Devil."  Then, he fades up the mambo and turns on  mexican/country flavored guitar to pay tribute to undocumented mexican workers.

The Plugz

The Plugz from El Paso, linked the Hollywood and east l.a. punk scenes.  The band's  1979  stripped-down version of "La Bamba" pays tribute to  Ritchie Valens  and shouts out to their Mexican american roots.  In this mexican son jarocho, lead singer Tito screams in spanish i'm not a fascist, I'm not a capitalist, I'm an anarchist.  The Plugz and the Brat were featured on the 1983  album "Eastside Renaisance.  The record linked punk to Eastside 60s bands.

The Undertakers

In "Death Breath" the undertakers build and sustain pure tension with no release.  They sing about toxic pollution in Brown communities.   In their song "No Pay" we hear a mexican conjunto guitar introduction, a polka um-pah bass, and bouncy ska syncopation.

Los Illegals

Los illegals re-made  the  insult “illegal” into   a badge of ethnic pride. Spotlighting  the lives of undocumented workers in the song  “El Lay,” the band uses a  cha, cha, cha cowbell, a vox organ an  distorted guitars, highlights the abuse done to undocumented workers, echoing the theme of the 1930 popular L.A. corrido,  "Los Lavaplatos" "The diswashers".

Kid Frost

Kid Frost's tune "La Raza"  hit u.s. rap charts in 1990. The first rap featuring "caló,  or pachcuco slang  was rapped over el chicano's 1970 hit  "Viva Tirado." Frost's  version pumps up the bajo sexto influenced bass, claiming Chicano pride.

Zach de la Rocha

Zach de la Rocha of  Rage Against the Machine grew up in East L.A. and Orange County.  He fused socially conscious rap lyrics with punk sonic ferocity.  In 2002  "Maria," de la rocha tells about an undocumented worker summonded to L.A. to make clothes.  Maria survives a hellish border crossing only to be abused and injured on the job.


Many children of recent mexican immigrants love to mix hip hop with mexican music.  Like another premier mestizo band Ozomatili, Akwid's 2003 song "No Hay Manera" "There's no way", mixes hip hop vocals with brass instruments from banda sinaloense, in a style called banda rap.  Listen to the off-beat horn punches, and the bass line played by a tuba and the Mariachi-influenced trumpet.