Cali Life style is a Chicano/Chican-inspired Hip-hop duo formed in 1992 out of Santa Maria, CA. The duo included rapper T Dre( Terry Smooth), and Delux (Producer/DM) as well as Producers/DI. They released their first album ‘T.I.T.Y.’ to little to no fanfare but then quickly began to gain popularity due to the hot/hottest rappers at the time such as Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Nelly and Yomi Martina.
Their second album ‘Chiodo’ was more polished and performed better thus earning them a second song on the American music hit chart called the ‘Hit of the Year’ (produced by DJ Craze) which was heard by many people around the world and was certified platinum in just a year and a half (the song peaked at number 6 on the chart). With ‘Chiodo’ the band also began a lengthy relationship with rapper Will Smith who produced one of the songs on the album ‘Smith the People’s Radio’ with him. It was also reported that he may sign a deal with Interscope Records where he would be a exclusive artist. However; things did not work out as planned and the single “Esparta” (produced by DJ Pooh) was not even played on any radio stations in the United States.
Since the release of their second album, many fans have wondered what has brought the Chicano rap scene to where it is today. Many believe that T Dre and Delux (who are two young, unknown rappers from California who went through major label careers) paved the way for the future of hip hop/rap in the United States. Others say that the Chicano rap scene was influenced by the Latin and Spanish cultures, specifically the type of music prevalent in Mexico. Others say that the reason for the Chicano rap revolution is because there has not been enough focus on Latino artists and music in mainstream music.
One of the biggest influences on the sound of the Chicano rap songs of the early to mid 90s was Los Angeles rhythm and blues band Los Angeles based group Dream Team. Produced by Suicidal Tendencies member Scott Storch (also of Meters), Dream Team was an underground sensation and became known to the public through their singles on Shade Thru Me/LP. Their second album Stacked Collar was a minor hit in Europe and America and was certified gold in the United Kingdom. The single, “She Said,” a homage to pop queen Beyonce Knowles was the first single off the album and became a massive chart success. On the Stacked Collar tour, several other well known artists took part including Kool Boyz, Inspectah Deck, Eazy-E, Scarface, and more.
The style and sound of the early Chicano rap scene was said to have influenced artists such as DJ Pauly D, Mark Wills, Chamillionaire, and Cee-Lo. The late Dr Dre produced his own version of the Mexican lifestyle using the Nuevo Latino style. Many of his songs were turned into hit singles and have made him famous. His stage name was Dre. Another artist of the Chicano rap scene was Hector Elizondo, better known as Chican Kelly. He had several hit singles and his songs became some of the more popular versions of salsa music.
According to many experts, Chican Kelly had some influence from the Chicano movement and he was in fact a member of it. However, other members were more into rawness and rough around the edges. Chican was said to be quite a ladies’ man and was known to be involved with many women.
According to many accounts, Chican Kelly was killed in a drive-by shooting. Others say he ran out in front of a train on a highway. Chican had links to many different artists. Some of them became well known such as Flavor Flav. Several others became well known simply for being a member of the crew.
The California life style has had some type of impact on modern rap. Most artists who come from this background have a distinct look and feel about themselves. It is hard to classify one era from another as each one seems to be independent. It is not uncommon for someone to try and classify an era. For instance, if an artist like 50 cent comes from Chicano life style, they are most often described as being from the graffiti artists or the hood.