Los Rakas x PUMA x Complex x Modelo Especial “Blank Canvas” Project
Complex Magazine, Modelo Especial, and PUMA have joined together to produce a project that helps to fuse creativity, art, and music, by allowing four up-and-coming musicians (or in this case, musical groups) to design their very own PUMA shoe. Known as the “Blank Canvas” project, the three companies have provided a platform on which these Panamanian artists, the Los Rakas, can gain some promotion as well as showcase their visual talents. In order to get a better idea of the musical men behind the colorway, we caught up with both Raka Rich and Raka Dun to get the full story on their audible career.
Yo Rich, Dun, great to have you with us, for those of our readers that don’t already know, let’s start with the Raka movement. What is this and where is it from?
The Raka movement came from Panama – out of the word Rakataka – a derogatory term used to describe people from the hood. To be a Raka is not considered a good thing there. People from the hood tend to deny that they’re Rakas themselves.
We, as Panamanians who moved to the US, admired our culture because we missed it. There was a lot of nostalgia involved. And then confusion which led to reaffirmation, because in our mind being a Raka is a good thing and something to be proud of. Why would we make fun of where we’re from? Especially all the beautiful things that come out of where we’re from: the style of music and fashion-sense, most importantly the spirit and culture!
Like rebels, we wanted to take the word and flip it. We wanted people to be proud. By taking ownership of the word we were (and still are) taking a risk because there’s a lot of responsibility with owning that word and redefining it. We also wanted to make a statement, that just ’cause you’re from the hood and considered a Raka, you don’t have to be what the world expects you to be. A Raka is everything that is from the environment of where we’re from – the good and the bad – a Raka can study, for example, and become a doctor. Or a Raka businessman, or anything!
It’s really something serious for you both then, not just a musical personality or career move?
Raka Rich: Right, to be a Raka is to overcome, to rebel, and we won’t back down from that shit. Raka Dun was the one who really owned the movement of being a Raka – I was just looking at is as being the Panamanian ‘Ghetto Boys’ – but as the movement’s grown, it’s really been embraced by fans globally and the idea is simple: just be yourself. And remember there are no limits to where you can go. Our mission statement is to both inspire fellow Rakas and empower them to become successful despite their circumstances.
That’s an incredibly deep background to your beats and melodies! So on the more superficial side of things, how has fashion, clothing, and especially sneaker culture clashed as well as worked with the Los Rakas identity?
Raka Rich: It’s just swag. Being a Raka, we like to look presentable at all times. Being in Panama, I remember you would be graded for your uniform at school. If you weren’t cutting it, they would send your ass home. It’s a part of us and who we are. Take the gold teeth (“Diente de Oro” in ‘Soy Raka’) for example – supposedly during the building of the Panama Canal, migrant workers from different Caribbean islands would return home with gold teeth and encourage other workers to migrate to Panama for work. So that’s something we grew up seeing everywhere. Panamanians like to be ‘clean’ – twenty-four hours a day you gotta be suited and booted, wet, dipped, flossin’, feel me? That’s “Bien Ribetiao” (watch our brand new video).
Raka Dun: We don’t feel fashion culture clashes with our identity. Rakas adapt with trends (except we don’t rock skinny jeans). Our fashion ranges from top designers to no names. We can step out on the scene with a white tee, snap back, Levis, and fresh kicks like PUMA’s and be “Bien Ribetiao” (aka swaggin’). The personality and confidence of an individual makes the fit pop for a Raka.
And swaggin’ you two sure are, we’re diggin’ those hand made wife-beaters you wear to match your outfits. Regarding sneakers, what styles do you rock the most?
Raka Rich: I like a lot of skater shoes, my style is definitely skater. I like many brands, including adidas and PUMA. Raka Dun’s style is more street, he’s into basketball shoes. We’re simple and clean. There’s two things we currently collect: kicks and hats.
And you must have some favorites?
Right now our favorite shoe by far is the Los Rakas x PPUMA collab entitled the “El Ace II”. Vote for it now! We also like the Tekkie’s for the summertime, the Clyde Script, and the Suedes. Concerning adidas we sport the Stan Smiths, Gazelles, and Sambas.
About those El Ace II’s, when did the contest begin? What’s the story behind this whole collab?
The contest started in the beginning of summer, 2012, and it runs through September 3rd. Complex Magazine reached out and told us about this shoe design competition and, being into fashion and kicks, we humbly accepted the opportunity to design a shoe. We were hella happy to start designing our style. Once they announced the other competitors (Joell Ortiz, John West, and Kevin Rudolf) we felt honored to represent as the only independent artists in the competition. We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us! Our team created a marketing plan and for the last three months we’ve executed and we’re currently winning the competition with almost fifty percent of the votes.
That’s great news! And the design earns it. Tell us about that, how’d you create it?
When we sat with the designers and we had a few bottles of Model Especial on the table; we were inspired by those colors and incorporated white, black, and gold. We love gold in general so we made the laces stand out in gold-ish color. We like how gold looks over black so we gave it black accents and finally left most of the shoe white for what we feel is a great Raka design, especially with our Raka Smiley logo on there for the final touch.
They’re simply kick ass. And if you win…?
If we win the competition, PUMA will manufacture our design. That in and of itself is dope! To have a major, international sneaker brand make a shoe with our logo (the Raka Smiley) on it is crazy, but we knew if we were in the competition with fans voting, we’d have a chance to win. We love all of our fans and friends who have supported the Los Rakas movement by voting daily and making our dreams a reality. That is the essence of our Raka message; with hard work and dedication anything is possible! Winning this competition will show Rakas across the world there are opportunities and when those opportunities present themselves you must go after them!
Lastly, speaking of the world, have you performed outside of the United States, and if so, where?
Raka Dun: Last year we had the opportunity to perform in Puerto Rico, Raka Rich went on tour in Colombia including a co-headlining at the NRML Festival in Monterey, Mexico. In October 2012, Raka Rich will also present himself at the Corona Capital Festival in Mexico (DF) – alongside Major Lazer, The Black Keys, and many more – and in Tijuana, Mexico. For 2013, we plan on touring to Africa, Europe, South America, and Central America where we’d return to our homeland of Panama for the first time together as Los Rakas. No limits!
As for the future, our next project is coming out next year and it’s called “Raka Party”. We’ve been working really hard on it, taking our time and been in the studio a lot lately. We’ve also been in the studio recently with Diplo, Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, and E-40. Check out our brand new song ‘Hablemos Del Amor’ (RepJA Riddim) and our video “Bien Ribetiao” (on MTV Tr3s, Vevo, and Youtube). Also, of course, don’t forget to check our website for some free music and more!
You guys are blowin’ up big it seems. We wish the best to you here at eatmoreshoes, hope you keep the kicks fresh, and cross our laces that you win this contest. And to all the readers out there, whether you’re a PUMA nut or simply dig the Los Rakas sound, don’t forget to vote before midnight of September 13th!
transcribed by Raka Nati
written by Dylan Cromwell