What I really appreciate about Giano’s music is that, as a Latino, he has ability to reach a wide audience with an amazing mix, at times, of English and Spanish lyrics and he raps about the intersection of the gospel and real life. I was so impressed by this mix that I wanted to know more about his story.
AB: How did you find the world of hip hop?
Giano: My family moved around often, but we spent most of our time in NYC, Waterbury (CT), and then Orlando (FL). Each city was different, but I would say mostly lower-middle to middle class neighborhoods.
I got into hip hop music by hanging around my uncles when I was younger, like 1986. Both were DJs and the one closest to my age was more like an older brother to me. He would play all the classic records like Run DMC’s eponymous album (with Peter Piper and Sucker MCs), MC Shan’s Down by Law , and Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo’s Road to the Riches. At first, I would just vibe to whatever he was playing. When I turned 10 or so, I started adding to those influences.
AB: As a Latino, what aspects of your culture and background do you bring to your craft as a hip hop artist?
Giano: I’m Panamanian by descent. For Afro-Latinos in Panama, we get [In my opinion] the best of both Caribbean and Latino influences. So, I bring that to my craft. I am certainly not the first artist to mix heritage with hip hop, but I think my audience connects to my personal experiences in the music. So, I’ll mix Spanish in the lyrics, and because I have a working knowledge of other romance languages, those elements are mixed in as well.
AB: Which hip hop artists have influenced you?
Giano: I could take up all this cyber paper answering this question! I memorized all the lyrics to songs like Eric B. & Rakim’s “I Ain’t No Joke”, Special Ed’s “I Got it Made”, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime”, and Redman’s “Time 4 Sum Aksion”. So, a lot of hip hop in that era influenced me: Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, EPMD, Black Moon, Nas, young emcees of the 90s (Shyheim, Da Youngstas, Kris Kross, ABC, etc.), Jay Z, NWA, Pac, the list goes on.
AB: Tell us about your new release.
Giano: The forthcoming project, B-Sides & Remixes, Volume 2, is part of a tradition I’ve started, while working on whatever next album. As the title suggests, there are some remixed records from past albums and some new joints to introduce listeners to where I’m going musically and conceptually with the new album. An overall “theme” would be the extracting of certain motifs of two books: James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Daniel Goldman’s Emotional Intelligence (Shout out to Rochelle).
Musically, I hope listeners appreciate the symphony of many influences of music I enjoy (classical, jazz, trip hop, ambient, and soul), as represented on this project. Lyrically, I hope listeners appreciate the conceptualization, the transparency, and the featured artists.
A song that has great impact on me from B-Sides, Vol. 2 is the last song, “In Hindsight”. It’s a wonderful piece of music. I think the lyrics easily narrate the track because the instrumentation emanates emotion so gracefully. The song peeks into the minds of some individuals who realize they have taken a dear friend for granted.
AB: What impact can Christian hip hop have for our culture.
Giano: What hip hop music has become to the world, I believe Christian hip hop is becoming for the church and society. That is, it has become a musical voice for people who didn’t have that voice before. It brings sub-cultures together that may not have interacted before. For example, I observe what Shai Linne is doing to bridge the gap between traditional and Gen X/Y Christianity, within the church’s walls. I also observe what Braille is doing to introduce underground/conscious hip hop culture to the God of heaven, outside of the church’s walls. It’s a beautiful thing.
AB: Thanks Giano for taking the time to share with us. Blessings on your music and ministry.
You can find out more about Giano and his music here:
Anthony Bradley is an Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics at The King’s College, NYC. This commentary is taken from Bradley’s blog, The Institute and is used with permission of the author.
[Editor’s note: Original URL (links) referenced are no longer valid, so the links have been removed.]