Although just two years ago, Charles “Chuck” Rodriguez and Nerson Santiago had never met, they shared the same passion for music, but neither knew where to begin.
“I love writing rhymes,” said Santiago. “I've been writing since I was six years old.”
Rodriguez has been creating Hip Hop in any recording studio he could find since he was a student at in 1988. After High School, he even offered to sweep the floors in a Fall River studio, to learn his way around the equipment and meet local recording artists.
The need for an outlet became more urgent after Santiago lost a son. He bought recording equipment, but he did not have anyone show him how to use it, so it eventually sat idle.
As if by design, the two men who had never met, both moved to Newport in 2010, into neighboring apartments. One afternoon, Rodriguez overheard Santiago on the phone that he was looking for movies to buy. Rodriguez called over the fence that he had plenty of movies, but when he stopped over with the discs, something else caught his eye.
“There was all this recording equipment just sitting there, dusty,” he said. “So I asked him if I could set-it up.”
Several months later the duo produced their first single Whispers. The neighbors called themselves the Strangaz because although they had never met before, they were a group.
“It was a look inside our heads, of what we went through,” said Santiago about their first song. “It was therapeutic outreach at first.”
Although it wasn’t their primary goal, the single was an instant success. They performed Whispers in Boston, Connecticut and Providence.
When asked why they didn’t perform on the island, Santiago said it wasn’t by choice.
“It’s not that we didn’t feel any love here, it’s just that were more opportunities elsewhere,” he explained.
Now two years and almost two albums later, they hope to change that by showing Aquidneck Island that Hip Hop can be positive and uplifting. They have learned if they are going to perform on the island, they have to create their own opportunity.
“There are no real venues to perform it yet," said Rodriguez. The group is working with local bars to introduce their beat on island this summer.
“It’s feel-good music,” said Rodriguez. He said when people think about hip hop, they associate it with hardcore gangster music, but Strangaz is positive and uplighting. The goal is that when you listen to it, you feel better, never worse.
“We are personally, very civic minded,” Rodriguez said. They plan to donate parts of any proceeds from the venues to local organizations that help the youth and battered women.
“I know I’ve been a position of having nothing,” said Rodriguez. “Being homeless, on the streets. To give people an opportunity. If I had that when I was younger, I could have had found success faster.”
Eventually, Strangaz would like to provide studio space and mentorship to young artists on Aquidneck Island.
“There is not a lot of opportunities here,” Rodriguez said from experience. “And it’s a lot of money to go to Boston. We want to put the island on the local map. That is doing something in the music industry.”
To stay updated on the venues this summer, you can friend Chuck on Facebook. Their latest album, Over The Blue, will be released Summer 2012.
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