Street credentials for Geno LeStat’s rap, trap and hip hop come from his youth in a violent part of Baton Rouge, Lousiana. Music was and is his “safe space.”
The single and video “Ompha Lompha” and the album it comes from, Geno’s latest, Louisiana Baby’s, has plenty of street in it, but the violence of the street is the background, not the point. The fun depicted goes on in spite of the world behind the album’s 13 tracks.
“That was my goal,” said Geno. “I was trying to bring playfulness back to rap. I just feel like nowadays it’s too much about violence. It’s not about the music.”
He understands that change must come gradually. “You have to pretty much keep it the same and just change a little bit as you go in order to get people to stick with you to try to switch over.”
Lines from the chorus to “Ompha Lompha” show the mix of clowns and killers, light and dark:
Face painted ompha lomphas hollin’ dupity doo
Them 26s look like Ferris wheels wow wow wow
Choppa bullets doin cartwheels no no no
Mad scientist with mad skills oh oh oh
Red bottoms look like Santa Coat ho ho ho
His love for music comes from and through his father, who listened to blues, R&B and rap. Tupac was one of his favorites. Geno’s father was shot down in front of him when he was a young child, and in the years after songs brought memories of specific times and places where Geno and his father heard them.
“It gave me a connection to him, and it gave me perspective of how he might have been feeling when he was listening to certain songs. As a man, now I understand that.”
Louisiana Baby’s and its tracks and videos are full of the mix, the grind and grim reality forming the backdrop to various party scenes.
One song, “I Live and Die in the Moment” was made after he and his friends lost 10 people in the span of two years.
“It’s not talked about or not fully understood, but the majority of young black males who don't have their father in a household, for whatever reason, they don’t expect to live past 21,” he said. “So, most of their decisions are like, ‘I won’t be here tomorrow, I won’t have to deal with or live out or face these consequences.’”
The beats on Louisiana Baby’s are fast, the raps faster, the vibes party. The videos feature cartoon characters and fanciful artwork. “I Live and Die” features a skeleton emerging from the ground in a cemetery to dance to the music, and later three skeletons from a chorus line.
“I’m the only rapper in history who put cartoon characters in my videos and in my lyrics,” said Geno.
Light and dark. Fun and disturbing. If it gets to be too much, just get lost in the beats.
He also says, “We have music that’s still street, that still has violence in it, because we tell our life story also.”
Geno has put out four albums and 23 videos since forming Kamikaze Family Entertainment in 2016. He started the company partly as a way to restore fun to rap, not to deny reality. It also seems, as he describes it, to be a kind of therapy, a place where people with no certainty of tomorrow can get a dose of hope from someone who can say, “Hey, look. I’ve been there, I know how you feel.”
“Then,” he said, “you might change a person’s perspective, which could, hopefully, change the outcome.”
Kamikaze Family Entertainment can be accessed through Geno’s Facebook page.
The ultimate goal of his musical career is to get a record deal, to make a good living from the art he loves.
“I know what I’m supposed to be doing and that I’m good enough to do it. I just need to be propelled into the spotlight much more.”
His bedrock, though, is love of music. Music gives him a connection to things and people he has lost, a refuge from the violence in which he grew up, but at heart it is love of music that moves him.
“I love all music. A great song is a great song no matter what genre it is. I got country music, I love soft rock, punk rock, heavy metal, R&B, blues, rap, hip hop. If it’s a great song, I love it.”
In addition to music as safe space, memory, therapy, hope, message, he has a primary goal for the music he creates.
“Most of my music,” he said, “is to make people move, make people dance, make people have a good time.”
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