In the age of streaming, when artists can drop new music in a minute, Denver bilingual pop and hip-hop group 2MX2 has taken a different approach, slowly removing its discography from online and redefining its music in the process.
"It wasn't aligned with who we are now," says co-founding member Owen Trujillo, "and it really wasn't something we wanted to even reflect. We didn't want people to know that it was mindless music sometimes."
After spending 2018 in the studio, Trujillo, fellow co-founder Juice E.T. Hugo, singer Lolita Castañeda and producer David McCoy, also known as DMDTheProducer, are releasing a new single on Monday, "Vivir y Bailar." You can pre-order it here.
While the single still has the danceable vibe that the group embraces with skill, the underlying message has shifted. This is a culmination of the band wanting to circle back to its Latino roots — a desire that partly comes from its work with Colorado youth through the nonprofit Vocal Coalition.
"We realized how big of a Latino population there is all around Colorado and how little access [the kids] have to meet with professionals, in any industry, who are also Latino," Castañeda says.
Hugo explains that with money being taken out of the schools for music programs, it was important to them to show up and represent.
Castañeda continues, "Usually whenever they have anyone come to their schools, they don't look like them and they don't talk like them. So they don't feel like they can achieve that level of professional work. You realize right away the impact it had on all the youth. It was totally empowering for them."
Trujillo quickly adds, "We aren't goody two shoes, though," but hearing the kids sing their music made them think twice about the message they are standing behind.
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And they can't be goody two shoes when their new music discusses issues including gun violence and suicide in Latino communities all around Colorado.
"When you hear about these issues and feel like, 'I don't want to know about that stuff. What am I going to do about it?' For
"Vivir y Bailar," with its unique EDM arrangements and uplifting beat, is a far cry from talking about heavy issues; however, the group wanted the first release of the year to be a celebration of life.
"We do have EDM, we do have rock and so many different styles of music. It's not like people are going to come in and hear only salsa jams." McCoy says. "It allows us to create our own path in this city, at least."
"I think there is no place in the media for Latin hip-hop artists like ourselves," Trujillo says, and language differences can create a significant barrier in the industry.
Growing up, he was ashamed of his first language being Spanish and was often told to keep it out of the classroom by teachers.
"It wasn't until I started to rap that I felt I'm so glad I still speak Spanish," he says. "Before that, I was actually hiding that I was so Mexican. I didn't
"Maybe it comes full circle," Castañeda says in regard to the Vocal Coalition program and the work they are doing to integrate Denver musicians into the classrooms.
"We come, we're speaking Spanish; kids that don't even speak Spanish are learning Spanish," she adds. "They really like the song. And maybe it gives the Spanish speakers more of a feeling like, I feel cool singing in my language."
The bandmates' confidence to share their passion and pursue music full-time came after Hugo was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and subsequently beat it a year later. The group renamed itself 2MX2 (originally the band was called 20:12), a mixture of Roman numerals as a way to symbolize their pivot in life.
Hugo remembers the exact day he was diagnosed, because he went in for a biopsy; his boss called, then told Rodriguez that despite the diagnosis, he must still come in to work.
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"Seeing that and then when you go through a near-death experience, you start to really think about what you want to do with the rest of your life," Hugo says.
As they continue to release music and play shows, the members of 2MX2 don't see their work with Vocal Coalition nearing an end. It's allowed them to collaborate with other Denver artists, such as Flobots, The Reminders and, most recently, Kid Astronaut.
After dancing to "Vivir y Bailar," you can head to 2MX2's listening party on January 19; keep an ear out for the next single, "Toda Mi Gente," dropping on January 28.