In the beginning there was Sossa Smooth, a young eager emcee who first stepped in the booth at the age of 13 and recorded his first song. Then there was J-Kruz, who was inspired by his younger brother to pursue a career in rap music and together they make up the most diverse group that Pittsburgh has ever heard called Mano Y Mano.
SOSSA SMOOTH & J-KRUZ
“Sossa, at a very young age started rapping and we’ve always had a very competitive nature. He always thought he could do things better than me, so it was only right I started rapping. We’ve been doing this for over 20 years, but he’s is the one that started Mano Y Mano. It started back when he was 13 and I was 16 years of age,” J-Kruz said.
Years later with hard work and dedication they have made a name for themselves performing in almost every city in the tri-state area. They are truly a force to be reckoned with. These Latin rappin’ men are here to stay and with a little luck they will soon get the chance to show the world their skills.
“Tupac (Shakur) was a very inspiring man that had a lot to do with my dream of having that lifestyle and being that guy. It was also relevant of everything I grew up around and seen everyday. Without having a father in a single parent household, hip-hop has always been there for me. We come from a very diverse background. We are Greek and Dominican and we grew in up New York City for the most part, but have been here in Pittsburgh for seventeen years,” said J-Kruz.
“What I like about the Latino population in Pittsburgh is that they reach out to each other and it’s nice to see people come together like that,” said Sossa. “When we first moved here there wasn’t a Latin community at all. The market is growing and in the next 20 years the Pittsburgh Latin community will have Latin restaurants and continue to grow. If you go to the mall, you will hear people speaking Spanish now, you didn’t hear that before. It’s definitely a growing population.
“I am always going to do hip-hop no matter what else I’m doing. I love making music. I’m content with just making music. Of course I’m looking at the bigger picture, but I will always do music because it’s a big part of my life. There’s nothing like riding in my car and listening to my own music. I do it for the fans, but I also do it for myself. Right now we are fortunate and this wave will take us to the top. I will be 40 or 50 years old still making music.”
Being a part of WAMO, J-Kruz had the opportunity to do a lot for the community. He spent a lot of his time getting other local artist on the air and making a name for themselves. It was something that he felt he had to do.
“I’ve opened the doors for a lot of local artists in the city on the radio and no one has ever done that before. We will work and collaborate with other artists. The only thing now is that we are putting out our album and we do not want a lot of collaborations because it’s our first album. We want it to be just us,” said J-Kruz. “As soon as we get that out of the way, we will definitely collaborate with other artists because we do what we do. We are perfectionists and everyday you grow older you want your stuff to be right. If you want people to take you serious, your music has to sound serious. We’re paying $50 an hour to record our music to make sure it is topnotch.”
“We are also going to have a massive CD release party. The title of our CD is “Mano Y Mano,” Sossa said.
“We self-titled our CD because we don’t want to be in a box or looked at as a gimmick. This album will show all of our sides and that we are not just headed in one direction.
“The main thing is diversity. I have a little reggaeton here and there and you’ll hear some Spanish beats in some of our music. When I go into the studio, I try to go in and do something completely different. It’s hard to place this album in a category. We also want to make our songs as marketable to the masses as possible. If we go into the studio to make something for the radio, then that’s what we do, but for the most part I make music for myself,” J-Kruz said.
Mano Y Mano is focused and they know what it takes to get the job done. There are reasons why they are just now coming out with an album versus putting just anything out there for the public.
“We lean more on the side of mainstream than we do underground. I love music, but at the end of the day, we need to make a living and get paid. Being in the game as long as we have been in it and seeing the changes, there are things that I’ve noticed. You either set the trend or start it yourself. I know Pittsburgh generally has a hard time catching onto trends. I think there are a lot of trends from Pittsburgh that could be picked up across the country other than football. No disrespect to the Black and Gold, but there is so much going on in this city that needs light brought to it. We are just going to keep making music and eventually will make it big. If your music is that good, then you have to bum rush an office and get it into someone’s hands like P. Diddy. Try to create a buzz by selling your CD out of a store as well. People get signed that way. If this is your calling, then you will know it,” Sossa said.
They are involved in every aspect of the music— getting the CD done, and promoting it. Even though WAMO is gone there’s other ways and people to promote, they said.
“We are not just trying to localize ourselves and base everything in Pittsburgh. We have a big campaign coming and we plan to take this national and to the next level.
“We need to work on getting the Latino community involved with our project. A lot of the Latinos here in Pittsburgh are into Spanish music and not hip-hop, but we are going to reach out to them as well. Some of them don’t speak English so we need to reach out to them too. It’s not like the Latinos in New York City where hip-hop was born and bred into their lives. The Latino community in Pittsburgh is mostly from Mexico and other places,” J-Kruz concluded.