In 1996 he tried to sell his own raps. Taking on the persona of Krazy-Aztec, he started hustling dubbed audio tapes featuring personal ball-point pen cover art. He wrapped his tapes in Saran Wrap to approximate the look of shrink wrap.
Record companies ignored him.
"I sent demos and I never got called back or nothing. That was hard," he said.
People clowned on him, some seriously, some joking.
"People would talk, ‘I made a sandwich with your CD,' " he remembers. Nava heard such cracks so often he had a comeback ready.
"Yeah, buy a tape and you get a free sandwich," he said, laughing.
In 2002 the Aztec can laugh.
The 10 years of "hustlin'" — sleeping in his car, scrimping his cash — looks to have paid off.
Oceanside's Spin-Off Records recently released the debut album by Krazy-Aztec and the Zig Zag Krew titled, "Get Yo Freak On."
The album features El Centro's Aztec rapping with the Krew — San Diego's Sir Villain and Vista's Mr. Scooby.
Their first single, "Let's Ride," is getting airplay on San Diego's 92.3 The Beat, Aztec said. Track four, "Push It Up," features bumping old-school, Zapp and Roger-style drop-top beats that are perfect for testing the hydraulics on the ‘64 Impala. The beats on the two tracks were laid down by Aztec and the Krew with sound board help from producer Kent Harris, according to Scooby.
Valley music stores ordered copies and store owners here said local rap fans are buying.
Krazy-Aztec's new CD is shrink-wrapped but Aztec, back home in the Valley, is still "hustlin.'"
He's still passing out flyers and putting up posters. This week, he sat down to answer some questions from his hometown paper.
1. How do you represent El Centro and the Imperial Valley?
"When I first started rapping, I was rapping just for fun. Then I got into it seriously. I had a song called ‘Party Time in the 619.' We were 619 (area code) at the time. I named all the cities in the Valley. That sort of made me a name. People told me one day if you ever get real serious you're going to be the first one to represent all the Valley. That motivates me. Sometimes I just cruise around through the city late at night and then go home and write a song."
"That name was given to me by a rap group from San Diego called Aztec Tribe. When I first started rapping, I was trying to think of a name and people always used to tell me, ‘Ah, you're crazy,' ‘cause I used to do crazy things. And, I was like ‘you're Mexican and you've got a little Indian in you — so Krazy-Aztec.' Rude Dog from Aztec Tribe gave me the name a long time ago — like '90 … '95."
3. Your musical influences children, just as old-school rappers of the "80's" influenced you. How do you address that responsibility?
"I don't want to be like a role model because I might do something bad one day. I don't want them to be like, well he did it so I'm gonna do it to. My music is not gangster. I keep it party — something for everybody: black, white, Mexican. It's dance music. Everyone likes it at clubs. There's stuff for play-as, girls, drinking, cruising but … I mean, I don't plan to be a role model. I just do it for myself. There's been times when I'm at gas stations or Carl's Jr. and I give autographs to kids. The parents tell me, ‘I listened to your stuff.' They got my old stuff."
4. Any good stories from the bullet-whizzing world of rap music?
"I was in a San Diego rap contest; I got first place. They sent me to rap at some club in Tijuana. It was like a black club-East Coast. I was like … I don't know. I told my cousin I don't want to rap because I was doing West Coast party old-school stuff, not East Coast thug. There were no Mexicans there. But I still rapped and the crowd was like "Ehhh," kinda booing. Some black girls were dancing but it was like a little bit, five or seven people. Everybody was just dogging me. After I rapped I came out and they all approached me and they all shook my hand. I thought I was going to get (messed) up."
5. What do you want to say?
"People in the Valley, when they see someone trying to do something they start putting him down and paging, calling the house, trying to put someone … that is trying to do something good and put the Imperial Valley on the map … they try to put him down. They should give him some respect and not talk bad. Give him his props. He's trying up there on stage in front of all of those people, doing it on his own for 10 years and never giving up.
"When they go through all the stuff they'll realize how hard it was to make it.
"I think they should give some people a chance, some love, whatever."
>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.