In spite of debuting with the hard, West Coast funk-rap album, California Cowboys, Chicano rapper Down aka Kilo broke through to the national arena with the dance-offering club single "Lean Like a Cholo" in 2007. Down, real name Juan Martinez, was born to undocumented immigrants in Oxnard, CA. Listening to the hardcore hip-hop and stoner-funk of Cypress Hill and the explosive gangsta rap of NWA at a young age, Down strongly identified with their music and style of living. He began rapping at age 13 and made his first recordings in a makeshift studio in the garage of his childhood friend, Edward "E-Dub" Rios, who would later become a producer for the Pocos Pero Locos radio show on L.A.'s Power 106. Both Down and Rios eventually established their own companies, Kilogram Music Group and Silent Giant Entertainment, respectively, and jointly released Down's California Cowboys LP in 2003. Although the album's guests included West Coast top dogs MC Ren, Daz Dillinger, and Snoop Dogg, California Cowboys had limited exposure. The same was true for the double-disc album (all Spanish on the first disc and mostly English on the second), Bosses and Jefes (2004), recorded for Venemusic and billed under the Kilo alias. Within the year leading up to summer 2007, several popular rap/R&B singles were spawning new dances for the rest of the nation to catch onto. Down simply cut into that market, delivering a Latino-themed dance hit, "Lean Like a Cholo." The ensuing album, The Definition of an Ese, had the same approach, offering smoother, R&B-driven productions, courtesy of up-and-comer Fingazz (Lil' Robb, Kurupt, Brown Boy). Released via Universal's Latin-based imprint Machete Music, the LP peaked in the Top 20 on both dance and rap charts. ~ Cyril Cordor
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