First let me say I had an awesome time interviewing my friend Pacaso Ramirez!
On the brink of his new album release, “Sparxx Gotta Fly”, which drops on his birthday, August 14; we had a chance to catch up with Pacaso Ramirez of Blood Related Records and I must say this was the most in depth interview we have ever done!
What I love about the interview is Pacaso didn’t dance around questions and he answered tough questions. Questions on his faith, the state of CHH and struggles in his life that he asked for prayer with.
One of the question we asked was how much has he grown spiritually on this project and his answer was honest. We continued the conversation via text and I told him I wanted to use some of it in the interview and Pacaso gave me his blessing.
Pacaso said, ”I don’t want to deter folks from the institution of the church cause I know it’s been so necessary in my personal growth…but it stems down to what’s happening from Monday through Saturday, that capitalizes that Sunday experience. Sunday is not enough man, and the point is if we just have a Sunday Christianity, we’ll never experience the true power of God in our lives. It’s going to feel like checking the box.” ?
What I like about Pacaso from a personal level is his ability to want to build relationships. This man reached out to us and after a few back and forth emails he said, “can I call you?” We’ve been day one since then. He even designed our logo!
Enjoy the Interview with Pacaso Ramirez:
Where are you from?
I was born in Long Beach, California – Moved around a lot because my pops was in the Marines. Lived in Hawaii for a few years, back to Cali, then finally ended up in Virginia, and have been here since 1987. Currently residing in Ruther Glen, Virginia, about 30 minutes North of Richmond. VA Stand Up!
Describe your upbringing?
As a Mexican-American, we have origins in Catholic Faith – but my dad was a traditional Catholic, and my mother comes from a Charismatic Christian Household. Unfortunately, besides my parents giving me and my sisters a bible when I was like 4 for Christmas that year, we really didn’t grow up in the faith.
It was more the Golden rule type upbringing, doing unto others as you would want to be done to yourself. We had quality values, now that I look at it, most of my parent’s values were rooted in Christian faith, just we never talked about it.
How did you come to Christ, (your salvation story)?
As I said, I didn’t grow up in the faith, though I knew of Christ, never meant anything to me. The only Christian I really knew was my grandmother, and one of my best friends growing up. It wasn’t until I was about 17 years old, where I started asking a bunch of questions, faith like questions, questions, and answers that I struggled to obtain from any valid source.
I had this bible, not sure where I got it, but I picked it up and started reading it one day. I was so into it, that I would skip school lunch to go sit in a private hallway to read it. The more I read it though, the more questions I had. After all of this reading, and all of these unanswered questions, it began to make me angry, and I would say that I became an atheist.
Though even being an atheist in my mind, in my heart I knew that God was out there, I was just angry that I couldn’t put answers to life’s questions. Fast forward to about 7 years later. I was 24 years old in 2004, still struggling with the same crap, but deep down inside I knew that there was more. So God actually decided to use one of the biggest parts of my life, my music as a way to get my attention, gradually urging me to clean up the music I was making until one day, the group that I was apart of “Second Nature” felt the urge to start making Gospel Music full time.
At this same time, I and my wife were reading a book together called The Divine Revelation of Hell by Katherine Baxter. It was through this book, that God showed me that I didn’t want Hell and that I needed a savior, and it was only Christ Jesus that could save me. Long story short, it took me 2 years after this moment to really take my walk serious, and really start seeking after God through praying, fasting and becoming a student of his word.
What was your first introduction to music?
My first introduction through music was extremely early. When I was a really young kid, I was into Billy Idol. I have no clue why but this dude just did something for me. When I was about 6-7 years old, I was digging through my parent’s Tape Collection, and I stumbled across a dubbed tape of Beastie Boys, “License to Ill” on one side, and LL Cool J’s “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” on the other side. I listened to the tape until that tape popped. This was my introduction to Hip Hop, and I fell in love.
How did u get into CHH?
Naturally, as God was changing me internally, I no longer wanted to listen to the same stuff that didn’t agree with my spirit, and my life changes anymore. So I threw away over 500-600 CDs in the trash. In 2005, Christian Hip Hop was not popular at all, trying to find a quality artist to listen to was few and far between, so I navigated to the only thing I knew to do, which was start searching for Underground Christian Rappers on soundclick.com.
I ended up finding a lot of quality underground artists and was able to make a bunch of mixtapes from these artists for many years. I think this is why I still gravitate towards the unknown local artists vs more artists that are well known.
How do you feel about CHH as a whole?
CHH as a whole right now doesn’t really excite me that much. Honestly, over the past few years, I’ve naturally gravitated towards more Praise & Worship, and Christian Reggae Music. It’s funny you ask this question, especially with all of these Top 50 List going around…The cats that I listen to, are feeding me, not just spitting bars at me, and honestly, you wouldn’t find these cats on many Top 50 Lists, because these are cats that are Feeding the Spirit rather than trying to appeal to the flesh.
What are the positives?
Man, you’re going to get me in trouble with these questions, my dude. LOL.?? For real though, I’m a realist, and most people would say that the most positive thing about the genre of Christian Hip Hop right now is that it’s starting to get noticed. We just had a Christian Rapper top the Billboard Charts, next to another artist that the Christian community props up as a “Christian” artist because he has a Christian upbringing, but his music doesn’t reflect the faith.
I think what we may call as this positive is seemingly a deception, because as the world hated Christ, then the world will hate us also. The day that we start becoming popular amongst unbelievers is the day that we should question, “Has our salt lost its flavor?”
What are some of the negatives?
One of the things that stuck with me early in my faith was this question, “Are we standing out or blending in?” This is a measure that I’ve used to judge the music that I listen to and choose to associate myself with as an artist. To not only be a Christian Hip Hop Artist, and Christian Hip Hop Platform owner with Not By Bread Alone Radio, I’ve been having a hard time relating to the music that is coming out.
It’s getting harder and harder to hear the Applicable Christian Faith being applied to the formation of the music that is being generated by the community. You know 5 or 6 years ago, Andy Mineo made a controversial statement that Christian Rap is wack, and to some degree, I agree with him.
There is a very thin line of artists that can rap about Christ and the values that a Christian upholds in their life, and make it more than palatable to the average listener. These are the same artists that can take a sermon about the first 3 chapters of Romans, and approach it as a court case inviting the listener to ride along through the concept of the song. I would say that this is around 10-20% of the Christian Artists in our genre.
The other 80% seem to approach this music as if it’s just a way for them to live out their secular dreams. We’re already dealing with music in general that begs for us to be worshipped, and claim a genre of music that is the most boisterous and braggadocious genre of all time. We must choose to decrease so that Christ may be increased, and we can’t do that while we’re screaming look at me, my bars are the dopest.
When did you know you were called to change lives for God in your music?
All of these things that you’re asking about all happened to me around the same time. It had to be around 2007 when God whispered in my spirit, “Freely the gospel was given, so freely give it away.” Granted this was at a time where I was still a new student of the scriptures, and haven’t even read this scripture yet, but as I was studying the scriptures and read Matthew 10:8, I became totally blown away because a scripture that I had yet to read, God had already planted it in my spirit for future use, preparing my ministry.
This is why to this day, 16 albums later, I give every album away for free. It was also during this time, that God uttered to me that I was going to be a teacher of his word, and even in my resistance, he began using every situation to prepare me to teach. It was after this moment, that I started approaching every song I wrote as a sermon.
Tell us about the new album, “Sparxx Gotta Fly?”
The new album Sparxx Gotta Fly comes out on August 14th (My Birthday). I’m a Golden Age Hip Hop head, so I believe in full-length albums, so you’re getting 18 tracks on this album. The title stems from the verse, “As iron sharpens iron, so does one brother sharpen another.”
In reference to this verse, a friend of mine once put it like this, “When iron sharpens iron, Sparks Gotta Fly.” Instantly became the new direction for the album when I heard this. Most people that know my music, know that I’m not afraid to touch on topics that most people won’t talk about, and I’m not afraid to say things that may get me banned from playlists all over the globe.
It’s the price that you have to pay when being blatantly honest with convictions. This album was meant to touch on 18 different topics that affect everyday life, though I don’t think that I quite made it to 18 different topics, but I did touch on many topics that many will say that “I haven’t heard that type of song before or that type of perspective in a song before.”
Tell us about the single?
I had a really hard time picking a single for this album because each one I think has the ability to be forced into the forefront. I did manage to narrow the 18 tracks down to my top 5 or 6 tracks. In fact, I did a 5-part video series highlighting 5 of my favorite tracks from the album, which you can find here:
Despite having a hard time picking a single, we chose to drop the first one from this list, which is “Tell Me Where I’d Go”, which you can check out here: https://bloodrelateddmv.bandcamp.com/track/tell-me-where-id-go-single-free-download.
There was a time during the point of this album, I started to question how much longer am I going to make Hip Hop music. I mean it’s been 29 years since I first picked up a pen and started writing lyrics.
16 Christian Hip Hop albums in 14 years, and probably well over 500 plus songs in a 29-year span, not to mention countless features, mentoring, engineering, contributing through visual aid, it begins to take a toll on you after a while.
When I wrote this track, it was meant to be my retirement track, and as you listen to the track, by the time I got to the end, I encouraged myself to keep going. I don’t think God will ever allow me to stop doing this, no matter how much I fall out of love with the culture, the new adaptations to the quality of music, or the delivery of the message. I will probably make music until the day I die.
Why did it take you 5 years to make this album?
Good Question. Man before I wrapped this album up, I had dang near 28 tracks written for this album, and I almost chose to put out a double album. After wrestling with this thought over the past 3-4 months though, we chose to shrink what we can fit on one disc. I will tell you though, eliminating 10 to get to the final 18 was very hard to do.
The thing about this album that took the longest was picking the right beats. Usually I buy a bunch of beat packs, mixed with tracks from my personal producer Project Pluto, boom, album done in 6 months.
This album was different, I wanted this to be my personal opus. I wanted to approach this album like it may be my last, and most importantly, I wanted every beat on this album to be mine. I wanted to own everything. I didn’t want their to be another track out there with any of the beats that I’ve used. So in order to construct an album like that, I guess it takes time.
I’ve put out 3-4 albums in between this one, with material that was written for this album, but chose to use it for others. Then in between the process, I became stagnant, because the material started to become old to me, so I had to get over that. During my usual album making process, I give myself a personal deadline, and we meet that deadline.
I never put a deadline on this album. I didn’t want to pull the trigger on this album until I was completely satisfied. Overall, I think I’m pretty satisfied with this album, probably some of my most mature work, and I’m sure that the listener will be satisfied as well.
What do you hope people will get out of your music and upcoming projects?
I really want people to enjoy and gravitate back towards that Boom Bap sound that many Hip Hop heads first fell in love with, and at the same time, I want people to hear the things that I talk about and say, “This cat is just like me. He thinks like me, but yet he has the ability to say it eloquently enough to entice me to want more of what he’s talking about.”
I want to be relational to the listeners, and I want to appeal to them the same way that Jesus appealed to the masses that followed him for miles just because he had the words of life.
Who are u listening to that we should be listening too?
Here we go, let me open up my Spotify account real quick. Like I said before, there are many artists that would be on my top 50, that you cats wouldn’t even be checking for, and I’m going to name a few artists that aren’t even Hip Hop but extremely dope. For instance, Beckah Shae – This woman has amazing vocals, she has 5 or 6 albums with not one skippable track.
Roberto & Danny, a CHH duo from the Boston area I think, these cats are raw, I relate to them, one because their Latino, but 2, these cats rock a mic, and are scripturally sound in every track they drop.
Timothy Brindle is definitely another one of my favorites, every track points you to the cross in some way, fashion or form, but he is completely raw, one of the best to ever do it in my opinion – definitely in my top ten.
You can never go wrong with throwing on some Ambassador, which has been one of the Christian Hip Hop artists that I have grown up to in my Christian faith. Not only is the man dope on the mic, but he has a tendency to go way deeper in the scriptures than most people feel comfortable with.
Last but not least, I mentioned that I love reggae music earlier, 1 of my definite favorites is Dominic Balli – Incredible artist. I can vibe to his entire discography for months on end. There’s plenty more, but these are a few of my go to’s that I tend to gravitate towards because there’s not many like them.
Who influenced you the most in music?
Same as above when it comes to my Christian Hip Hop roots with a few others like T-Bone, the whole Cross Movement Label, cats like Stephen the Levite, Shai Linne, Propaganda, Beautiful Eulogy, pretty much the whole Humble Beast label as well, and there are a few local artists that inspire me, of course my entire Blood Related team (Mr. Marshall, Mark Collins, Emtyhiphop, Intensive Praise Unit, TheNewOne), my homie Rapture Raps, AP Light, Dimelo, and a few others.
When it comes to Hip Hop in general – 2pac was an all-time favorite, DMX, Big Pun, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Nas, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, AZ, Dead Prez pretty much was my pocket. There are probably a few others that I’m missing that really inspired me…but these are the main ones.
Who influenced you the most in life?
I’m not sure if you’re asking like inspirational figures, or like personal people that I’ve had growing up, but it’s definitely a mixture of both. I absolutely admire my father, his work ethic, his cool under pressure demeanor, amazing man. My grandfather was the true model of slow to speak, quick to listen. My mother being a steadfast and constant presence in my life.
Inspirational figures – um – not really sure – I used to read a lot of biographies and autobiographies, was always amazed by people’s stories. Never really gravitated towards one person though.
Who would you like to work within the future?
So, I’m not going to lie, I’ve reached out to some artists over the last couple of years with the hopes of working with them. I do know this, that these artists are people as well, so just blatantly reaching out to folks to ask for a feature is wack. If someone did it to me though, I’d be humbled, and I’m humbled anytime someone asks me for a feature, btw, I’m down for features any time, free of charge, hit me up – [email protected]. (Shameless plug – lol)??
But for real, I’d be more interested in building quality relationships with some particular artists, and if we lay down some work in the process organically, then it is what it is.
Here’s my short-list:
MC Jin, Buck Barnabas, Timothy Brindle, Stephen the Levite, Ambassador, Dillavou, Mat Kearney, Rawsrvnt, T-Bone, Dominic Balli, Jimmy Needham, Andale’, Speech from Arrested Development
Favorite Bars On the last Project?
Now I don’t just drop bars to drop bars, but I’m guessing the verse that probably hits me the most is the last verse on the last track, “Heaven or Bust”:
So whatever happens, no, I ain’t turning back.
Step by step, Forget the past, I’m knocking, seeking, ask.
Mask the hurt, pick up His burden because He says it’s light.
Ignore the naysayers, that’s hating, because I know He’s right.
Now it’d be easy to leave this earth, for Jesus first,
But if I leave this earth, I’ll leave people hanging, but even worst,
I’ll leave the hurt, of my children aching, I’ve seen from birth,
And leave the frustrations from my family that I failed to serve.
But your will be done, I won’t desert, or fight it.
I even pray for it, I claim your works, even advise it.
I’m so excited, cause as a fighter, I’m free from vices.
And keep my eyes upon the prize, the paradise you reside in.
Oh Lord it’s raining, they think I’m crazy, I pray for storms.
I’m rehabilitated, mind of Christ, far from norm.
I keep it Kingdom, I fight for souls, but I’m in a rush.
To breakdown in your arms, my consummation, heaven or bust.
How much have you grown on this project, talent wise?
Man, immensely bro. This project has been written and recorded over the course of 5 years – So with that, there’s been many shows, many projects, and features in between.
Each time I pick up a pen and spit towards a beat, your constantly working on your cadence. Asking yourself questions, like does that feel natural? Can I spit this live? Are people going to get my bars?
They don’t call me Pacaso for no reason, I’m definitely abstract in the way that I put thoughts and words together, and I’m not going to lie, there may be some points or perspectives that may not even make sense to most people, just because I think from a left field perspective most of the time. Above the clouds, kind of.
There comes a time in the life of an artist where your cadence just becomes natural. You know your voice, you know what type of power you want to give a certain track, you know what type of beat you want, you know how vocals should be laid. I think if anything over the course of this album, I have settled into this grandfather type of confidence in my song making.
Not that I can’t get better. There’s times where I will let a hiccup in a word slide, because I may be being lazy that day, or only have like 30 minutes to record and lay something down. I tell myself I’m going to go back and lay the verse again, but most likely I never do…so those types of things, I need to be better about.
I did force myself to go back and record several tracks during this process, after they were already complete for 2-3 years…just because after listening to it for so long I started to hear new things, or told myself that I could make that better, and that just comes from maturity, I guess.
How much have you grown on this project, Spiritually?
Honestly, I’ve been a whirlwind spiritually. I see the world and the church with different eyes than most people. Personally, I’m at a place in my faith, where I just feel like what we call the “Church” we are doing completely wrong. Not that fellowship weekly has a lack of purpose, but it’s the forced fellowship that seems to disintegrate the very purpose that we think that we’re fulfilling.
When you think about Jesus’ fellowship with people, it was personal, and it was organic. But there’s something about today’s church that seems forced, out of place, and on the verge of derailing.
The body is built up when people come together organically, and naturally begin to relate through the life changing message of the cross, and then begin to do life together, working and applying practical biblical application towards each other’s growth.
The “church” is this institution of people that feels like a place where I go to check the box. Okay, worshipped God today (Check), heard the word today (check). Hugged a few people today (Check). If these things aren’t happening Monday through Sunday anyway, then we’re truly missing something. Thank you for asking this question bro.
Please pray for me as I wrestle with these thoughts, through these thoughts, and consult the Father about my role, and my understanding of where we’re at as a body.
One of the biggest topics in the music business now is streaming, how does that affect you as an artist/owner?
At first, just like everyone else, probably, I was troubled by this, but this was when platforms were barely paying artists for their streams, but now man, I am absolutely grateful for streaming.
Though in my certain case, it has prevented people from buying albums, but honestly as long as people can stream the albums, I tell them, go for it – Stream the crap out of the album – or my whole discography, really. These things show up weekly in my monetary recap, and I’m grateful for every amount that we receive.
The cool thing is, all of the playlist that are available that you can become a part of. Which not only expands your reach, but also builds up your listens. It’s a blessing.
How hard is it to separate Ministry from business and both from family time?
It’s not really hard to separate Ministry from business, especially when you’re building with people that are like minded, and trust you as you trust them. We’re Christians, there should be no schisms when it comes to the integrity of our business. Of course, everyone has different ideas, but you find a way to incorporate each other’s ideas. Then in the end you break bread.
The hard thing is separating Ministry & Business from family time, because like most artists, I work a full time job, on most weeks I put 60 hours plus in at my job. I also have a second job. I also run a Christian Hip Hop platform, help manage an entire Record Label, and am an artist. So in order to stay sane, I have to turn a lot of things down, so in that sense I don’t perform as much as I used to, just because it takes me out of my home more than I need to.
Everything I do, I try to do it from the comfort of my own home, that way I’m always around for my wife and kids. No way do I have this routine packed down or even mastered. I fall so short at being a great husband and father, but I try everyday. The biggest thing though is that I’m home, and if I wasn’t home, then I wouldn’t be able to work on it.
Politics play a big role in our society as well as our hip-hop community. How do you deal with the negatives and positives of politics?
I don’t pay attention to a lot of what happens in our political stratosphere. These people want us to respond in a negative way, just so they can point the finger, and say, “See, I told you they will respond like that.” We have a voice, we need to speak up about the unfortunate misrepresentations of urban cultures, and continually fight with peace to produce positive results.
Then we need to take care of our families, and raise them up in truth and light, so that when they’re approached with the ignorance of these injustices, they will know it when they see it, and be able to respond with grace and integrity.
We can’t change the masses. We can only control what God has given us to control, so we need to do that with 100% of our abilities, and let all the other chips fall where they lie.
What is your best advice for this generation?
Learn some valuable skills. Actually get some sort of trade under your belt. Learn how to build something. Learn how to work with your hands. Learn how to do basic skills. Be Proactive about your own life. Build a lasting legacy.
Just because there’s easy money out there, doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. Trust Jesus all the way through it, because there will be ups, and there will be downs, but Jesus will consistently be your Tower of Refuge and Hope.
What’s the best advice you can give an independent artist or label to be successful in the CHH genre?
Make the music that you like to listen to. Don’t worry about people not liking it, because someone is going to dig it, and when you find your audience – feed that audience. Make sure you protect your assets. Register all of your music with some sort of Publishing Administration, Copyright your lyrics at the Copyright office. Find your voice, and don’t change.
Where can we find your music?
I prefer to send anybody that inquires to https://bloodrelateddmv.bandcamp.com/. I like Bandcamp a lot, especially giving people the option to pay what they want really helps because people do pay for FREE albums, and it really blesses me. Plus, we have the option to subscribe to Blood Related Entertainment for $7/month, and you get all of our releases directly to your inbox as they come out, and a bunch of other benefits, you can check that out here: https://bloodrelateddmv.bandcamp.com/subscribe. If you don’t go to Bandcamp, all music is on all digital platforms, but I prefer that you stream on Spotify. Just search “Pacaso Ramirez” – You’ll find me ; )
What’s next for you (tour dates, new releases, etc)
As I said, I don’t do a lot of performances, just so that I can be home for my family, but I’m constantly working on new music. I’m toying with putting out a Reggae Flavored EP. Plus I have a massive amount of unheard features that I’d like to release on a feature tape. The Blood Related Entertainment team will be working on a joint compilation album, hopefully coming early 2020.
We’re also in the season of shooting a bunch of music videos, with some short films and movies in the works, plus we’ll be working on getting music placed in TV Shows, Commercials, and Movies over the next year.
How can you be contacted for booking and collaboration?
On your longest day and hardest battle, what scripture do you find strength in?
For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ. And we are ready to punish any disobedience, once your obedience has been confirmed. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Sparxx Gotta Fly by Pacaso Ramirez:
Anthony Ramirez, otherwise known as “Pacaso Ramirez” fell in love with Hip Hop music at the age of 6, when he found an LL Cool J & Beastie Boys mixtape in his parents tape collection. He picked up rapping at the age of 8. By the time he was in middle school, he was already winning school talent shows, and being invited to perform at school dances. Music took over his life, and led him down a real dark road that led to creating music that was borderline murderous, slanderous and blasphemous. At the age of 24, being prompted by the Holy Spirit, he gave his life to the Lord Jesus Christ, and began changing the way he approached music. He started to view each song as mini sermons, and started using his voice as a vessel to bring God Glory by speaking to people about practical living that pleases God.
Since the age of 24, Pacaso has gone through a lot of life-changing transformations that have cleansed his lips from cursing, cleansed his heart from hate and un-forgiveness, and has given him the ability to spread hope to all who are willing to listen. Now, at the age of 35, he has been renewed, redeemed, and transformed and feels that God is just getting started with him, and that by the end of his life, he will reach more people through the good news of Jesus Christ, than he would have ever reached with just music alone. As he continues to walk out this musical journey in his life, he feels that he is in the midst of a mature prime musically and spiritually, and is continuing to grow. Pacaso is on a mission to be effective locally as well as globally not through just music, but through teaching, through serving, through meeting the needs of people as God sees fit. He feels music is just a platform to open the door to people’s hearts.