Written by: Kymmi Cee
A “bodega” is Spanish slang word for a “corner store” open practically 24/hours a day. It carries all the goods you would ever think to need and comes in handy when most needed. “BAM” is the common acronym for “by any means”. Ladies and gentlemen. Meet Bodega Bamz, born Nathanial De La Rosa.
In 2010 Spanish Harlem birthed the TANBOYS, a movement created by rapper Bodega Bamz and others close to him such as brother Ohla and rapper WILLIE HEX – who you can listen to on some of Bamz’ tracks such as “P.A.P.I.” However, before we continue, I encourage you to think about what a “tanboy” is.
We were all very familiar with Terror Squad back in the late 90’s right? You know, the Bronx-based hip-hop collective originated by the late great Big Pun, Fat Joe, Cuban Link and Triple Seis? In case you aren’t familiar, have been living in a box or were born just a few years ago, they were the epitome of Latin rap. They formed in 1998 and in 2007, Terror Squad signed to Koch Records. They represented the Hispanic culture for every Latino that indulged in the lyricism of rap, but like many movements the squad would eventually part ways and venture off into other directions. Consider this history lesson concluded.
Inspired by the demeaning words used when referencing the bunch, rapper Bodega Bamz and the rest of his squad cultivated a movement that’s been making quite the noise in NYC. Today Latins all around the nation wear a “tandana” (a tan bandana) to represent the Latin pride, while some have even tattooed the word “P.A.P.I.” on themselves in order to represent. Consider it a modern day Terror Squad if you will, though not to compare the two.
Big Pun, along with 2Pac and DMX were large influences to Bamz while growing up, but it was Biggie who set the standard. “I related to Pac on a different kind of level,” says Bamz. “Biggie was that guy in the streets who realized his potential early on and decided to work on it and make that a hustle out of it. I can relate. The legacy I hope to leave is that I came and represented for my culture correctly and didn’t let anybody change who I am or how I thought I came in it, as myself and left as myself. No gimmick. I had the courage to put my culture on my back when every other Latino was worrying about what trend is currently popping.”
At age 14, Bamz wrote his very first rap, but it wasn’t the first time he had dabbled in the artistry of lyricism. He was passionate about the power of words while growing up, actively preaching at his church and writing spoken word poetries. Bamz recalls listening to his first rap album at the age of 11. It was a CD filled with Pac’s ‘greatest hits’ given to him by his cousin Kingace. Though Pac’s hits began to set the bar, his influences at an early age also included and ranged from Christian gospel music to the Beethoven’s symphonies his mother would play for him before bed.
If the question of what Spanish Harlem means to Bamz is ever asked you’ll hear “I am Spanish Harlem” and you can listen to him say it over a track in his mixtape “Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.z” released summer 2012.
“When I die, my casket will ride around Spanish Harlem. That’s what it means to me. Spanish Harlem is like that boxer who everybody counts out, but has the most heart, more than any other boxer and once it raises its hand in victory the legacy starts at that very moment,” says Bamz as he described the home he knows in New York. “They [the industry, non-believers, haters] made it difficult for me ’cause they’re expecting me to fail, but they ain’t know that I don’t want nothing easy. I like it difficult and that’s why I earned everything I accomplished and will continue to accomplish and continue building the legacy from the corner to a stadium.“
Who wouldn’t become tired of being referred to as that young “Spanish N*gga” around the neighborhood? Well, Bamz did and that’s what the TANBOYS were rooted from. A “tanboy” is a “papi,” he says, except that it no longer represents the hood’s local drug dealer, but instead a “Proud And Powerful Individual.” Bamz prides himself on taking the negative and turning it into a positive and I encourage you all to adapt to that lifestyle and while doing so check him out because HE’S NEXT.