Los Poets Del Norte is a musical group born, raised and based in Boyle Heights, just like its two founding members, Nico and Xavier Moreno.
Immigration, poverty, gentrification and everyday life are just some of the topics Nico and Moreno incorporate into their poetry.
“We’re serious about the issues that we talk about because it’s our reality,” said Nico.
Both Moreno and Nico have their own personal war stories about what it was like growing up with gang violence in their neighborhood.
Getting hit up by different neighborhood gangs on his way to school or seeing drug paraphernalia on the streets was a daily part of life said Moreno, “I got to see that and it showed me that’s the direction I can go if I abuse it.
“I saw my friends that go through that and fall in that trap, losing friends and being shot at affected me.”
By retelling the stories inside of them, both Moreno and Nico are also giving an oral history of the community they grew up in.
They don’t want others to make some of the same mistakes they made in their youth.
“Growing up you experience all that stuff, you become surrounded by your environment and in turn you become your environment.
“We’re at a point in our lives where we have become reflective of that.
“We’ve become observant of that and survivors because getting shot at and burying your friends is not something everyone goes through.
“Growing up in a community like ours, most of our friends did experience that,” said Nico.
It was through the idea of helping the next generation of kids coming up through the same streets that the group was founded and formed.
Initially, it was Nico who after being invited to be a guest speaker with at-risk students at Roosevelt High realized the power of his words.
He learned that by using spoken word and poetry, he could reach out to them and help them understand and grasp the ideas and concepts he wanted to get across to them.
The next time around, both Moreno and Nico performed together and started an after-school workshop to help students learn different techniques in order to help them express themselves through poetry.
Later on, students asked if Nico or Moreno had a CD of their work because they liked what they were saying and what they were about.
The students related to them because they were talking about their neighborhood, their lives and what they have experienced.
That’s when Nico and Moreno decided to get serious and form the group.
They fused rap and corridos, a narrative that uses songs and poetry to tell a story, together and created a sound unique unto themselves.
The diverse musical influences and personal life experiences helped them come up with the name, Los Poets Del Norte.
“When my parents left home, my grandma asked them ‘where are you going ?’
“And they said ‘para el norte,’to the north,” said Nico.
“They didn’t know where they were going, they just knew they were going north.”
Both Moreno and Nico want to empower others either through their words or their actions to take up arms and fight and stand up for their communities.
“Our poetry is not just our story from the barrio, it’s the poetry of everybody that came here [to the north] because the north represents the whole United States.
“The vision and dream people have of salvation, but in reality, it turns into a nightmare and the reality of enslavement.”
All of that energy and passion translates when they’re performing on stage whether in front of 10 people or a crowd of a 100.
“More than anything, us being real on stage and not being fake or pretending, people have felt that and the truth that we speak.
“We’re not going to do poetry that we don’t relate to just to be on stage.
“If we go on stage you’re going to get who we are and people are going to feel that energy and truth,” said Nico.
The delivery of their words come with both ferocity and kindness because they use their poetry not only to inform, but also to defend themselves and attack those who would nay say them.
In school, Nico and Moreno were the kind of kids teachers didn’t want in their class because they were class clowns.
They were always messing around and never taking themselves too serious even now.
They still joke around but when it’s times to perform, they step up their game and do what they have to do.
“There are times when one needs to stay quiet, but when the time to speak comes, don’t just speak to speak, but to speak from the heart” said Nico.
Their teachers never believed in them and scolded them for their behavior.
Being told that you’re a loser and that you’re never going to amount to anything was something that Nico says both he and Moreno had to overcome with a lot of hard work.
It made them strive for more when people didn’t give them the chance to prove that they’re better than what they say they are.
In moments like those, Nico remembers a saying his dad instilled in him, “I remember he was taking a motor apart and my mom came out and asked him if he was a mechanic now ?
“He replied by saying no, but if anyone can do it, I can do it.
“It’s that mentality of trying to figure things out.
“If I feel I can do something or want to do it, I do it,” said Nico.
Another message that the group instills through their music and poetry is the unification of people and their communities.
Moreno and Nico want others to realize that we are all equal and to destroy the concepts of hierarchy instilled into them.
They want to encourage people and communities to band together, work together and to overcome negative stereotypes.
“People need to understand that we are one another and we need to listen to one another.
“To help them understand that if they see something in their community that they don’t like, to change it,” said Nico.
“In-lak-ech, I’m another yourself” is a saying Nico lives by because it’s who he is and what the group has evolved into.
“In essence, us being In-lak-ech, us being the community, if there’s something in the community we don’t like, then we need to be that change.
“That change needs to come from us,” said Nico.
Looking back on past performances and working with other local bands and artists, both Moreno and Nico never thought that they would be where they’re at now.
They’re grateful and thankful for all of the doors that have opened up for them and the group.
Nico said, “we never set out to do this.
“What we wanted to do is express ourselves and let youth know that their word has a lot of power.”
For more information about Los Poets Del Norte and their music, you can go to www.myspace.com/lospoetsdelnorte