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DOWNEY − Being raised by a single mom on the streets of Long Beach wasn’t easy for Tito Rodriguez.
“I grew up on 15th street. My mom sold Nikes at the swap meet [to make a living],” he said. “My big brother took care of me and told me to do the right thing, but I was a little punk kid.”
However, Rodriguez harnessed the lessons he learned in the heart of LBC and translated them into a music career that not only produced hip-hop beats and rock jams, but also notable charity work in low-income neighborhoods.
Rodriguez first made a name for himself as a street break dancer and skateboarder, but ultimately found a niche in music production when friend and rap artist Goldie Loc introduced him to the west coast hip-hop scene in the mid-90s.
“That’s how I started working with The Eastsidaz and Snoop Dogg,” Rodriguez said. “I produced the song ’20 Minutes’ on Snoop Dogg’s album ‘No Limit Top Dogg,’ which sold like 8 million copies.”
The four-minute song featured Goldie Loc and opened up more doors for Rodriguez to produce music for the 2001 film “Bones,” starring Snoop Dogg and Pam Grier.
By the late 90s, however, the luster of the hip-hop/gangsta rap industry started to languish for Rodriguez as the reality of what he was producing caught up with him.
“I got bummed out with the music we were doing – it was degrading to women and some days I didn’t want to go to the studio,” he said. “I had friends die, friends incarcerated and the music we were making was [promoting] that.”
Rodriguez decided to move to Downey and open his own studio instead where he started his own band The Pricks, a hip-hop-infused punk rock group that toured the country during the early 2000s.
“We were the first unsigned band to sell out the Roxy Theatre on Sunset Boulevard – the police had to shut it down; there were so many people.”
When the band dissolved, the 37-year-old father of two was left with a new task – producing his own original music. But unlike his former ventures, Rodriguez wanted his new sound to have a positive message.
“My song ‘Angel’ is about being a nice human being,” he said. “It’s simple, but we don’t do it.”
Rodriguez is determined to accept his own kindness challenge, even if no one else does.
Last June, he launched food, clothing, and toy drives to give back to needy families and homeless persons in southeast Los Angeles county.
“There are a lot of homeless people…we asked if they needed socks, underwear, or hats,” said Rodriguez. “People were getting excited over a bottle of water and a bag of chips.”
During Christmas last year, Rodriguez partnered with Frito-Lay, Diamond Supply Co., Monster Beverages, and Sara Lee to give away thousands of gifts to kids.
“I was puzzled by what I thought was poor. There was one house in South Central…there were 19 families living in there with one bathroom,” Rodriguez said. “I told the workers to open the car and bring everything we had inside. The kids were so happy.”
Rodriguez said he will continue his charitable work to reach as many kids like him as possible.
“This feels better than making music…there’s no comparison, money isn’t everything,” Rodriguez said. “I came from music. I came from poverty. If I could do just a little bit to help – why wouldn’t I do it?”
Published: Aug. 28, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 20