Two years ago you’d find Andy Ramos attending Shippensburg University, being a social butterfly during class and the dinning hall, and when the books were closed, he’d be practicing his art form: spoken word.
I met Ramos through a Spanish Culture and Diversity class my senior year – a serendipitous encounter. The class exposed the early struggles of Latin Americans in U.S. history, from the early Cuban migration to the first Spanish cowboys of the west. Ramos was always outspoken with his opinions and thoughts, resonating with the history lessons and applying them to the real struggles of today’s America. Having Puerto Rican and black roots, he digested everything with a clear-eyed view. Ramos says, “being Puerto Rican is more than just being Latino. Being Puerto means you have roots to African ancestry as well as native and European Ancestry, even though many try to deny it.”
His background would serve as a catalyst to transforming into a music artist.
I was inspired by a scene from Donald Glover’s “Clapping for the Wrong Reasons”. There is a part when him and his brother are reciting verses. That was awesome to me so I wanted to try it. Those spoken words started getting some views and lead to open mics. That was pretty cool.
Much like Donald Glover’s most recent hit, “This is America”, Andy’s earlier works dove into the dichotomy of being white and black in the present day and the social injustices being carried out throughout the nation. After expressing his emotions and views through spoken word via his Instagram, words of encouragement filled his DMs and comments.
What started off as a hobby has now turned into a musical aspiration and the moniker “Laino Beto” was born. I was able to catch up with the now Harrisburg-based rapper and his new music label.
This interview took place in December of 2018 and may have been edited for clarity.
Damn, last time we talked was probably in 2016! How’s everything going for you man?
Everything is going man. I have graduated since. It has been over a year since I graduated and received my bachelor’s. As of now, I am working two jobs while applying to get an actual position in my field. Or at least a job that I enjoy. The struggle is real. My main focus right now, though, is using my 9-5 to fund my dream, you know?
I know you were starting some sort of slam poetry while in school… where did that stem from?
Well, I have always been a fan of poetry and music. While in high school I actually wrote poetry and made music with my bro M.Wade. Shout out to him. That’s my guy. Anyways, while at Ship, I stepped away from the music but continued with the poetry. I started doing spoken words for the first time ever. I was inspired by a scene from Donald Glover’s “Clapping for the Wrong Reasons”. There is a part when him and his brother are reciting verses. That was awesome to me so I wanted to try it. Those spoken words started getting some views and lead to open mics. That was pretty cool.
So, why did you make the decision to transition back to music?
I came up with the “Arizona” hook one day and didn’t look back. That is my first actual song as “Laino Beto”. I released it almost a year after it was actually recorded. Making that with my bros was a dope experience. Now that I’m no longer in school, I can create music with my free time. However, doing spoken word helped me improve how I make music. It helped my cadence since spoken word pieces require a lot of emotion. And just FYI, I have a project in the works called In My Laino. It should be out in the spring. It’s going to be great.
So you’re in Harrisburg now, right? What’s the music scene like over there?
It’s amazing. In the last year I have met so many people through music.
There is entirely too many talented individuals in the city – there’s mad talent. The scene itself needs some work because many don’t realize it works better if we work together and support each other. I get that some people won’t always like what you put out…but it takes nothing to just retweet and “like” something on Twitter. It takes seconds. When you are trying to build a buzz it starts off from who you are as a person. Therefore, I try to work on myself and my craft while supporting those around me hoping that leads to a positive change. It helps when artists/ people around the city do the same thing. I have honestly seen the love for the local artists improve over time. Obviously, it’s not credited to me but it’s because people have a similar mindset. Harrisburg is on the way to being stamped nationwide. Give it a little time.
Tell me about this Cool Ave music label?
COOL Ave! First and foremost, that’s the family. Second, the goal is for it to become a household name in a year or two. And it will be. Remember I said that. [laughing]
Anyways, we aren’t necessarily a label. Well, we don’t want COOL Ave to be one dimensional. Fun facts, it stands for Creating Our Own Lane. However, we want to start off by having it become a platform for local artists. We still have some more thinking about how we want to approach that direction but we are trying to become known first. It will allow us to have some credibility, you know? And while we are starting here, we don’t want it to stop there of course. With that being said, that’s all I’m able to say on that matter. Any other questions you have to ask the manager. [laughing]
It seems like you’ve almost found your identity through teaming up with the other artists on your label. How is it working with those guys? Has the creative process changed?
I honestly have [found my identity]. I had to step out my comfort zone to do that. Like you know me, I’m very social but I was low key with my art for so long. That seems like eons ago now. Now, I reach out to people just off a hunch that working with them might be amazing.
Cool story I have from this upcoming project. Two of the features I have I actually never heard before collabing with them. I just knew a little about them as people and imagined them being perfect for what I needed. Just know that it was exactly what I thought it would be. They are great. I can’t wait for people to hear them.
As far as the actual process, it’s always a win to put creative minds together. You never know what you are going to get, but you know it will great. A lot of my new song ideas, I record a portion of and send it off to friends to get opinions on. That is something that I didn’t have as much before. I have the ability to get advice from people who care just as much about their art. One could fall in love with the idea of things and not focus on the simple stuff at times, so I cancel that out with the feedback I receive.
What’s the latest thing that has happened in your life that influenced your music?
No longer being in the life of a person I really love is a heavy one for me right now. It took me to a bad place, but I found a way to focus that energy into music. The idea of “what it could be” lead to me creating “In My Laino,” as well as most of my music recently. Check out the songs “Mind” and “Fall” on my SoundCloud and you’ll see what I mean. Being in my bag all the time led to me figuring myself out. I have found sounds that I really enjoy. That’s because the engineer Jay Hunta is crazy. Makes me sound good [laughing]
Back on my point though, you know sometimes you can’t say what you are thinking until you put it into writing. This is my coping mechanism. Whether it’s relationships or other aspects of life. My experiences and my reality influence the music. The music creates the balance I need in life. It all comes full circle.
Who are your favorite artists right now?
That’s a loaded question so besides everyone in COOL Ave I’ll give you a top three for me.
First, my favorite artist right now and probably ever is Jon Bellion. There aren’t many, if any, that put so much into their craft. When you listen to his songs you can just hear the emotion behind it. ALL HIS ART is real. It means something.
Moving along, two and three will have to be Childish Gambino and Wale. Wale’s pen is top 3 ever. One day the majority will realize that. And Gambino’s Camp album was big for me in high school. I also admire how he has been able to experiment with music his whole career and still be successful.
What’s your take on the current scene of rap? You know, the lil pumps, lil uzis, the 6ix9ines?
To answer that we have to change that question to the state of Hip-Hop right now. To even get into that, we have to realize Hip-Hop is a culture which includes all types of genres and forms of art. With that being said, everyone has a place in Hip-Hop. It is in a good place because of people like Kendrick, Smino, J.Cole, Young Thug, Joe Budden, Tierra Whack, Anderson .Paak, and so on and so on. However, everyone contributes to that scene as artists. Rap doesn’t just have one form. It varies and people manipulate it to how they want. Being lyrical is not just being able to have word play with metaphors and similes. It is also about having your music provide the message you want. When it comes to music, those people you named have a place as well. However, my issue with them will be more on what they may do outside of music. But, I don’t know them so it’s irrelevant. Regardless of what I think, they have a lane and [they] do it well. It’s not for me, but clearly it has a big impact on others.
So, 2018 is officially coming to a close. What are the moves for next year?
Let me first say I am ready for this year to be done. It has been a rough one for me. I am ready to take what I learned this year and apply it to the upcoming year. I’m looking forward for my hair to grow and my skin to clear. [laughing]
Two major moves are to drink more water and to continue to find myself. There’s always room for improvement, you know? I also plan to move out of Harrisburg in 2019. It is time to experience life elsewhere. Now as far as music, I am working on a lot for next year starting with In My Laino project. I have a few mixtape ideas as well as some short EPs. I plan to work with many of the local artists that I know. It brings out the best out of me when I do so.
So, here is an invite for anyone who wants to collab. I’m always ready to make some dope shit. Oh yeah, COOL Ave is also working on a project for you guys next year. That one is going to be insane. Just wait on it. You guys can find me on twitter and Instagram @H3adblad3. I follow back. You can follow the COOLAve music page while y’all are it @coolmusicave.