The Hip Hop Hoodios first emerged with their debut EP, Raza Hoodio, back in 2002. With this debut, the Hoodios embraced the task of exposing the world to the often-overlooked Latino Jewish community. In their album-length follow-up, Agua Pa’ La Gente, the Hoodios continue their effort to educate people about their rich heritage while at the same time launching an attack on the music and entertainment industry.
The album opens with the title track, a no-punches-pulled assault on the corporate music industry that continually hikes up prices for music and fails to pass on benefits to the artists. There is also a vague jab at Dr. Dre and his protÈgÈ Eminem here, almost certainly intended as criticism of Dre and Eminem for falling in line with the music industry’s efforts to end music downloading (Dre, a multimillionaire, once complained about needing money so he could send his kids to college. Puh-leeze!). In an effort to show they practice what they preach, the Hoodios released this album through a small independent label for $11.98—with a money-back guarantee, no less.
The Hoodios’ concern (or disdain) for the industry is also apparent on “Nose Jobs,” in which they criticize celebrities for excessive plastic surgery, a sore spot for the Hoodios who take pride in exaggerated noses. They are additionally troubled by the image this sends young people, and they call upon celebrities to be better role models.
The theme of Latino Jewish culture is most prominent in “1492.” The song is essentially a history lesson in which the Hoodios argue that not only are there a plethora of Jewish Latinos in the world, but there are also millions more with Jewish blood whose ancestors converted to Christianity during the Inquisition centuries ago, when they were faced with the choice of conversion or death.
A couple instrumentals are also thrown into the mix. “Toribio the Clown Gets His Groove Back” is a playful number featuring a kazoo, a slide whistle, and what sounds like a subtle nod to the Beastie Boys. “Raza Hoodia,” which originally appeared on the Hoodio’s debut EP resurfaces here as a vamped-up dance club mix.
Three of the four other tunes from the debut EP also reappear on Agua, with two notably updated. The hypnotic guitar and bass drum on “Kike on the Mic” have been banished to the background while a clarinet steps into the foreground driving new energy into the song.
“Ocho Kandelikas,” a reexamination of the Ladino Hanukkah classic that has also appeared on at least two different compilation albums, is filtered through a compressor giving it a more subtle oomph. “Dicks and Noses” seems mostly unchanged—how could it improved anyway?
As a whole, the album is quite a treat. The Hoodios embrace a new range of styles and seize the opportunity to explore fresh themes. The only turnoffs here are that the Hoodios can come off as preachy, and worse, they sometimes border on a novelty act.