By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
You probably won’t hear it in his glossy, Top 40 flows, but Big Cisco’s life is about as grisly as it gets. Recounting his past as a Long Beach gangbanger and survivor of 13 gunshot wounds, Cisco (née George Iata) has enough material to fill a catalog of Dr. Dre albums. Usually, we hear about local MCs fronting the thug lifestyle, but his Auto-Tune club bangers—such as “This Loot” and “Verve”—bear little resemblance to the troubled life he has actually led.
OC Weekly: How’d you come up with the name Big Cisco? Your real name is George.
Big Cisco: There’s that liquor called Cisco that most people don’t take too seriously. They take a sip, and they’re like, “Man, this is a light drink.” They start drinking it really fast, and then it hits them, like, five minutes later and puts them on their back. That’s how it is with me. You don’t take me too seriously, but you better because I will hit you later on.
What first got you into the rap game?
I had this friend named Vincent who went by the name of the Grizzler in Long Beach. He was one of those guys who was rapping, and I was the guy who just stood next to him. When I became a student of the game, he mentored me on how to deliver [vocally]; he was pretty much like my teacher.
Your press bio says you were shot 13 times. How did that happen?
I used to bang for this gang out in Long Beach called Long Beach Fam Bam. In August 1999, I went to a house party, and then I walked back home. The house party was one block down [from my house]. Two Mexican [rival gang members] pulled up in a pickup truck; I guess they’d remembered my face from what I used to do before. And then they just went all out [and started shooting]. I was shot 12 times in the chest and once in the neck. I was at Long Beach Memorial. I had to learn to walk again. I’m surprised I still lived and walked out of there not even paralyzed.
Wow, that’s some crazy shit.
I got a story to tell. And instead of me just putting my stories out there and explaining to everyone how it went down, I place my story into lyrics and put it into music.
I heard your management at Profound Entertainment has gotten some interest from Universal Records.
We’re speaking to Universal right now. We’re not signing on with them; they’re waiting for our projects to be done. They’ve heard my music, and we’ve received e-mails from them asking if we’re ready [to meet]. We just want to make sure we’re ready. We have one big song recorded [“Drop Low”], but we’d rather walk in there with three or four big songs. So we’ll have singles following singles until we work on a major album.
From what I’ve heard, most of the songs are pretty glossy. How does that relate to the things you’ve experienced?
Right now, a lot of people aren’t into gangster rap. I kinda put that on the back burner. I’m just making music that’ll catch everybody’s ear. As soon as I’m out there and well-known, that’s when I’ll bring out the real story and shock everybody about the type of person I really am.
Big Cisco performs at Red Night Club, 4647 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 660-1010; www.rednightclub.com. Sat., 10 p.m. $20. 21+.
Hey, Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, contact info, high-res photos and impending show dates for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or e-mail your link to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column appeared in print as "Big and Ready."