Alexander Guerra and his conjunto norteño group, Legado 7, were playing a show in Bakersfield, and the scene was lit. The small bar was hotboxed; people could smoke marijuana in peace. Guerra, the band's lead singer and songwriter, was ripping through "El Solecito" ("A Bit of Sun"), an ode to smoking blunts that sounds like Jack Johnson doing Rebelution via Los Tigres del Norte but talks about raising desmadre. And in the sea of men in tejanas and women in tight jeans, Guerra saw "these two old Rastafarian-looking black guys with dreads down their backs" walk to the front of the stage, light a gallito (a.k.a. a blunt) and start dancing.
"You know, it's crazy," Guerra says now, laughing. "The only people who listen to norteño music are Mexicans, but Legado 7 is blazing it with Rastas."
Such is the power of these four guys from Orange County who form one of the biggest underground groups in Southern California's Mexican regional-music scene. They narrate the underbelly of OC's marijuana trade through their contemporary conjunto norteño, with specific shout-outs to plebes across la naranja such as El Niño, Frog, Deer, Avocado, CL1, A1, El Afro and Asian Eyes.
But they're more than just another narcocorrido group. The band's Instagram bio describes their music as "lumbre corridos" (fire corridos), but they really mean "blazing"—as in hitting a bong, a roach, whatever. They actively promote the stoner lifestyle and drop plugs for Master Kush strains, waxcecito (dabs) and just the sheer pleasure of being high on all of their songs.
On Legado 7's most famous song, "El Afro" ("The Afro"), Guerra drawls, "El corrido que yo canto no es para un mafioso/ Es para un marihuano" ("The corrido that I sing ain't for a narco/It's for a pothead").
The band formed about two years, after the bands of Guerra and accordionist Ramón Ruiz collapsed. "I had a couple of jobs lined up," says Guerra. "So I called Ramón, like, 'Hey . . . want to play these quinceañeras and weddings with me?'"
The quick gig went so well that Ruiz and Guerra formed Legado 7 with three other musicians. After establishing their reputation as OC's ultimate stoner corrido group, they put out their first album, 100% Corridos Verdes (100% Green Corridos), appropriately released on April 20, 2016.
Guerra pens much of Legado 7's lyrics, composing a majority of both their first album and their 2017 follow-up, Un Chamaco Sin Futuro (A Boy Without a Future, also released on April 20). "My grandfather and father were both musicians," he says. "There were always instruments laying around the house. I'd fuck around on the drums, the guitar. In Phoenix, there's no norteño; it's all about the guitar. When I was 15, we moved to SanTana. That's where I learned what real fucking musica norteña was."
His background as a weed aficionado served as an easy muse, allowing Legado 7 to sing about the particulars of the trade with hilarious yet sharp insight. Take "Olor a Kush" ("Scent of Kush") from 100% Corridos Verdes: Inspired by the intro to Eminem's Encore, the opening track warns of a "high green content" as the sound of a bong being ripped is followed by coughing. The 15 seconds after are organized chaos, with accordion trills at dizzying speeds, erratic guitar fingerpicking, trigger-happy snares and hi-hat cymbals, and a furiously slapped tololoche (upright bass). This is all a set-up to the song's subject: the start of a grow house.
"Por ay se rentó una casa/Sé que se roban la luz/Y muy poco abren la puerta/Por que sale el olor a kush," Guerra sings. ("A house was rented over there/I know that they steal electricity/Rarely do they open the door/Because the smell that comes out is kush.") It goes on to praise a hippie who supplies the growers with plants bearing no seeds and the quality of indoor-grown pot.
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Legado 7 have the haunting storytelling of 21 Savage, the melodic flow of Travis Scott and the small-town-outlaw demeanor of Merle Haggard. Songs such as "El Afro," "El Chinito" and "El Gordo" follow valientes as they celebrate their successes. "Verde, Verde" ("Green, Green") is the lament of an older pot farmer from the mountains of Sinaloa (Guerra's home state) who realizes his crop isn't as potent as the indoor stuff grown stateside and that "no one beats" the gabachos who "grow plants with computers." But they especially excel in the specificity of Orange County; no less than the Anaheim White House makes a cameo in the video to "El Afro," which hails a real-life partying pothead who frequently makes cameos at Legado 7 performances. "La Perra de Mazatlan" ("The Mazatlán Bitch") name-checks Santa Ana's good standings in the eyes of la gente de arriba (the bosses). "El de la Naranja" ("The Orange County Guy") narrates a cholo's rise through the ranks of SanTana's Southside gang and the Mexican Mafia, before reminding listeners to keep hush or risk losing their tongues.
A live album is in the works, and the band plan to continue their themed release dates. There's also plans for a Legado 7 weed strain, and a wax pen is in the beginning stages of production. But the open love of the ganja has kept the group off the radio airwaves and has even drawn stern looks from other norteño musicians. Hailing the drug trade is cool, apparently, but inhaling? No bueno.
But Guerra won't stand for that hypocrisy. "How come Snoop Dogg can do a show at the Nokia with a blunt in his hand, and he doesn't look bad?" he asks. "But if Legado 7 does, they're a bunch of marihuanos? We just want to play our music and smoke with our fans. There's nothing wrong with that."