The West Coast rap scene wasn't ready for Cecy B. The San Juan Capistrano native born Cecilia Barajas had a tough time getting her peers to take her seriously as she transitioned from a young mariachi singer and ballet folkloric dancer to a buxom OC hip-hop artist eight years ago. Promoters in Los Angeles would often dismiss the Chicana rapper, saying that they'd only call when a female showcase night came about. "This is a really hard industry, especially being a Mexican, being a female, [with them] being like, 'Oh, you're from Orange County? What do you know about hip-hop?'" she says.
But Cecy B never let any of that get in the way of her dreams. Though she's now based in Miami, she never shies away from her OC upbringing and is ready to return home to Santa Ana to celebrate the release of a triumphant debut album that's been a long time coming.
Networking with a new management company and producer, the rapper decided to leave Southern California two and a half years ago. "I just started feeling brand-new. I recorded 'Mexico' here in Miami with a Puerto Rican producer and my manager is from Chile; they were the ones screaming, 'Mexico!'" Cecy B says of her breakthrough brown-pride anthem. "I came all the way to Miami to do a Mexico song and get Lil Rob on it!" she adds with a chuckle.
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The late-night studio sessions transformed into The Connect, the rapper's first full-length album, which dropped online on Cinco de Mayo. "The title is a play on words, like having the hook-up, but it's really about having a real human connection with people and sense of community within music," she says.
That community extends to connecting established and up-and-coming artists. Cecy B was able to collaborate with B-Real from Cypress Hill, one of her hip-hop heroes. "He was so humble, down-to-earth and so easy to work with. When I sent him 'How We Roll,' he was like, 'Um, if you don't mind, I'm gonna jump on this song,'" she recalls with a laugh. B-Real also helps power the album by adjusting his rhyme patterns on "Bout That" to keep pace with its pulsating trap beat.
The album is stacked with tracks that are ready for South Beach clubs, but also strike an introspective tone, including "All I Do is Werk." But Cecy B's most personal song almost didn't make it. "Maybe" speaks to her self-doubt and sacrifices, including a painful divorce, in making music her life. It was so raw that the rapper could only lay down vocals in the comfort of her home studio. "It was the last song that I recorded for this album," Cecy B says. "It was a moment of stripping everything down."
After baring her fears, the daughter whose dad came to California sin papeles for a better life wants to make her family and hometown proud. She's poised to take the stage as an accomplished rap artist. "It's truly important for me to go and celebrate at home," Cecy B says. "This show is for my 'day-ones,' friends and family."
Cecy B album-release party, featuring Kid Frost and Ahz Moses, at Original Mike's,100 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 550-7764; www.originalmikes.com. Sat., noon-8 p.m.; Cecy B performs, 6 p.m. $15-20. All ages.