Weapons of Mass Creation like to keep their music almost all in the family. The live hip-hop band from Anaheim counts five siblings among its six-member crew. The Franco kids first came together as Franco Funktion, a jam band zigzagging through reggae, cumbia, and hip-hop. Being youngsters with dreams, band members drifted apart to study in the UC system at Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and San Diego. But they all came back home in 2014, inviting family friend Josh Quiñonez, an Afro-Latino rapper formerly with the Analytiks, into Weapons of Mass Creation, their new group aimed at infusing innovative rhythms with deeper political knowledge.
Luis, Jacob, Julia, Joseph, and Moses Franco gather in the backyard of their family home in Anaheim to talk music. Weapons of Mass Creation’s political influences are just as diverse as musical ones. “Eduardo Galeano!” Quiñonez shouts the late Uruguayan writer’s name. “That foo’ has mad bars!” Jacob laughs. But before studying at universities, the Francos found inspiration in their mother, a strong woman involved in the community who taught ballet folklórico in the driveway of their home, and older sisters who grew up to be educated Chicanas.
Weapons of Mass Creation shine that guiding light out towards society on issues of capitalism, police brutality, immigration and sexism. The group released their debut EP Five out of Five in March showcasing the talents of individual members each track. Julia chose “Part of Me” to smash the patriarchy with her mic. “It was the absence of female emcees that made me feel like I had to do something about that,” Julia says. “I come in with feminism and it’s something completely new to a lot of people.”
The youthful idealists, ages 17-27, map out a hip-hop vision not trapped by the trap beats of their time. “For me to keep my job as a human, I need to do something different that robots can’t do,” Joseph says. He produces the beats for the band that interprets them live during performances with Luis on guitar, Jacob handling bass, Moses playing drums. Julia, Josh, Jacob and Moses serve as the group’s emcees. “We like to have the fun tracks, too,” says Joseph, who plays keys and DJs during live sets.
Weapons of Mass Creation wants to reach the masses, just not along the well-traveled paths of gaining exposure in OC. They’d rather build an audience base from the bottom up than sell tickets to share a bill with famous rappers at the Observatory. “I wouldn’t want to put ourselves in front of a group of people we didn’t earn,” Joseph explains. That philosophy brings Weapons of Mass Creation to Música en Movimiento this weekend at El Centro Cultural de México in Santa Ana.
But shows at conscious venues in their hometown are harder to come by. They call out Anaheim’s Packing District for gentrification, but the band’s attempts at recreating hip-hop park jams in the city caught heat for amplified sound. None of that stops Weapons of Mass Creation from telling the real tales of the city.
“One of the songs that we have that’s coming out is really dear to us because it’s dedicated to Gustavo Najera,” Quiñonez says of the unarmed youth gunned down by Anaheim police in February. “I had known him, we used to tag.” Inside a makeshift studio in the Franco home, Joseph cues up “Rest In Paint.” The Najera tribute track is a soulful mix of skillful rhymes and vocal harmonies, a different approach to the usual rage-filled anti-police brutality anthems.
Like every upstart hip-hop group, Weapons of Mass Creation wants to display their talents on full-length albums that springboard into touring everywhere. When that happens, they’ll be bringing their message along. “We want to start a movement around our music,” Quiñonez says. “We want social justice to be sexy and the newest thing for you to be a part of,” Julia adds. “Let’s talk about some real shit up in the club.”
Weapons of Mass Creation performs with Steady 45s, Esencia Verde at Musica en Movimiento Music and Arts Festival at El Centro Cultural de Mexico, 313 N. Birch St., Santa Ana, www.facebook.com/musicaenmovimientosa; Sat. 1-9 P.M. $5 suggested donation. All ages.
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.