Tell the people who you are and where you come from? I go by the alias Sont Himself. I was born Santiago Uvina Jr. in Merced, Cali. and raised in Modesto, Cali. I’ve been living in Modesto since I was about three years old and I’ve lived in just about every side of the city. I grew up in the Southwest area, moved to North Modesto, and ultimately moved to East Modesto where I reside now. In between moving from North Modesto to East Modesto I lived in Escalon, CA for about three years.
How was it comin’ up in Modesto & the Central Valley? What do you think was unique about that experience? Coming up in Modesto has been an interesting experience. Modesto is not a big city but it’s just the right size for me. Living in the Central Valley allows access to bigger cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles which is great. I feel it was a unique experience because I was able to move around and experience different sides of the city. I am able to better appreciate the diversity of my city. I’m sure there are some Modesto residents who wouldn’t dare go to areas such as South Modesto but I still have homies that live out there so I’m still out there once and a while.
What were your musical influences as a young Chicano, but also as a Hip-Hop head? In the late 80’s and early 90’s I listened to a lot of Rock and Roll oldies artists such as Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and several other artists from the 50’s and the 60’s. However, since I grew up in the 90’s when Rap City was on BET and Yo! MTV Raps was ending; I got to see a wide array of videos from West Coast artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg, 2Pac, Cypress Hill, and Too Short to East Coast artists like Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, and Notorious Big. The truth, I was really into the whole No Limit Records movement with Master P, C-Murder, Silkk the Shocker, Mystikal, and Fiend. I also really got into Wu-Tang Clan and their big words and metaphors. Wu-Tang made me strive for more when it came to writing lyrics. Three 6 Mafia hit me big-time too in the late 90’s with their riot inducing music. The energy and aggressiveness they put out made me want to do the same when making beats and performing. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s I started listening to artists such as Freestyle Fellowship, Aceyalone, Abstract Rude, Living Legends, Kool Keith, Del the Funky Homosapien, Andre Nickatina, Brotha Lynch Hung, 2Mex, South Park Mexican, Control Machete, NATAS, Jay-Z, Goodie Mob, Swollen Members, The Psycho Realm, and Bone Thugs and Harmony.
When did u start wanting to rhyme and take part in Hip-Hop culture? When I was in my pre-teen years I would record myself alongside my cousin, Anita (RIP), acting as radio DJ’s and singing/rapping radio songs that we had memorized. In my early teens I really got into rap music in general and I started writing raps at 15. Originally, I started writing individual verses and eventually I began writing full songs with verses and hooks. I have a short attention span so I started looking for ways to stay awake in class so I started writing most of my material during class. In my high school days I would plug in broken headphones into my sister’s home stereo system and use them as a microphone to record over instrumentals onto cassette tapes. Then when I graduated from high school my parents got me a karaoke machine and I moved up from headphones to a real microphone. During high school, I also got drawn into the Graffiti art scene because I saw some of the crews doing their thing such as UM, ALB and LORDS. So I would spend time messing around with art too. Graffiti and writing raps became sort of an escape from everything and it became a great way to express my creativity.
You spend your time working with youth in the community & within the education system, what kind of programs & projects have you been involved with? How do you use Hip-Hop when working with youth and trying to educate? Hip-hop helps me relate to the students I work with because I try to stay up to date with what is relevant in the culture. I also help mentor young aspiring artists whenever possible. When I was starting up I didn’t really have anyone to answer my questions; therefore, I try to make myself available to those young ones who have questions such as how to choose an artist name, how to write a song, or how to stay on beat. I was first connected to an individual that was working with the 21st Century Learning Programs here in Stanislaus County. His name was Manuel Concepcion. Manuel gave me the first opportunity to record in a professional studio and perform in front of large audiences. Manuel helped put together a small group of local artists and he helped develop our skills. I’ve also been a part of the federally funded TRIO programs for sixteen years as a student in the programs and now a staff member. The TRIO programs serve low income, first-generation students. Recently, I have been working on an Open Mic event with a couple of friends of mine, Gustavo Martinez and Omar Herrera. The Open Mic is held every last Friday of the month at 7pm in East Modesto, Cali. at 202 South Santa Cruz #H 95354. The venue is named Casa Cultural Tradiciones. If you need more information hit up this number (209) 524-1054. Music, Poetry, Dance, and talent in general is welcome.
You’re bilingual & you do songs in English & en Español, do the lyrics come naturally to you in both languages or do you have to say to yourself ‘I’m gonna try & write something all in Spanish’? Which is easier? It actually depends. There are times when the lyrics come naturally and I just start writing but there are also times when I have to tell myself that I want to focus on writing a song in Spanish. It also depends on the beat. There are those times that I listen to a beat that gives me that sound that has a certain feel to it and I’ll tell myself “I have to write something in Spanish to this one.”
You’ve been on the scene for a while, what things about Modesto hip-hop have you seen change for the better or worse? What would you like to see change for the better in the future? On a positive note, I’ve seen the Modesto Hip-Hop scene grow. I’ve seen venues in the area embrace Hip-Hop performances more now that local artists such as Cobalt have made those connections with the right people. I would like to see more opportunities for aspiring local artists to display their skills. At times young aspiring artists don’t have the connections with individuals already involved in the local Hip-Hop scene. They need a place to network and make those connections.
What are your plans for the immediate future? How can people find out more about you and your music? My plans are to put out several albums I’ve been working on for quite a while now. I have several projects both in English and Spanish that I am attempting to finish up within the next year. Another goal is to start working regularly with young aspiring artists who need some guidance, help making connections, and to express their ideas and creativity. Everything is pretty much online now so you could hit me up on the ever so popular Facebook under Santiago Sont Uvina or on my e-mail which is firstname.lastname@example.org or check out some of my music on http://soundcloud.com/sont-himself .
Spit one of your favorite lines for us… “Say hello to a guy with a baaad look, don’t get took by a beard and a maaad book cover, don’t judge another natural mean mugger, because surprise he’ll be an individual with more personality, than half of these rap easies, that simply describe life as a fallacy……” -Sont Himself Any last thoughts to share with the world? Hip-Hop Musica Forever!