For Latino rapper Ceromundo, home turf is now Laurel

The journey of one Latino hip-hop artist started in Washington, D.C., and has gone through several American cities as well as Cali, Colombia.

And now, the artist, Steve “Ceromundo” Echeverry, calls Laurel his home turf. He even serves on the Laurel Arts Council.

Why Laurel?

“I just wanted to get away from my crazy life in Hyattsville,” he said, with a laugh.

In fact, his history with Laurel goes back to 2006 when he landed a job with a Laurel Chevy Chase Bank branch.

He now works as a graphic designer, a skill that grew from his early years as a graffiti artist.

But it is in music that he has a growing reputation.

As the rapper Ceromundo, he has several Spanish language videos on YouTube, including his latest, “Mota-Vacion,” where over a chugging rhythm he tosses off rhymes including Lucca Brazzi, Benghazi, kamakazi, posse and Nazi.

One local disc jockey who plays Ceromundo’s music, Mauricio Rivera, who goes by DJ Moe, said the Laurel resident is drawing attention from the growing audience for Latino rap music.

“He has that raw Colombian sound,” Rivera said. “He has become well respected.”

Ceromundo’s journey started in Washington, where he was born to a Colombian father and a Chilean mother.

He grew up with a love for music and art, he said. He attended Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Montgomery County.

But as a teenager, he returned to live with his grandparents in Colombia and finished high school there.

Colombia has a hip hop music scene, especially in Cali, and he got caught up in it as a teenager in the 1990s.

“In Cali, I was inspired. I got involved in the music of the people in the neighborhood, the street,” he said.

Cali, Colombia’s third largest city, was a sinkhole of drug-related turmoil at the time.

“It was one of the most violent, dangerous cities in the world. It was crazy,” he said. “But now it’s not like that.”

He spent some time translating rap lyrics into Spanish and found encouragement.

“People said, ‘Hey you ought to rap. You get attention from girls.’ I said, ‘Hey, that sounds cool,’”

He returned to the U.S. in 1997 and found a job at Reagan National Airport working for an airline. Airline employees can fly for free and he made the most of it. He was soon shopping demos and making contacts in New York, Chicago, Boston and Miami.

Among those who gave him a break along the way, he said, were DJ Camilo, a Latino hip hop mainstay on Hot 97 radio in New York, and rappers Calle Cardona and Mellow Man Ace.

As a recording artist, he said, he has turned down a lot of deals that would have put him at the beck and call of others.

“I created my own publishing company. I never signed with a label. As a kid when I ran in the streets, I never joined a gang. And I applied that to the music. I want to own myself,” he said.

He said his path led him to Listen Vision Studios in Washington, where he has recorded many songs.

Along the way he earned a degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Washington.

Rivera, or DJ Moe, airs Latino hip hop on Fridays from 8 to 10 p.m. on WMUC. He said Ceromundo, who he has interviewed on the show, is drawing attention from the audience for Latino rap.

“We’re getting good feedback. ... He definitely has a shot at taking it to another level,” the disc jockey said.

Marvin Arbaiva, a recording engineer who has worked with the artist, said he first met Ceromundo in 2009.

“I knew about him even before I worked with him,” Arbaiva said. “Working with him has been an experience. He’s really hardworking and dedicated. And he’s evolving with the times. That’s his strong suit.”

Ceremundo, who once went by the moniker Carnicero (the butcher) because of the rawness of his sound, is now a husband and a property owner in Laurel.

When Laurel launched an arts council last September, he submitted a resume and was accepted.

“Maybe I can open some doors to kids coming up,” he said. “You want tranquility in your life after a while. I’ve lived on the crazy streets of Colombia.”

Meanwhile, he’s sticking with the music.

“There’s no age limit. Look at the Rolling Stones.”

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