When I connect with Eladio Carrión over Google Meet, I’m immediately struck by his innate humbleness. For a guy whose ‘Kemba Walker’ collaboration with Bad Bunny helped propel him to a Latin Grammy Award nomination, Eladio is quite reserved, and leads a self-described simple existence of music, weed, food, and family. Our conversation explores his bi-cultural origins, his path to music, and how a former professional swimmer became a leading voice in Latin trap.
Eladio Carrión: The High Times Interview
I understand you grew up in both the United States and Puerto Rico?
Eladio Carrión: I was in the States until I was ten years old and I’ve been in Puerto Rico for about 16 years. The first half of my life was in the States, the other half here in Puerto Rico.
Was there something about the blend of both cultures that influenced your pursuit of music?
Eladio Carrión: It didn’t lean me towards music because I’ve always loved music regardless, but it did provide me a certain type of direction in my music. I have two older sisters, so I grew up on artists like Nas, Jay-Z, Kanye, and Missy Elliott. I was in first and second grade when I heard Eminem and 50-Cent, and when I visited my grandmother in Puerto Rico, I was exposed to reggaeton. I didn’t know Spanish so I couldn’t understand what was being said then, but when I officially moved to Puerto Rico, I learned Spanish and started to comprehend what people were saying in their music. I studied it. I’d compare Cosculluela to 50-Cent and would look at US artists and see which spanish artists had similar flows. It was the best of both worlds.
And what turned you on to music as a career?
Eladio Carrión: I think my love for listening to music. I would buy CDs and listen to them from beginning to end. I still appreciate wordplay, punchlines, and all of that stuff. Like I love Nas’ new album with Hit-Boy [“King’s Disease”] that won a grammy. Not a lot of people give that type of importance to production on records anymore. I’m just a fan of cleverness in music.
I dreamt of making albums like “Tha Carter” and “The Blueprint.” Back then, a lot of CDs were so perfectly structured that the entire album was an experience. Eminem with Paul Rosenberg skits—it was just so clever. I fell in love with that—and the music too, of course—but I loved how artists got the attention of listeners so quickly. It was captivating.
That’s why I enjoy creating full-length projects. I’ll do singles every once in a while, but I love larger projects because I love providing an entire experience. I think for people to understand my music and to understand my vibe, I have to give the music to them in chunks. I can’t give it to them piece by piece because they won’t understand it.
So you’re saying these larger productions allow your music to be more digestible?
Eladio Carrión: There’s a lot of people who can put out a song and it will go crazy. You can do that in so many ways now with the Internet. But I think the art of really sitting down and creating an experience [around a record] has been lost in some ways, which I don’t really understand because it’s so fun to do. It’s like making a movie for your fans.
Was there an experience early in your career that validated music was the path for you?
Eladio Carrión: Probably when I started writing for other artists. My favorite rappers would frequently hit me up to come to the studio, so I had to have been adding something to the track [for them to be calling me]. Later, it was validating when those songs came out and went platinum.
I used to perform stand-up comedy and would imitate rappers’ voices. When I would work with them as a writer, I used to rap in their voices and they would love it. It was just a way to hustle. I eventually got tired of rapping like them and started doing some new flows, taking my music background from the stage and putting it all into one. That’s when I noticed I had something different to offer and started to sing individually.
Later, when my songs first played in the strip clubs in Puerto Rico, that’s when I realized I had to kick it up a notch and really go in. If you were popping in the strip club in Puerto Rico in 2016-2017, you were popping everywhere.
It’s cool how you were able to test the waters writing for other people’s voices, while still writing as—and expressing—your own.
Eladio Carrión: As I said, I really enjoy the creative process and I respect it a lot. I write all of my own stuff, one-hundred percent of it. I really respect writers because I was a writer, but I enjoy being all mine. When I go on stage and I sing live, it’s mine. It feels way better.
It’s more authentic because you’re sharing all of you, not just one dimension.
Eladio Carrión: I’m a very transparent person and I’m very real with what I sing. Drake has a verse in one of his songs—“The honesty of my music has left me too exposed”—and that’s how I feel sometimes. I vent a lot on the microphone, which I think makes for better music and I’m an open book to my fans. I don’t hide anything.
People probably respect you more when you’re honest in your point of view, whatever that point of view is for you.
Eladio Carrión: Bro, you will never see me beefing on the Internet. I will never go on the Internet for that. Rappers sometimes forget they’re human beings. They let the artist’s ego get in front of who they are. I’m always very aware of that and I never want to be that type of person. You would be amazed by how many people in the industry live like they’re in a bubble.
In that they become detached from the person they were on the come up?
Eladio Carrión: Of course. And through social media. Social media is crazy. It’s both a solution and a problem for everything.
Let’s talk about cannabis. How does it play a role in your lifestyle?
Eladio Carrión: Weed’s always been a crazy part of my life even though it kind of entered late in terms of consumption. I was a pro swimmer for a while and they were really strict about stuff like that, so I didn’t really smoke. After I stopped swimming, though, let’s just say food started tasting better.
I love weed and I love eating good food. I always say, “I work to smoke good weed, to eat good food, and so that my family is good.” That’s it. Those are the three things. It’s simple.
What else can I say, man? Weed is beautiful. It’s just nice to have a blunt in your hand and smoke it, and I always get high before I get in the booth.
So weed helps you when you’re recording?
Eladio Carrión: I’m a very hyperactive person. I’ve always said I have ADD but without the diagnosis. I’m very anxious and weed helps me calm down and helps me focus.
I smoke a lot of Backwoods—which makes my voice raspy—so I’m not smoking a ton at the moment since we’re starting shows back up again. Now, I’ll only smoke a little rosin. But if I’m with co-producers or other artists socially, I’ll smoke a blunt or two. To quote Chief Keef, “I hate being sober.”
Are blunts your go-to?
Eladio Carrión: I actually smoke a lot of concentrates, but I also love flower. If it’s anything marijuana, I’ll smoke it, though edibles make me sleepy. Otherwise, I have a pretty high tolerance. No rapper can out-smoke me, I swear!
That’s a bold claim. Perhaps High Times could set up a smoking competition at some point.
Eladio Carrión: I was going to do one here in Puerto Rico and invite all of my smoker/pothead friends—like Jon Z—and do a weed iron-man marathon type thing. Before we’d start, we’d take a 200mg edible or something like that. We’d wait 45 minutes for it to hit, then start with two grams of rosin. After you finish the two grams of rosin, you have to finish an ounce within a specific time limit. That would be crazy. If you guys do that, please invite me. I would love to participate.
Outside of the booth, has cannabis ever inspired material for your songs?
Eladio Carrión: I just like being high, bro. It’s a lifestyle. I can’t say it’s opened my eyes like, “Whoa, I smoked a joint and something [life changing] happened.” Everything is music. I make music everyday and weed is part of that routine. I spent 11 years training for swimming, waking up at 4am, and going hard for seven hours a day. When I stopped that, I fell in love with laying back, making music and being chill.
Do you make music at a set time each day?
Eladio Carrión: When we don’t have shows—like for the past two months—I’ll wake up, shower, brush my teeth and smoke weed. I’ll play Call of Duty: Warzone for a little bit and then hit the studio. Then I’ll be in the studio all day. I don’t really go out a lot, especially now in COVID times. I stay in, make music, and that’s it.
Has the COVID period given you time to create a lot of new material?
Eladio Carrión: Bro, I’ve recorded so much that I’m about to take a week vacation to Africa or somewhere for a mental break. When it’s time to make a CD, all the songs are there. I always make sure that what I put out is one-hundred percent crazier than the last thing, and my latest album—“Monarca”—I put out in January and that’s still popping off.
“Monarca” was made in Los Angeles when I was only supposed to be there for a week. On my fourth day there, my dog was robbed from the AirBnB I was staying at in Beverly Hills. I would wake up at 5am everyday and post fliers and ended up wasting like five grand at Office Depot. On the seventh day, I got the call that they’d found my dog, and on that seventh day, I booked an AirBnB for a month and went right back to the studio.
I love Los Angeles. It has the best weed and it’s one of the best places to make music.
Follow @_eladiocarrion and check out his sophomore album “Monarca” now available everywhere