Slingshot: Weapons of Mass Creation Are Ready to Get Back in a Groove
With a polished collection of songs in tow, Weapons of Mass Creation arrived in Los Angeles last year for a showcase at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre on Sunset Boulevard. The live hip-hop band from Anaheim helped round out a Spanish Aquí Presents evening of Latinx entertainment that included the cast and creators of the Gentefied series on Netflix. The musicians held high hopes for the adept blend of hip-hop, soul and cumbia they crafted on Labor of Love, their new release at the time.
But those ambitions would have to wait; the coronavirus pandemic imposed itself and pulled the plug on live music.
“We remember that last show well, but it feels so far away,” says Josh Quiñonez, a rapper in the group, as he reflects back. “The energy and the emotions that come from performing live feel distant.”
Weapons of Mass Creation's pre-pandemic days ended with a flurry. They networked at Spanish Aquí Presents, signed with a booking agent and played a slew of shows from Boyle Heights to downtown Santa Ana right before California came under stay-at-home orders. As a family band, with a roster of Franco siblings coloring its core, the members felt the pangs of the pandemic twice over. The tight-knit group didn’t all live together under the same roof so at the onset, like many other responsible families and friends, they kept a distance from each other for the sake of their parents’ health until testing became more widely available.
Even if live music remained shelved, Weapons of Mass Creation lived up to their name with the abundance of downtime at their disposal last year.
“Not seeing each other for so long created a spark that sent us into a really intense creative spurt,” says Jacob Franco, bassist, singer and rapper. “We produced and wrote the most music in the span of those months than we created in our whole music career.”
Instead of jamming in rehearsals, brothers Moses and Joseph Franco became prolific hermits in the lab, crafting beats that would serve as the backbone of the band’s creative comeback. Everyone else returned with their own ideas for songs making for a potluck of productivity once reunited.
“The new material we’ve been working on is more focused on production,” says Quiñonez. “That, in and of itself, changes the aesthetic with more textures and sounds. It also made it a lot easier because you don’t need everybody to play the song to work on it.”
Weapons of Mass Creation gave their fan base a taste of what they’ve been cooking in the quarantine lab last week with the release of “All I Do,” an upbeat, playful departure from their past catalog of soulful social justice tunes. Julia Franco and her brother Jacob anchor the crooning while Quiñonez’s laidback rhymes, with a slight tinge of autotune, adds to the funky, carefree vibe. “All I Do” also features the work of its two newest members. EQ, Quiñonez’s younger brother, provides a brief vocal interlude while Silas Franco’s saxophone gives the track a breezy exit.
“It’s been a hell of a year with so many different energy and political shifts,” says Jacob. “Weapons of Mass Creation has never been a band to shy away from difficult subjects. Right now, we just want to shake a little bit of this shit off and dance. We want to experience some joy together.”
During the pandemic, the band turned online to connect with fans, using Instagram Live on occasion. They released a masterful music visual for “Neighborhood Watch” off of Labor of Love to stay current. More than a year after a successful concert in Long Beach celebrating the release of Labor of Love, Weapons of Mass Creation even played a show, albeit over YouTube. But with the pandemic waning, at least in California, the band is ready to fully reconnect with audiences and finally has some performances scheduled on its calendar.
The group has a warmup show on Juneteenth at La Palma Park in Anaheim, where it will translate its new material into live instrumentation. The following weekend, Weapons of Mass Creation will perform in Long Beach to celebrate the release of the “All I Do” music visual. The song is the first in a trio of singles being primed for release, new music that spans soul, hip-hop and even reggaeton as the band gradually gets back into a groove.
“This year is going to be a reintroduction of ourselves,” says Jacob. “Everything is new and it’s very exciting to have a body of work that we’re going to feel is much more representative of where we are and the amount of investment that we’ve put into our craft.”
- Gabriel San Román
Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina
Right-wing pandejos are fanning the flames over a trove of Dr. Anthony Fauci's pandemic emails made public, calling them "leaks" when they really were obtained via the Freedom of Information Act from the same "fake news" media they love to hate!
Aside from hysterics over gain-of-function and face mask misreads, the anti-Fauci crew is having a field day with a mundane revelation from the emails: that Disney is backing a National Geographic documentary on the United States' top infectious disease expert.
"Nat Geo, Disney, and Bob Iger himself, all understand the need for discretion now but are wildly supportive about releasing a film that will celebrate the importance of your life, science and public health," co-director Janet Tobias wrote Fauci in an April 7, 2020 email. "I wanted the best home, broadest distribution, and strongest team for your film. You have entrusted me with your story, so I just want to do right by it."
Now, hop on Twitter to see Disney-inspired memes and tweets from rightest ranks giving their Babylon Bee best with "Pinocchio" takes or "The Lying King" photoshop jobs.
News of a forthcoming Fauci flick actually surfaced in February 2021, months before the emails were released and reported on as public documents. But a trailer that's been out on YouTube since then has been recently flooded with anti-Fauci comments in the past week.
Aside from the noise, Disney's full-spectrum dominance is breathtaking. Through their ownership of Nat Geo, Fauci's film is primed to be a superb feat of documentary filmmaking that captures the historic pandemic and its man of the hour.
On the flip side, Disney reopened its Walt Disney World Resort in Florida in the midst of a summer surge and keep the gates unlocked through the pandemic's wintertime of death. At least, they exercised more caution with capacity limits than Florida Governor Ron DeSantis allowed.
The company tried to replicate the same in Anaheim on July 17, 2020 but could only reopen Downtown Disney that month as cases soared in Orange County and California Governor Gavin Newsom scuttled guidelines for theme parks. Labor unions protested the planned reopening of Disneyland with a car caravan around the resort and demanded more safety measures to protect their members' wellbeing before being recalled to work.
None of that will grace the Fauci film just as assuredly as nobody at Disney is seeking to make a celebratory documentary about Newsom, either!
In a follow up to an earlier Slingshot, the OC Register officially became one of 11 newly unionized newsrooms following an overwhelming vote to join the Southern California News Group Guild. After suffering the agony of atrophied salaries amid hedge fund profiteering, media workers will finally have a real say in their future as the work begins on contract negotiations.
In Orange County, the Register joins the Daily Pilot and Times OC in being unionized. Non-union newsrooms are becoming a thing of the past in an industry under siege.
The benefits of unionism are clear and documented. But is the union wave in OC too little, too late for Latino journalists, an endangered species 'round these parts where Mexis are otherwise plentiful? Or is it right on time?
With public safety reporter Alma Fausto's recent departure from the Register, the number of Latinos working in OC newsrooms shrank further. The Reggie still counts longtime reporter Tony Saavedra on its roster, making him one of the Last of the Meheecans there. The newspaper 's staff also includes Anne Valdespino, a food writer, and Sandra Barrera, a real estate reporter.
David Carrillo Peñaloza served as editor of the Daily Pilot, which is owned by the LA Times and covers coastal OC, until January before becoming a multiplatform editor with the Times. Reporter Priscella Vega got promoted to the Times' mothership in 2019. Sharing an office with the Pilot in Fountain Valley, TimesOC counts Vera Castañeda as one of its reporters.
Voice of OC, of course, has a cubano-in-chief with Norberto Santana and a Mexi photojournalist in Julie Leopo. And then there's Brian Calle at the Irvine Weekly, who, for all the disdain, is as legitimately Latino as former OCDA Tony Rackauckas!
(If I forgot anyone, throw a chancla at me in an email, porfas!).
OC Latino media workers were never mighty in numbers. Even still, it doesn't seem so long ago that Yvette Cabrera had to wade through the muck of anti-Mexi hate mail as a Latina Reggie columnist, Ron Gonzales and Theresa Cisneros teamed for the paper's OC Latino Link, Alejandra Molina kept tabs on SanTana while Art Marroquin handled Anacrime. Three years ago, reporter Denise Salazar was honored with the Ruben Salazar award from the Latino Journalists of California, CCNMA for her work at the Register, a paper she no longer works for.
And remember that rag called OC Weekly? Roll call: Gustavo Arellano, Aimee Murillo, Cynthia Rebolledo, Mary Carreon, Denise de la Cruz, Daffodil Altan and some tall Mexican guy or other.
Of course, the Times' Latinos, like Arellano, Vega and Cindy Carcamo, still write about county life. But, overall, the status of Latino reporting in OC could use some beefing up like a value taco at Del Taco!
OC's two biggest cities--SanTana and Anaheim--are Latino majority. The Latino share of the county's population is sure to give gabachos a run for their money when more 2020 census data is released. How many of the community's stories are going untold on news sites despite best efforts?
If the newly established and recognized Southern California News Group Guild takes a page from the Times' union and makes diversity a priority heading into negotiations for its first-ever collective bargaining agreement, there still might be a chance for Latinos in OC journalism, yet.
Lead photo: WOMC from left to right (back row): EQ, Luis Franco, Jacob Franco, Joseph Franco (Crudo), Moses Franco (Moe Budda) / And left to right (front row): Julia Franco (Joules), Josh Quiñonez (Solitude), Silas Franco. Photo by William Camargo!