The local emcee raps a dream and lives a rap vision
Sacramento, CA 95815
Bueno’s on a boat, partying just east of the river confluence at Discovery Park. Bros and beautiful women in bikinis sip drinks from red plastic cups, raise their hands in the air and dance. Sunshine blasts down on the bash.
Later that night, Bueno hangs out at a Midtown nightclub, lounging in the VIP section with his crew. A sexy young woman wants to join Bueno’s crowd, but security denies her—until Bueno intervenes, prompting the guard to let the woman join his exclusive soiree.
Afterward, Bueno and said woman get to know each other a little better. In the hot tub. And later, the shower. And, finally, the bed.
But this is not reality; it’s the video for “6 a.m.,” a pop- and R&B-infused hip-hop track off Bueno’s forthcoming album, Can’t Knock the Hustle.
The real Bueno—they guy from south Sacramento who’ll tweet you back at www.twitter.com/therealbueno—isn’t necessarily the player you see in “6 a.m.” Or the hustler slinging outside a liquor store in Bueno’s other new video, “Can’t Stop the Hustle,” his album’s debut single.
One thing’s for sure: Bueno is a busy guy. He’s been touring up and down the West Coast, from Las Vegas to Modesto, including three Sacramento shows, in the past few weeks alone. Last Thursday, though, he had a day off to stop and chat with SN&R at Powerhouse Studios.
Bueno’s relaxing on a leather couch in the entryway. Mirrored aviator glasses reflect his BlackBerry, which he’s texting on and which goes off every few minutes during the interview.
Bueno’s story isn’t typical. He grew up in Meadowview’s Carella Gardens low-income housing. In high school, he admits that he was “a jock.” He could rhyme, but basketball was his thing; he ran the point for a winning Kennedy High School team, which earned him a scholarship to CSU Los Angeles.
After college, Bueno returned to Sac and formed Noyz Music Group with former NBA player and fellow Kennedy teammate Michael “Yogi” Stewart, George Foreman Jr. and NMG’s co-CEO Lavega Sims.
Bueno put out his first project, Change the Game, in ’03; Goldfingaz of Fireworks Productions provided the beats. Since, Bueno’s collaborated with the late Mac Dre, Keak da Sneak and Mistah F.A.B.; and released a handful of mix tapes and another album, The Sacramento B, in ’07. His latest, Can’t Knock the Hustle, drops on December 15.
Hustle is a glitzy 14-track rap album with blingy, sparkling pop production. Bueno works with multiple producers—DJ Epik, Vince V, Cozmo, JB & Premo Vera, Sherm, Jae Synth among others—but the album’s tone is consistent: in-your-face, flashy beats and lush dance synths. It’s at times overwhelming—tracks such as “Unstoppable” and “Fuck Goin’ Broke” seem to compensate for a lack of dynamics and originality with explosive, shiny nightclub beats—but the production value is impressive nevertheless.
Hustle’s single, “6 a.m.,” has pop single written all over it. A simple bass, delayed keyboard and clanky drum-machine beat sets up the pop anthem. Bruno Mars croons the R&B chorus and Bueno raps about a baller lifestyle, painting a picture: “Top floor / VIP buying drinks / we got the suites / Sheraton on J Street.”
Bueno tastes the VIP world, but in the real world seems a more private dude. He says he’s seen the life he raps about—the parties, the crime, the violence, the drugs—but views his job as a rapper, as a storyteller, as being an entertainer. He leaves his personal life at home.
“You have to realize, where I grew up [in south Sac], you had to be protective,” he explains. “You didn’t tell people your phone number. You didn’t tell people where you live.
“You learn how to be guarded from the beginning.”
So when the real “6 a.m.” comes around, Bueno has a wife and kids. He still plays league basketball, follows politics and is a spiritual guy.
But when it comes to the rap game, whether it’s shows with DJ Mighty Mike or working on new tracks, it’s all business.
“I just wish more Sac artists would be pushing and pushing and pushing,” Bueno says. “Because that’s what we need.”