As an emcee and label exec, Cesar Zamudio, has worked tirelessly to represent the city he loves most. Cesar (also known as Visual) grew up in Logan Square where he was exposed early on to the many cultures the neighborhood had to offer. The cultural crossroads provided Visual with a sensibility that most emcees overlook, which is the commonality between all people. Visual’s work is both a firsthand account of the city’s blue collar work ethic, and the colorful people who populate it. His album Working Class Legend
is his homage to those inhabitants, and it’s a Chicago inspired project from beginning to end—from the no-frills lyricism to the solid breakneck boom-baps. As of late Visual has been steady on the grind and his newest album Working Class Legend: Overtime
is giving locals something to be excited about.
You grew up in Logan Square, how did living there shape your style?
Logan Square influenced me in a major way because it has always been very diverse. I went to school with people of all backgrounds and that kept my mind open to different cultures. I think it's what has made me universal in a sense that my music choices in production vary. And as far as lyrical content goes no matter the subject matter and my range, the reoccurring theme in my music is always going to be people: How we live, what we go through, how we overcome it and just the general way of life.
When and how did you first get interested in hip hop?
I didn't discover hip-hop like a lot of other people did. For me, it was always there. My brother brought home either the Breakin’ or Beat Street soundtrack on vinyl when I was like five or six. It was that, LL Cool J, The Fat Boys, Slick Rick, Eric B. & Rakim and whatever else he could buy or borrow from friends. So, me being the youngest in the house I naturally gravitated to the music I heard playing. It was pretty funny because my brother would bring home these records and try to scratch and he would just break the needles and my father would just snap!
Being the younger brother of Panik, I’m sure you’ve had to work hard to carve out your own niche. What have been the benefits and downsides to having a brother already established, and what have you done to establish your own identity outside of his influence?
The benefits have been the experience. When I was younger I would follow my brother anywhere I could. I would tag along to his friend’s houses, record stores and eventually parties. Back then hip-hop in Chicago had the feel of a real culture, it was in its beginning stages and I was there to see it develop. That has been the biggest benefit. When I first started recording music, I was realistic and knew that I wasn't ready to make albums and travel around to perform so I become very involved in the career of another artist. I booked shows for him, was part of the recording process for his first album and I helped release his first album. After a few years, I decided to take that experience and use it for myself. It was difficult to establish myself because I quickly learned that I did not feel comfortable having other people do things for me. Since the beginning I contacted the press for reviews and interviews, I went to the retail stores to drop CD's, I booked my own shows, I made all the phone calls and sent out all the emails. I even had to start a record label because I had no one to put my music out for me. So since my first release in 2000 which was an EP, I have been working hard to make my name known.
The Chicago hip-hop scene can be one of the most difficult places to establish yourself, what’s your take on the scene here, and how has it changed throughout the years that you’ve been performing?
I like where the scene is at right now. I like the diversity. I see more rappers not afraid of being artists. At one point Chicago hip-hop was either gangster or backpack/underground. That was it, no middle ground. Now the music I'm starting to hear is what I knew we all had in us because it's what's around us. We needed to find a way to be who we are in our everyday life, in our music. Most rappers are way bigger than life and I never believed Chicago people were like that. We don't have a Hollywood here or anything on the level of New York and I'm ok with that. It's not who we are as people. We're blue collar, working class people that make things happen no matter our situation. I'm starting to see it in the music. We also have a lot more people making moves now than we did before. We're more business orientated. When I first started doing shows we were all still learning about business and we didn't have too many people to learn from so we mostly learned from each other. I think hip-hop is here in Chicago now.
Many lyricists have a goal or a creed they abide by, what’s yours?
Mine is simple: Truth. Life is what I want to tell about: Stories I've heard, things I've seen, ideas I have, places I want to see, love, hate, pain, joy. I don't ever want hip-hop or me being a rapper limiting me in any way. I'm always going to do whatever I want as an artist. I don't want to be too concerned with a sound or formula. I'm not manufacturing music. I'm putting a piece of me into every project.
Could you tell me a little bit about the Working Class Legend albums and Community Service Records?
Well, Community Service Records is my label. It's all me. I handle all the daily operations of the label and I'm the only artist on the label. It was created so I can release my own music without having to wait for a deal or chase another independent to do it for me. Working Class Legend and Working Class Legend: Overtime are my last two releases. The latter is a remix album that features a handful of remixes of the original album along with four new songs. I'm very proud of both releases because they have shown my growth as an artist. Both albums are available on major online retailers including iTunes, Amazon and even straight from your Sprint or Verizon phone.
When you’re not working, what are some of your favorite places here in the city to let loose and relax?
Lately, I've being going to Lockdown Bar & Grill a lot. I have a few friends who live nearby and I've had my last few meetings there. Good food and a good variety of drinks. I love the variety of restaurants we have in the city so I'm at a different one whenever I get a chance. A couple of my favorites right now are Urban Belly and Chick Pea
When can we expect a new album to drop? Anything else we can look forward to in the coming year?
For the past couple of months I've been working on my new album. It's a very different project than what I've worked on before. I'm taking more time with this and involving more people in the process. I'm used to handling all the writing, arranging and production myself but this time around I am reaching out to various people in my circle. And right now I'm starting a series of songs entitled “Chicago Hip Hop History.” They are basically memories and moments put into song form to help give some insight of Chicago's hip hop scene to some of the up and coming artists.