Follow him around for a year, and you might catch him flowing a cappella at spoken word shows in the local cultural centers, or at well known events like the Monterey Jazz Festival with John Santos' Latin jazz sextet. He may be backed by a chamber ensemble, playing the lead role in a hip hop opera or he may be singing and playing percussion with Linda Tillery's Cultural Heritage Choir. You're as likely to see him rhyming with a DJ as you are to see him performing with an Afro Puerto Rican Bomba group or singing and rhyming with bands like O-Maya or AguaLibre, both 10 piece salsa/ reggae/ hip hop fusion bands that performed to crowds of thousands at well known events like Stern Grove in San Francisco or Reggae on the River in Northern California. In the studio or on stage, the Puerto Rican bilingual musician known as Rico Pabón is a man of many genres, and although hip hop is the music of his generation, he chooses to draw the connections between the traditional music he heard growing up at home and the music he danced to in the streets of the SF Bay Area, Jamaica Plains and New York. "For us, the sons and daughters of immigrants, Hip Hop is our traditional music, but for most of us it didn't replace our deep love for the music of our roots. It only added more flavor to the soundtracks of our lives," says Pabón.
Born into a family of musicians, dancing and playing music was just an every day part of living. Rico found his voice as an emcee at the age of 15 and has since released 5 full length albums and has appeared on numerous compilations and collaborations garnering him much critical acclaim. A natural performer, Rico's vocal stamina, clarity and rhythm combined with the passionate delivery of his "true to life" lyrics make his energy on stage explosive and captivating. On one of his songs, Pabón says "I'm only trying to be above the average emcee and speak for people like Albizu and Garvey," but to hear and see him perform live it's obvious that he's orbiting a few universes past standard and you know immediately that you are not listening to your average MC, but something very special. An MC whose artistry and activism are one in the same, Pabón says "I feel like it's my personal mission to stand for positivity no matter what mainstream folks are doing. I usually start my shows off a cappella, because I want the people to know that I’m trying to uplift their spirits and speak to their hearts, not just put words together and make them sound good, nor am I a merchant of death. Humans are no different from a plant or flower in nature, if drowned in darkness, we look for the direction of the sun. I try to be that light."
Pabón has had his songs placed in nighttime television dramas "October Road" and "CSI: Miami" and he has appeared on numerous recordings and has shared the stage with an array of highly acclaimed artists, across many genres of music. He is currently gigging as an emcee, poet and singer with two Bay Area legends; 5 time Grammy nominated latin jazz artist John Santos on his Filosofia Caribeña project, as well as with Grammy nominated Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, where he also plays minor percussion. Rico sometimes performs with Aguacero, an Afro Puerto Rican bomba group, as singer and percussionist. Rico was a lead member of Prophets of Rage, O-Maya, and AguaLibre, and he still performs original music as a solo artist with DJ's and live bands, depending on the venue or event. Rico is currently recording an album of all original tunes with Grammy nominated producer Greg Landau and musician/producer Camilo Landau which blends a little bit of everything that he loves, from bolero to bugalú, reggae to salsa, and of course, hip hop.
No matter which musical configuration Rico Pabón finds himself in, from Salsa to Hip Hop and in between, his poetic lyrics are bound by the theme that struggle feeds beauty, and that life is worth fighting for, using truth and love as the weapon. This theme combined with his rhythmic delivery make him one of the Bay Area's most dynamic MCs. Rico's international flavors have allowed him an opportunity to share the stage with other international artists such as Damian and Stephen Marley, Ozomatli, Buju Banton, Femi Kuti, Zap Mama, Meshell N'degeocello, Maxi Priest and Sizzla, to name a few. He has also performed with Hip Hop icons such as Run DMC, Wu Tang Clan, dead prez, Big Daddy Kane, and Kurtis Blow.
Musician and historian John Santos says, "Rico is exceptional in many ways, highly creative and motivated, and deeply dedicated to social change through the arts. I've also observed him extensively, performing and teaching folks of all ages. His enthusiasm is both remarkable and contagious as he engages his audiences and students with his obvious passion and abilities to communicate on multi-levels. He has truly earned the respect of his peers and has inspired countless observers and participants through his commitment to the development of art and self-expression in our neighborhoods. To those of us of Puerto Rican descent, he is especially an unsung hero and treasure whom we proudly hold up as the face and voice of our community. In addition to the above-mentioned facts and observations, Rico's most impressive trait is his demeanor and dignity. One of the finest human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing."
1994 - "No More Patience" Prophets of Rage featuring Rico Pabón
1997 - "Brand New World" Prophets of Rage featuring Rico Pabón
2000 - "My Power" Prophets of Rage featuring Rico Pabón
2003 - "O-Maya" O-Maya featuring Rico Pabón (voted Best Latin Band in the Bay East Bay Express)
2006 - "Louder Than Fiction" Rico Pabón
2001 - "Make the Most" - Independent Sounds - Amoeba Music Comp.
2001 - "Illuminate" - Shame the Devil: Truth About Prison Industrial Complex - Books Not Bars
2002 - "Machete Majita" - It's the Hour - Duece Eclipse - Oywalk Musika
2004 - "Yo Naci" - What About Us? - Hardknock Records
2004 - Slam Bush: The Official Mixtape - Hardknock Records
2005 - "Free" - Redemtion - Soul Snatcherz and Milestone Ent.
2005 - "Pequeña Amaly", "La Juventud" - John Santos and the Machete Ensemble 20th Anniversary - Machete Records
2006 - Soundtrack to the Struggle - mixtape feat. Rico Pabon - Hardknock Records
2006 - "Feel It" - produced by Rico Pabon - Again and Again - Destani Wolf
2009 - "El Huracán" - Tropical Techniques - Urban Legend Music
2011 - "Freedom Time" - Linda Tillery
"Louder Than Fiction is conscious, politically charged hip hop, full of fire, fueled by Pabón's captivating, wide-ranging flow. Strong all around." -- Scratch Magazine
"Certified dope MC Rico Pabón mixes contemporary consciousness with vintage hip-hop production. It's a soul-drenched recipe frequently employed by stalwarts like KRS-One & Mos Def. It's clear throughout the album that he's orbiting a few universes past standard. Polished gem of an album." -- SF Guardian
"Big Pun, Q-Unique, Cuban Link, Termanology and now, more than ever, Rico Pabón. The Bay Area via the East Coast MC's game jersey should be hanging from the roof alongside those of his linguistically gifted Latin contemporaries." -- YRB Magazine
"The first single from this former front man for Prophets of Rage, "Lay 'em Down" should be booming everywhere from the Bronx to San Jose. Strong Latin melodies and tight vocals make this my summer joint of the year." -- XLR8R Magazine
"An album that will blow you away every time. A beautiful blend of socially conscious lyrics, infectious beats, and with a confident, yet not cocky, swagger, Rico Pabón has created anthems. The moment the a cappella freestyle seamlessly transitions into the beautifully salsa infused song “Lay Em Down”, you know you're not listening to your average MC, but something very special.."
"A story telling rhymer that excels on personal songs as well as those passionate about social change, Rico Pabón genuinely taps into the duality that exists between struggle and creative expression."
"Rico Pabón’s album "Louder than Fiction" is the diamond in the rough project that Hip-Hop fans have been waiting for." -- Jive Magazine rating 4.5 out of 5
"Pabon's long-awaited solo joint may be the tightest rap album by a Bay Area boriqua you've ever heard.."
"delivers the musical and lyrical goods, with rapid-fire flows equally adaptable to salsa, reggaeton, or hip-hop rhythms." -- Eric K. Arnold, East Bay Express