One of the greatest honors an artist can receive is their hometown’s blessing. Rappers and singers namedrop street signs and local hangout spots in their songs to pay homage to the environment that nurtured them, for better or for worse. For Chicano singer/songwriter Eddie Zuko, the home he croons so nostalgically about is Imperial, California, a desert city that rests near the California-Mexico border. These two cultures define his beloved hometown located in the Imperial Valley, and he blends the two to create a sound unlike any other.
Story | Ricky Rodas
Eddie Zuko has taken his life and injected it full force into “Made,” a catchy and melodic love letter to the Imperial Valley, and the loved ones that reside there. “In everyday life, it [family] influences my shit. It’s a sense of hard work ethic that shaped my moral compass for sure.” The music video for “Made” was released in 2017, and is currently at 143K views and rising.
Zuko takes the viewer on a trip through Imperial, from buying dope outfits at Fallas, loitering at the local donut shop, and chilling at his Nana’s house practically everyday.
Chillin at my Nanas eatin a lil sopita / ‘Andale come come caliento mas tortillas / Ay ay ch ch mijo no te olvides / Siempre dale gracias a diosito pa este día’, yeah yeah
His Nana would capitalize on these visits by ensuring her grandson’s well-being. Food was never an issue for Eddie. “She would always try to keep feeding you and feeding you even when you’re full; when I asked for 2 tortillas I got 6,” he said enthusiastically.
Faith was also instilled in young Eddie. Not one meal was eaten without asking for nourishment and good health for whom he and his family believed in. “[Faith is] very important for my grandma. [She] always reminded me to give grace and do a prayer before I ate; she goes to church every Sunday,” Zuko said. While not as religious as his beloved nana, he says it has shaped the way he lives.
“New school year tryna look flyer / Told my mom the mall but she took my ass to Fallas”
But with faith and a loving family, Zuko could not escape the social constructs of a growing teenager. Most wanted fresh apparel to impress their homies, and Zuko was no exception to the unavoidable bubble.
He and his mother had conflicting attitudes towards ‘looking fly.’ Eddie’s importance resided with the visual appeal, whereas his mother focused on saving money. She would take her son to Fallas, a discount store chain he describes as, “the cheapest; I would always end up with clothes from there. The irregular socks and shit.” It was a compromise.
Young Zuko was not discouraged, and was creative enough to put together quality outfits that made him look fly as hell. “I always came up on cool shit. I went to Ross a lot too and that’s where I’d flex. [I wore] Pro club, some skinny fit and some vans, that was usually the fit for that style.”
“Used to get the same thing every single time / Extra large sweet tea a lil bit of lime / Everybody loitered outside of Donut / Drinking on the weekend thought we was so grown up”
The city of El Centro is about 4 miles away from Imperial and is home to Donut Ave, the neighborhood hangout spot for Zuko and his homies. Simply referring to the store as “donut”, they would come here and hangout for hours until it was time to go home. Zuko shot one of the main scenes from the “Made” video here, where dozens of local youth showed up to sing along to the Imperial Valley’s new anthem.
“I posted it on IG and everyone pulled up. They all fucked with the song,” Zuko said. “This is hella important to me because it shows that they relate to it and there is a song specifically for people from my own town and where I come from.”
The hometown blessing means the world to artists such as Eddie Zuko because there is no greater privilege than touching the lives of people from the place that made you.