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The Psycho Realm

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Jack and older brother Duke make up the chicano (Mexican-American) hip-hop group that has long reigned as the undisputed king of the Los Angeles underground scene, cultivating an army of devoted fans known as the Sick Soldiers.

The first seeds of Psycho Realm were sown in the tough downtown Pico-Union neighborhood, right across the street from Doheny Park. First-generation Americans and the eldest two of the four Gonzalez boys, Jack and Gustavo, a.k.a. “Duke,” grew up in the contentious neighborhood in the mid- and late-1980s.

“Our side of town is the ‘Sick Side’ of town. They have the South Side, North Side, East Side, whatever. Our side is the Sick Side,” Jack explains over a lunch of Argentine Lomo and Mimosas on Hollywood’s Melrose Avenue one recent Sunday, fresh off a series of concert dates in Italy.

The patriarch of the Gonzalez family came to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 15 and supported his family by painting cars. Their house was filled with music: classic oldies, which surface prominently in Psycho Realm’s tracks, along with regional Mexican music and giants of the 1960s and ’70s like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix.

Immersed in hip-hop as a middle-school student, Jack’s neighborhood friend, Yonjo, got ahold of a record featuring a guy out of Miami rapping in Spanish. They threw it on the turntable and, inspired by what they heard, the boys wrote a Spanglish rap about all of the friends they grew up with and the growing specter of neighborhood gang warfare that would crest just a few years later in the early 1990s.

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