Latin Rapper El General Set for ‘FESTAC Explosion’


On stage, wearing a purple military jacket and flanked by two dancers, El General is one of Latin music’s most colorful figures. His two albums went platinum (sales of 100,000 in the Latin market) in no time, and among the medals he proudly wears on his jacket are MTV and Billboard awards.

But El General, who appears Sunday at the “FESTAC Explosion ‘93” at the Rainbow Lagoon in Long Beach, is regarded with skepticism by some Latin music purists, who condemn him for his banal lyrics and his dance-oriented sound.

The criticism doesn’t bother the 29-year-old Panamanian.

“I’m giving happiness, fun for my people,” says El General, a rapper in the Jamaican dancehall style. “My music gives them the chance to just go out there and dance with passion. It works for me, and it works for them.”


El General was born Edgardo Franco in Rio Abajo, Panama, the youngest of six children. He was singing with three childhood friends in the neighborhood streets until some local politicians asked him to perform for them. Soon after, he was one of the stars of Panama’s February Carnival.

He moved with his mother to New York in 1985 and completed two years at Medgar Evers College while working as a nightclub manager and trying to keep his music career alive. He released his first two singles, “Putun Tun” and “Te ves buena” (“You look good”) on the Gold Disk label in 1991. Both made the Top 10, and his career was in gear.

With two hit albums (“Move It With El General” and “The Power of El General”) and numerous awards, El General typifies the successful Latino performer who tells kids what’s good (school and hard work) and what’s bad (drugs).

“I want to be an example for my Latino and African race,” he says, “because every time I’m on stage I’m representing all of them.”

His appearance at the festival will give him a chance to present his music in a more substantial context than usual--he’ll share the stage with some of the top calypso and reggae artists in the world, including South Africa’s Lucky Dube and Grenada’s Mighty Sparrow. Was he honored by the invitation? Sure, but don’t forget he’s El General.

“It’s a great honor for me to be in this event, but they should also be honored to have me there, as El General and as a Latino.”