Rico Suave

Rico Suave by krin.jpg

Date Aired
August 23rd, 2012
Running Time
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Todd plays "Rico Suave" on the piano

A one-hit wonder retrospective

Todd: Before Pitbull.

Clip of Pitbull - "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"
Pitbull: Si es verdad que tu eres guapa
Yo te voy a poner gozar
Tu tiene la...

Todd: Before Fat Joe.

Clip of Fat Joe - "Don Cartagena"
Fat Joe: ...squad motto, got beef we call Rallo
Dame Un Trago, he go to war wit a bottle

Todd: Before Cypress Hill.

Clip of Cypress Hill - "How I Could Just Kill a Man"
Cypress Hill: And my magnum takin out some puto's
Acting kinda loco

Todd (VO): Well, not really before Cypress Hill. Really, they came out around the same time.

Todd: But before/contemporaneous with all of those guys, there was one man who brought Latin hip-hop to the masses, a man who went by the single name of Gerardo, but shall ever be known by the nickname he bestowed upon himself in his breakthrough hit single.

Video for "Rico Suave"

Todd: [trilling along] Rico...Suave.

Todd (VO): With just those two words and one eternally shirtless torso, Gerardo created the new gold standard of male sophistication and sexuality. With his time in the spotlight, he elevated the long marginalized Latino community into the mainstream.

Todd: He was a groundbreaker.

Clip of Gerardo performing live

Todd: Truly, without him, we would likely not have the many [pictures of Antonio Banderas, Enrique Iglesias, and AngryJoe ] Hispanic sex symbols that today pervade our culture. But when you ask the eternal question, [Image of meme] "Quien es mas macho?" there can only be one answer.

Gerardo: Rico

Todd: And yet, this man who seemed poised to become hip-hop's first Latin superstar...

Todd (VO): ...dropped off the radar almost as quickly as he arrived, with "Rico Suave" being his only entry into the mainstream. Why is that? What happened? What could make a man this suave not have the staying power to become one of the bigger names in the music industry?

Todd: Well, let's take a look at Mr. Gerardo and find out what exactly made his rico-suaveness not last.

Before the fame

Montage of images starting with picture of Gerardo, city in Ecuador, Los Angeles, line of immigrants walking through desert, ending with...

Todd (VO): Gerardo Mejía was born in 1965 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. At the age of 12, he moved with his family to the Los Angeles area, and like many Hispanic immigrants in LA, Gerardo's family survived in their new home by doing menial, degrading work—accounting.

Todd: Gerardo only expected to follow in his father's footsteps and live the rest of his life in the grimy, ugly barrio of [picture of huge Outback Steakhouse] Glendale, California, but found a way out of that life of misery when he discovered his talent—dancing.

Montage of clips featuring Gerardo dancing

Todd (VO): Yes, his original plan was to escape the hard-scrabble of an accountant by becoming a professional dancer. And after winning a lot of local dance competitions, he got himself an agent who, through a fluke of luck, managed to divert Gerardo into his true calling—

Todd: ...acting.

Clips from Winners Take All, Can't Buy Me Love, and Colors

Todd (VO): Yeah, he was an actor for a while. Surely, you remember his crucial role as Ricky in the 80s teen comedy Can't Buy Me Love. You don't remember him in that? Well, perhaps you remember his slightly larger role in the crime drama Colors, for which he successfully bluffed his way into being cast as a Mexican gangbanger despite the fact that he was a kid from the suburbs with [picture of...] badminton trophies.

Bird (Gerardo): Listen, homes! There's always gonna be gangs, man. There's always gonna be fighting.

Todd (VO): So what does this say about him?

Todd: As an actor, he got cast as [stills from last two movies] an asshole high school jock and an LA gang member. Sounds like casting directors had decided the main attributes of his persona are youthful stupidity and cruelty, but I can't imagine these traits have any effect on his ability to sell himself as a credible ladies man.

Opening of Supercarrier

Todd (VO): He also starred in eight episodes of the Top Gun-ripoff show Supercarrier, a show which I am eternally grateful to find out exists.

Luis Cruz (Gerardo): Yeah, I was in the gangs. But now, I belong to a new gang, and we got rules. We got a code.

Todd (VO): Well, while he was pursuing acting, he also kept active in the music world, fronting a reggae band, but eventually moving on to hip-hop, cutting demos that he hoped would land him a record deal.

Todd: But could a Latino—particularly one from the suburbs and not the streets—ever have enough cred to break through into a hip-hop scene populated by black artists, [picture of MC Hammer] like this guy? Only one thing could break him through—sheer, raw talent...and his chronic shirtlessness.

The big hit

Todd: For bringing "Rico Suave" to the world, we have this man to thank.

Clip of "Maniac"
Michael Sembello: She's a maniac, maniac on the floor

Todd (VO): That is Michael Sembello of "Maniac" fame, and hopefully I'll get to him someday on this show. [Clip of Gerardo performing live] Anyway, as a music producer, he got his hands on Gerardo's demo and he signed him based on the strength of one song—a little number called...

Todd: ...say it with me, everyone...

Concert crowd: RICO...SUAVE!!!
Video for "Rico Suave"
Gerardo: Rico...Suave

Todd (VO): What does that mean? Translated, that means "rich and smooth," like [picture of...] Skippy peanut butter. And the ladies love that, just like they love "Rico Suave"...allegedly. Now, I only have three years of high school Spanish to figure out what he's saying here, but I'll try to be as accurate as possible here. Let's figure out what he's saying.

Gerardo: Seguro que han oído que yo soy educado (I'm sure you have heard that I am educated)
Soy un caballerito un chico bien portado (I'm a gentleman, a boy well-behaved)
Un joven responsible y siempre bien vestido (A responsible young man and always well-dressed)
Yo no se quien ha mentido (I don't know who lied)

Todd: Uh-huh. So the first lines of this song are a steady stream of unadulterated bullshit. Good to know.

Todd (VO): Okay, who am I kidding? This song is a terrible, ridiculous, almost Jersey Shoreian parody of unlikeable douchebags bragging unconvincingly about their sexual prowess.

Gerardo: The price you pay for being a gigolo

Todd (VO): Furthermore, one thing you can see him doing is taking cues from the other pop rappers of his day. Gerardo, as far as I can tell, combines the [clips of "Good Vibrations" by...] preening buffness of Marky Mark [...and "Ice Ice Baby"] with the obnoxious nasally whine of Vanilla Ice.

Vanilla Ice: Cookin' MCs like a pound of bacon

Todd: Seriously, close your eyes and imagine you don't know what this guy looks like.

Todd (VO): Does this sound like the man of your dreams, ladies?

Gerardo: There's not a woman that can handle a man like me
That's why I juggle two or three

Todd (VO): Or does he sound like [image of Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation] this?

Todd: For what it's worth, Gerardo does do a lot to sell himself as a smooth operator. Like, for example, when he brags...

Gerardo: My only addiction has to do with the female species
I eat 'em raw like sushi

Todd: Heh-heh. Hey, funny thing about that—he didn't even come up with the phrase himself. [Album cover of...] Raw Like Sushi was the debut album of Neneh Cherry.

Todd (VO): I think she meant "raw" in the sense of "real," not "raw" in the sense of Gerardo's oral sex technique being so terrible as to leave painful abrasions.

Todd: Although she could've been, I guess.

Todd (VO): Also, you can't tie him down.

Gerardo: You pop the question, that's it

Todd (VO): Although I don't know why you'd want to. On top of that, he doesn't want to meet your parents. And if you drag him over there, he will insult your mom's cooking straight to her face.

Gerardo: I'm used to good ol'-fashioned
Homestyle Spanish cooking
If I try that, I'll be puking

Todd: That doesn't rhyme.


Gerardo: Rico

Todd (VO): I'll give him this, though—he does sing those two words very, very well.

Gerardo: Suave

Todd (VO): I think he does actually sound kind of rich and smooth when he says "rico" or "suave." Of course, that word quickly dissipates the second he's asked to say anything other than that.

Gerardo: Would you rather have me lie
Take a piece of your pie and say bye
Or be honest and rub your thighs

Todd (VO): Okay, that has not aged well, but you have to understand, this is what sold in 1991. Songs like this can make you a big, big star. It's not Gerardo's fault gangsta rap came along a couple years later and wiped all that off the map. But Gerardo still had a few years left before that happened, and he still couldn't find another hit.

Todd: And furthermore, despite his success, he was decried by other Latinos who said that he was perpetuating an exaggerated negative stereotype that further marginalized their culture, and that he might as well have just put on a sombrero and shouted, "¡Andale, andale!"

Todd (VO): Clearly, he was going to have to do something else to win back some street cred.

Todd: Could he do it? No, he couldn't.

The failed follow-up

Performance of "We Want the Funk"
Gerardo: Yo! Mo' Ritmo!
We want the funk

Todd (VO): He released three more singles from his debut album, Mo' Ritmo. The second single was entitled "We Want the Funk". Now, lazy sampling was a major problem with early 90s crossover hip-hop, and of course, Gerardo was no exception to this. [Official video] His second hit obviously lifted the chorus from the classic song by the legendary George Clinton, [noticing] who is standing right there. Wait a minute, what the...!

George Clinton: Yeah, you're that Rico Suave. He's alright.

Todd: No. No, he's not. He's not, George.

Todd (VO): I suppose this was the beginning of George Clinton's "try and get in good with the kids" 90s comeback era, but man, did he strike out with that one. Maybe it's more obvious in retrospect; but seriously, George, of all the rappers you could've chosen to become relevant with, Rique Suavo was not him. As for the song, it did better than you'd expect, breaking into the Top 20. But there's a reason why it hasn't endured like "Rico Suave"—because we already have a "Rico Suave".

Gerardo: Don't say you weren't aware, so have yourself prepared
And beware, this is a one-time love affair

Todd (VO): Outside of its stolen chorus, "We Want the Funk" is basically the same exact song. It doesn't have anything to do with the funk or the pursuit thereof.

Gerardo: Smoother than James Bond you wake and were gone
So you wonder what you did wrong

Todd (VO): I mean, I've heard it, Rico. Give me something else.

Todd: Hopefully, he does a little better with his next song, [realizing as soon as he says it] "When the Lights Go Out".

Video for "When the Lights Go Out"
Gerardo: Miss Bobbie, here I'm contemplating your body
Magazine covers, laying all over
Been undercover, drooling like Rover

Todd: I have two comments on this.

Gerardo: When the lights go out

Todd (VO): 1, wow, you couldn't be trying harder to be Marky Mark.

Clip of "Good Vibrations"
Funky Bunch: Good vibration
It's got your sweet...

Todd (VO): 2, who is Miss Bobbie?

Gerardo: So Bobbie, what's it gonna be?

Todd (VO): Gerardo makes the strange choice of actually naming the girl he's trying to seduce, and this ruins the illusion that Rico is talking to you, nameless lady fan. But of course, none of these songs are meant for ladies anyway. Gerardo was quite upfront about the fact that he wrote the songs for, quote, "the Spanish male." [Picture of Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite] Got it, Pedro? This is for you!

Todd: And finally, we have a song called "Latin Till I Die (Oye Como Va)".

Video for ""Latin Till I Die (Oye Como Va)"

Todd (VO): Okay, too obvious sample aside, I'm glad to finally see Gerardo rap about something else besides women.

Gerardo: I'm Latin till I die

Todd: Of course, this is not that far away from his other singles, ethnic pride is clearly shown through all of his songs, but it's nice to see him focus on that rather than his increasingly tedious womanizing.

Gerardo: Viernes en la noche me siento bien grave (Friday in the evening, I'm feeling very serious)
no porque estoy enfermo sino que bueno tu ya sabes (Not because I'm sick but 'cuz I'm well, don't you know)
que sera otra rubia, pelo negro, pelirroja (Will it be a blonde, a brunette or a redhead?)
cual sera la suertuda que Gerardo esta noche escoja. (Who will be the lucky one that Gerardo chooses tonight?)

Todd: Or not.

Gerardo: Me amarro mi van-damme en la cabeza como siempre

Todd (VO): Also, is it sad that even though I can't speak the language, I can clearly tell that Gerardo's trying to be Tone Loc here?

Clip of Tone Loc - "Wild Thing"
Tone Loc: Workin' all week 9 to 5 for my money
So when the weekend comes I go get live with the honey

Todd (VO): All these songs are exactly the same. It's becoming quite abundantly clear to me that the reason Gerardo never scored a second hit is because he was a painfully limited person who had only one song in him.

Todd: [beat] And he put out five more albums. Uh, let's go.

Anything else of note?

Todd: None of Gerardo's five other albums charted. [Album cover of Dos] His second album had a song on it called "My Name Is Not Rico", [cover of I Am Not Spock] Leonard Nimoy-style. But that wasn't the single. The single was titled simply [single cover of...] "Love", and I'm gonna assume not in the [picture of heart-shaped Earth] peace and love for all mankind, kind of way. Let's play it.

Video for "Love"

Todd: You've gotta be kidding me. [long pause] Okay...

Clip of PM Dawn - "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss"
Prince Be: Careless whisper from a careless man
A neutron dance for a neutron fan

Todd (VO): This is "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss" by PM Dawn. They don't play it much anymore, but it was a #1 hit back in '91.

PM Dawn: Baby, you send me

Todd (VO): You may notice a few minor resemblances between the two songs, like the whispered vocals, smooth R&B hook, chord structure, the instrumentation, the fact that one's a complete and total ripoff of the other in every conceivable way,...

Todd: ...a few other minor details like that.

Todd (VO): This is blatant. His Latino critics were right—he is perpetuating negative stereotypes, namely that they steal and that they're lazy. No, no, I can't listen to this anymore.

Todd: Okay. Well, why don't we check out the single from his third album, "Maria Elisa"

Video for "Maria Elisa"
Gerardo: Ven pa' ca nena estas sabrosa,
acercate un poquito pa' decirte una cosa.

Todd (VO): At this point, pretty much all of his songs were in Spanish. The Latino community never embraced him anyway, but he did score one more hit on the Latin charts with this one. Let's see if I can try to translate this for you.

Girl: Rico pero no tienes nada de suave. (Hey, aren't you the moron who sang "Rico Suave"?)
Gerardo: Mira que creida eres, pero me gustas asi que antes que te enteres (No, that wasn't me. I swear you were thinking of someone else.)
Girl: No soy como las otras, soy bien celosa. (Yes, you are. I recognize your stupid hair.)
Gerardo: Nena que quieres que haga, son unas pegajosas. (You are correct. I am a ridiculous buffoon.)
Girl: No me importa me las botas o te vas (Don't touch me.)

Todd (VO): No, that's not what he's actually saying, it's just him flirting with this girl and her being too polite, I assume, to just straight up tell him no. I'm not gonna translate this, I'm...I'm not listening to this anymore.

Todd: I'd very much like to tell you that he was reduced to selling t-shirts on the side of the road, but...

Clip of Gerardo

Todd (VO): ...he actually did quite well for himself after this as a record executive for Interscope. Among other things, he discovered [clip of "Escape" by...] Enrique Iglesias, although I would argue that the son of the [album cover of Julio Iglesias - 1100 Bel Air Place] most successful Latin singer of all time does not need to be discovered. That's like saying the Houston Rockets discovered [picture of...] Jeremy Lin. [Clip of "Ugly" by...] Gerardo also discovered Southern white rapper Bubba Sparxxx, a once-promising artist who unfortunately is only known nowadays for this.

Clip of Bubba Sparxxx and the Ying Yang Twins - "Ms. New Booty"
Ying Yang Twins: Booty, booty, booty, booty, rockin' everywhere
Booty, booty, booty, booty, rockin' everywhere
Booty, booty, booty, booty, rockin' everywhere

Todd: So you have Gerardo to thank for that too. [Two sarcastic thumbs up]

Clip of "No Me Podran Vencer"

Todd (VO): The fact that he was an executive probably explains a lot in how he was able to keep putting out albums. At some point, he got old and started making Christian music. I'm not a fan of worship music when I actually understand the language, so I can't imagine I'd have much use for this.

Todd: Although I guess he's doing okay for himself, so...whatever.

Did he deserve better?

Todd: I hate this moron.

Todd (VO): He's j...he's just annoying. If I never have to hear that nasally whine again, I will be quite happy. Maybe he was just unlucky enough to hit it big at a time that it aged phenomenally quickly. It seemed out-of-date just a year after it came out, but surely there must be one nice thing I can say about him.

Todd: I guess you could legit make the case that he was a trendsetter.

Todd (VO): Whatever else you want to say about his level of talent, he did prove that there was a market for Latinos in rap, and that Spanish language hip-hop could succeed in the mainstream. So in that sense, you could call him a pioneer—the first rapper to prove that there was more room for people than just black or even just white.

Todd: In that regard, "Rico Suave" is an important historical milestone, regardless of its actual quality. [beat] Oh, wait, I forgot Mellow Man Ace.

Clip of Mellow Man Ace - "Mentirosa"
Mellow Man Ace: Cause right now you're just a liar
A straight mentirosa (who me?)
Today u tell me something
Y manana es otra cosa

Todd: Crap, that guy was first. Okay, Gerardo is a moron of no significance whatsoever. Good night.

Closing tag song: Weird Al Yankovic - "Taco Grande"

"Rico Suave" is owned by Interscope Records
This video is owned by me

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