It’s 9 a.m. when I walk into Peter Santos’ home, where the smell of freshly brewing coffee fills the living room. Still sleepy-eyed with lightly tousled hair brushing his shoulders, the Metairie native offers me a warm cup of joe before cracking open his sliding patio door to admire the sunny weather.
Santos is comfortably dressed in a plain white T-shirt, black joggers with a cheetah print stripe and floral Nike sandals, and the day’s conversation flows as easily as his carefree outfit.
Santos is known on stage as Olde Spanish. He’s a rapper, music producer, and a no-frills, all-around creative. When he’s not working at Guitar Center, he’s writing songs, recording music or making beats in his at-home studio on Brightside Drive.
Most nights, he stays up until 1 a.m., tweaking and perfecting songs—but it’s nothing new for him. Santos first learned to play the guitar when he was 12. In high school, he played the synthesizer in a rock band and started freestyle rapping by his junior year.
“When I was a kid, my eldest brother introduced me to Spanish rap and old school hip-hop artists like The Notorious B.I.G., A Tribe Called Quest and Nas,” Santos says. “That was like my first influence in the music world.”
Santos’ family moved from Ecuador to Louisiana when he was 4. His smooth, bilingual and conversational sound was birthed from his Spanish roots and the ’90s hip-hop he grew up on. Through his music, he shares pages of his life story. On his last album, Olde Spinach, he raps about everything from religion and politics to his father’s death and depression.
In the single “Life is Loss,” he sprinkles catchy rhymes, wordplay and alliteration over the funky, steady tempo and a classic hip-hop beat: “Yeah, I feel selfish writing about my feelings / At night I can’t sleep, and I just stare at ceilings / Our dreams seem seamless, but change like the seasons / We had something good; I’m sorry that I ceased it.”
Santos is more than a lyricist, though. He records and produces most of the music himself. In 2018, he started Cult 45 Entertainment, a music studio and production company named after Cult 45, his five-person hip-hop collective. The business provides local musicians with a recording studio for rent and audio engineering services. Last year, Santos also hosted his first 45 Mini Fest at Beauvoir Park showcasing local acts from a variety of genres.
Artists like Michael Armstead and Smooth Cat and the 9th Life headlined the 20-act lineup for the debut festival. This year, Santos plans to create a more intimate and diverse feel at the 45 Mini Fest on June 1. The event will feature fewer musicians to free up time for longer sets and other entertainment, including a fashion and drag show. Headliners include Michael Armstead, Baby in the 90s, Joe Scott, Ria Rosa and Lafayette band Mangata.
In other creative pursuits, Santos partnered with his friend Dillon Lowe (a former 225 contributing writer) to launch their latest project, Mixed Mantra. The online media platform covers local and national music, art and culture. The website features music and art reviews, news coverage, photo galleries and videos from concerts.
As a man wearing many hats, Santos says one of his main career goals is to help people feel connected. Whether his listeners relate to his pain, his lyrics or feel connected through his festivals and website, he wants to leave a greater impact than solely being a popular music artist.
“My music started getting good when I stopped worrying about fame,” he says. “I might not have many songs that get people dancing, but I make music that lets people get to know me for who I am. It’s been super helpful to get my troubles off my chest and have my community and strangers say they understand what I’m going through.” soundcloud.com/oldespanish
This article was originally published in the June 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.