Kumar
Hip hop artist

Although he has yet to release an album of his own, Kumar is far from unknown in Havana. He contributes two stand-out raps on "A Diario", the recently released first album from Telmary. He appears as an actor in Benito Zambrano's "Habana Blues", whose soundtrack includes Kumar's "No Se Vuelve Atras". And his name seems to crop up in every discussion of Cuban hip hop.

In this way Kumar might be comparable to a rapper like Snoop Dogg, who was heard on the theme song for the film "Deep Cover" and on Dr. Dre's 1992 "The Chronic", making his fans desperate for "the next episode" before releasing anything under his own name. Then again, that comparison is misleading. There's not much of the "gangsta" in Kumar. He's modest nearly to the point of timidity, and his entourage consists of his brother, who acts as his manager, and that's about all. No tributes to pharmaceutical consumption, no boasts of sexual prowess or inflicting damage on enemies. This is not to say that Kumar's lyrics lack bite or that his stage shows lack punch. One reviewer compared him to the Beastie Boys for his "revolutionary hip hop speech connected to the volcanic energy of the rock and roll." Another likened him to Bob Marley, presumably for his dreadlocks.

What's certain is that Kumar has a gift for articulating the shared black experience, the heritage that connects him to generations of the displaced and dispossessed. "You don't ask who we are, much less who we were," he sings in "No Se Vuelve Atras". "The important thing is not how we arrived or whether we're here. It's what we represent…."

He started out in 1998 with an outfit calling themselves "Duros Como el Acero" (Hard as Steel), adopting El Menor as his nom de rap. He went on to become part of the influential Familias Cuba Represent collective, subsequently popping up on albums and compilations and confirming his decision to make music his career. In 2003 he produced a demo of his own songs under the name Kumar, and today participates in another artist's collective, Interactivo, which also includes Yusa, Telmary, William Vivanco and producer Roberto Carcassés.