When the teacher asked her students to write down on a slip of paper what they wanted to be when they grew up, a young Santotzin (real name: Julius Gallegos) did not hesitate. In fourth grade, he knew his destiny was to be a rapper. He passed his slip proudly forward to the girl sitting in front of him. "What?" she asked, shocked. "You want to be a raper?" That day, Santotzin also learned his destiny did not lie in proficient spelling.

That was the early '80s in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Santotzin would rap with his friends on the playground, rewrite rhymes he'd heard on tapes, and think about rapping all day long. The rap-obsessed kid eventually found his way to Oregon in the mid-'90s and began hustling his tapes outside Blazers games and anywhere else he could find a willing audience. Santotzin's style then was a lot like it is now, full of imagery and color that's hard to absorb completely on a first listen. Even on a low- budget release, Santo possesses a polysyllabic, intensely lyrical flow uncommon in the "gangster" rap scene, and as for the story he tells—well, the reality of the street life is a lot more depressing than Fat Joe might have you believe.

In the years since his relocation from the 'Burque to Portland, Santotzin has released a pair of albums and is releasing a third, Late Nights & Dollar Beers.

Santotzin is one of the few emcees in Portland who has a real authenticity to the music he creates. He has been a gangster and a B-boy, and he exemplifies the struggle and tension from which hiphop springs. The first track on his mixtape, "The Gangster and the B-Boy," is probably the most incredible rap deconstruction of American politics and society you're likely to ever hear—unless Immortal Technique snorts a Tony Montana-sized pile of coke and subsequently jumps in the booth. Regardless of this internal split, Santo's music is unified in one very important way—all of it is dope.