Bodega Bamz: “I grew up in Spanish Harlem on 119th St. between 2nd and 3rd Ave., Building 222, Apartment 1D. My father was straight from the Dominican Republic, my mom was from Puerto Rico. I grew up in the era were I had to jump over crack vials and see lines of fiends right outside my door. The block I grew up on is notorious for that. The most famous block of Spanish Harlem is 119th St. between 2nd and 3rd Ave. That’s where I grew up.
“My dad was real strict, he was the enforcer. He was real military-like when he was at home. He wasn’t usually home because he was working the graveyard shift so I’d rarely see him. My mom was more lenient. She was more hip and younger. She was the type to slip me cookies under the table, so to speak.
“I grew up in a very religious household and had a Pentecostal Christian upbringing. I went to church right around the corner. I grew up in that church. I used to be a preacher in my church and I used to be in church plays. I don’t regret one bit of it. I have a connection with God to this day.
I was very passionate about acting, I still am. There used to be this show called Reading Rainbow. When I was seven, my mom took me to be a part of the show and I read for one of the directors.
“I don’t go to church anymore, but I did go on Good Friday. I still have a spiritual connection with God. I feel the need to always incorporate that into my music. God is where I got my talent from. I’m not into religion because religion is man made. I don’t need church because it’s a place to worship with other fellow members, but the real issue is between you and God.
“My first passion was being in film. Growing up in church, I was in dramas. I was very passionate about acting, I still am. There used to be this show called Reading Rainbow. When I was 7, my mom took me to be a part of the show and I read for one of the directors. I wanted to meet the Black dude in the show [LeVar Burton] but they never called me back. Fuck those motherfuckers.
“We used to do a lot of dramas that were Bible stories and one of the stories we did was The Prodigal Son. We did a lot of Christmas dramas. I was in a lot of dramas outside of church too. It was inner city kid shit, but movies and film and art have always been a big inspiration. Way before I was heavily into the whole rap shit, we loved movies.
“As a kid, my father would take me and my little brother Ohla to the Harlem School of Arts so I could learn how to play piano and Ohla could play the drums. My mom used to put Beethoven on before I used to go sleep. So music has always been a part of my life, whether it be from church, my mom playing Beethoven, or going to Harlem School and playing the piano. Every part of my life has been leading up to this part right now.”