How one ten-year-old gun toting gang banging alcoholic went on to become Belize’s number one recording artist after a chance meeting Jay Z and L.A. Reid - By Jasmyne A. Cannick
It was almost a remake of the now infamous scene from the movie “Coming to America.” You know the scene where Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) is recognized as a royal Prince by a native from his fictional country of Zamunda. As his fellow Zamundan begins to bow and make gestures to him an obviously embarrassed Murphy tries to act graciously while at the same time keep his real identity hidden from the public while on his quest to find a wife.
Though not a royal prince from an African nation; Daniel Cacho is almost the equivalent as he is the current number one recording artist in his native country Belize. In Los Angeles which just happens to be home to one of the largest Belizean population outside of Belize, it’s no surprise that while walking through the Slauson Swapmeet recently, the Prince of Belize as he is commonly referred to, was accosted by a throng of Belizean teenage girls who couldn’t believe they just ran into their favorite singer.
Following in the line of other famous immigrant recording artists who now call Los Angeles home while having superstar status in their native countries like Cameroon’s Marcel Bwanga and Kenya’s Richie Longomba, Daniel Cacho, more commonly known as Lova Boy is currently Belize’s top recording artist.
Having broken his country’s record for the longest running video in the number one spot and most requested song, Lova Boy just received the news that he’s been nominated for Artist of the Year and his hit song “Tornado” has been selected for Song of Year at Belize’s equivalent of the Grammy Awards, the Belizean Music Awards. This is news that would have most recording artists popping champagne bottles and celebrating, but the humble Lova Boy sees the nomination as culmination of a series of events in his life all leading up to this moment.
Belonging to the Garifuna peoples, Black Caribs, Lova Boy is the son of a mother who came to America from Dangriga in southern Belize during the 80s in pursuit of the American dream and only to be distracted by drugs, Lova Boy was raised by his grandmother and physically abusive uncle.
“My first memory is being found in the bushes by my uncle who picked me up and put me on the back of his beach cruiser and took me to my grandmothers,” Lova Boy reflects. Like so many other children of his generation whose parents was either absent or addicted to drugs, Lova Boy credits his grandmother with giving him love, structure, and discipline.
A well-known traditional Punta singer, Elvira Lambey (Guribiyuwa) was one of Lova Boy’s earliest musical influences. But still, with his father elsewhere, a missing mother, and an abusive uncle to contend with, it wasn’t long before Lova Boy started to get into trouble and when his grandmother died it only complicated matters for the young man.
“I can remember being 8 or 9 years old and asking questions about my mother,” Lova Boy somberly recalls. “We were from a small town where everyone knows everyone so it seemed normal to ask visiting and touring Americans had they seen my mother. I remember thinking America was as small as Belize so if they were from America, they must have seen her.”
Missing his mother and father and the love that parents pass onto their children and living in abject poverty with an abusive uncle, he shifted his focus to his friends and their band.
“We made our own instruments that we called a trap set or a combo,” he says. “We used to drink klim—that’s powdered milk—and we’d take the cans and two sticks and make a cross for the drum set. To get the different sounds we’d use different size cans. Then we’d get a broomstick and put a piece of foam on it and add string for wire and that’s really how I started.”
In those days, Lova Boy says that playing with his friends in the band and practicing was all that he had to look forward to everyday.
“We built everything ourselves, the entire process was so beautiful and brought us together and I am still friends with those same kids today.”
A lot older and wiser, Lova Boy can see now that as a child his inability to process and articulate his emotions turned into anger and eventually a ten-year-old gun toting Blood gang member—who was an alcoholic.
Los Angeles’ war on gangs during the 90s saw mass deportations of Blood gang members back to Belize. Often times seen as a new family option for street youths like Lova Boy, it wasn’t long before he became a fulltime gang member at a time when cocaine was being flown from Colombia to Los Angeles, guns were being shipped from Los Angeles to the streets of Belize, and shootouts and funerals were common occurrences.
By the late 90s, Lova Boy had all but given up his love of music for life in the rough streets of Belize and then he received a phone call that would change his life forever. Off of drugs and working, Lova Boy’s mothers starts to send for each of her kids to come live with her in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica.
Before Lova Boy can make the trip, he must leave his rural town and live with another family in the city to learn how to adapt to life in the city and by another name; a name that will get him into America.
He does this and is successful coming to America at the age of 14. But after years of estrangement from his mother, he can only refer to her as “Miss” and “Ma’am.” He’s also fully indoctrinated into life as a member of a gang and so it wasn’t long before he was introduced to America’s juvenile justice system with stints in various camps and facilities including Los Padrinos and Sylmar—one of which proved to be a turning point in his life.
While in a juvenile hall camp, Lova Boy joined a writing group and began writing poetry. Upon his release, staff members who had quickly identified his talent, asked him to come back and lead workshops for youths in the same position he was in—something that he still does to this day.
Lova Boy managed through all of this to graduate from St. Michael’s Catholic School in South Los Angeles with his high school diploma. A graduate, and now a legal US resident, it’s about this time that Lova Boy decided to focus on his music fulltime, something that he’d put to the side during much of his youth.
He begins by performing at reggae shows developing a following and eventually meets a representative with the famed Westlake Recording Studios (Michael Jackson, Missy Elliot, The Neptunes, Justin Timberlake). It wasn’t long before he was flown to New York to meet with then Def Jam Recordings president Jay Z and Grammy Award-winning record executive, songwriter, and record producer L.A. Reid.
Passing himself off as a reggae artist, L.A. Reid was impressed with the young Lova Boy but couldn’t make a decision on whether or not to sign him and deferred to Jay Z. Equally impressed but unsure as to how to market him, it’s Jay Z who tells Lova Boy to go back home to Belize and blow up there and to come back and see him. Words that Lova Boy never forgot and spent the past couple of years trying to bring to fruition.
In 2004, Lova Boy immediately went to work on re-branding his career, image, and music style—starting with transitioning from the popular reggae style of music to Punta Rock or Belizean Punta—a form of the traditional punta rhythm of the Garifuna people of Honduras, Belize and Guatemala.
Having no real money to speak of and no label to back him, Lova Boy put together a team of his friends and supporters and took his sound from the streets of Los Angeles back home to Belize.
In 2011, after releasing his first album Grand Opening, his song “Tornado” broke the record for longest running video at number one and earned him the Song of the Year award as well as a nomination for Artist of the Year at this year’s Belizean Music Awards making him a household name—no small feat in a county where only 70% of the population has a television and even less have access to the internet. Compared to America where there is no shortage of television stations to choose from, Belize has only 7 television broadcast stations for a population of 333,200.
With a career just beginning to take off, Lova Boy was tapped to work on projects with the Black Eyed Peas, The Fugees’ Pras, and rapper and producer Warren G, something that he credits to his versatility as an artist where he can go effortlessly from Punta Rock, to reggae, all mixed in with a little bit of hip-hop.
His song “Get Dis Money” is currently featured in the hit film “The Confidant” starring rapper David Banner and Boris Kodjoe. Today he’s reconnected with his mother who he says is one of his best friends.
More recently, Lova Boy just completed his fifth music video for his song “You Da Wife,” which will be released in Belize for Christmas.
Along with the new album, Lova Boy is working with noted filmmaker and West Coast hip hop historian Gregory Everett (“The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers”) on a feature film project starring Lova Boy to be shot in Belize next year.
Despite his busy schedule, he still makes time to work with at-risk youth in juvenile detention facilities, schools and on the streets of Los Angeles to help them discover and develop their voices as writers, artists and human beings. Some of the programs he’s affiliated with include the award-winning Street Poets United and the Youth Justice Coalition where his work continues to be recognized by both politicians and his peers.
With several performances scheduled in Belize, including two over the Christmas holiday and the Belizean Music Awards in January, Lova Boy isn’t slowing down now. Excited about the Belizean Music Awards Lova Boy says that he is just getting started.
“I’ve still got a long ways to go,” he says. “I’m just getting started. I just want to make good music, take care of my family, raise my son to be a man, and represent Belize and the Garifuna people.”
The question is, now that he's taken Belize by storm are Jay Z, L.A. Reid, and mainstream America still interested in Lova Boy? We hope so.
Lova Boy will perform live in Belize Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For more information on the shows and to connect with him, log onto www.lovaboymusic.com.
Lova Boy - Tornado Video