Entertainer extraordinaire

Published 9:05 am Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Whether it’s on the field or on a stage, Albert Lea High School student Jairo Campos has tried to entertain the people in the seats.

Campos went from wallflower to entertainer extraordinaire after attending a less-than-thrilling middle-school dance in seventh grade and has been entertaining classmates ever since.

After watching everyone mull around while the disc jockey played top-40 music at his first dance, Campos became the entertainment — breakdancing and rapping for the crowd of students.

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It was his first impromptu performance, but he got his start in performing in the fifth grade. He has since become a prodigious hip-hop artist.

Campos recently released his third album “The Mix: Tape III” and has a growing group of fans at the high school. He’s performed at the annual talent show, Tiger’s Roar, in a number of capacities — rapping, breakdancing and singing.

He is also the co-captain of the boys’ soccer team at Albert Lea. Campos plays in the midfield and has tried to balance his passion for soccer and music. Both have been intertwined with him since an early age and he has noticed the improvements in each as he gets older.

“People have seen the progress and soccer and have seen the success in music,” he said.

Campos took a new direction with his latest album. After traveling to a studio to make his first two albums and using beats that already existed, he made a change.

“Different hip-hop artists bring different styles to hip hop,” Campos said. “I said, ‘How about I try it, let me do something out there — my own style, my own concept, my own lyrics.’”

He’s done much of the work on his own, learning things on the fly through the web and on television. He taught himself breakdancing by watching films and videos on the web. He said that it was a lot of trial and error when it came to breakdancing, but outside of a few sprained ankles and wrists, it has worked out well. He breakdances with a group of friends and he designs the choreography based largely on what he has seen before.

“I’ve never had a teacher,” he said.

Last summer, Campos got some surprise help when he went to visit family in California for a month. He learned that his cousin produced beats and the trip quickly turned into work. The two worked quickly and Campos came home armed with new material to produce his third album.

From a computer at home Campos constructs his music with editing software that he purchased. He doesn’t build the beats, but has them e-mailed to him from his cousin in California.

He has converted a closest into a rudimentary studio where he lays down vocals that he later edits on the computer.

For his first two albums he traveled to St. Paul to work in the studio but found he could accomplish the same sound, if not better, working from home for less money.

“It got to the point during the summer that I went online and bought a program, Autotune Home Recording Studio,” Campos said. “It got to the point where it would be nice if I could do it here.”

A microphone, $400, and a few e-mails were all he needed to compose his third album. His music has caught on with students and teachers as well. In fact the first three people who bought his new album were teachers.

“I try to make songs for every type of person,” Campos said.

There’s no foul language in his songs; he’s made a point of that. His songs focus on his life and range from traditional hip-hop songs to more dance club like songs. He cited Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne as influences, and it’s clear their style of hip-hop has rubbed off on Campos’ style. He said he respects West more than Lil’ Wayne because West doesn’t rap about selling drugs or how much money he has, instead he raps about his life.

“I’m talking about real life situations — still good music,” Campos said. “He (Kanye West) doesn’t necessarily have to rap about what hip hop is known for.”

Keeping the language clean and sending a positive message with his music is an important piece. He’s traveled to other schools to deliver messages to other students with his rhymes. His latest album includes tracks like, “Don’t Give Up (Dreams).”

Campos honed his craft at Youth for Christ’s The Rock during open mic nights. He made an impression on Josh Edwards, who worked there at the time. Edwards traveled to high schools and delivered motivational messages through music. After hearing Campos he decided to bring him along to some of the venues.

Campos said his mother, Guadalupe, is another big influence musically. She was a songwriter, but never got the chance to further her songwriting.

“She really wanted to do something with her music, but never quite made it,” Campos said.

Campos has not only inherited his musical talent from her, but also her dream of performing music.

“I’m trying to get that done for her,” he said.

Campos said that his mother has bags full of lyrics that she wrote when she was younger. He even used some of them for a song off his first album “Game Breakers.”

“She has bags of lyrics, the paper is even yellow from how old it is,” he said. “I ended up putting a big chunk of her verse in my song. My mom has been so supportive.”

Guadalupe said she was surprised to find out that her son had started making music because she never had told her children about her music before.

Campos was involved in orchestra, but later decided he was more geared toward breakdancing and designing choreography.

His second album “All-Star Mix-Tape” sold 60 copies in two weeks. His third album sold 74 copies in two weeks.

He’s not close to being finished making albums yet. He has plans to record two more albums before he graduates high school. He’s already started work on his fourth album days after he released his third.

Campos will make a return appearance at The Rock at 7 p.m. Monday. It will be the first time in nearly four years he has performed there.