BY STEPHEN REAL
“This is the year, this is our year. The year of the rabbit,” Manny Padilla says with a smile reflecting pure confidence. “We’re going to make it happen this year.”
Padilla and his friend Curtis Rivera make up a rap duo called Stone Ninjaz. They plan to release their first full-length album in May, and are preparing for an adventure every band dreams about: touring.
Before they were rappers, Padilla and Rivera attended Pima Community College. Padilla was a media arts major and Rivera was a graphic design major.
The idea for Stone Ninjaz came about when they made a movie.
“We were making a short film about martial arts urban ninjas,” Padilla says. “I was making music for the film on my keyboard. We then made a couple of tracks with these beats, and we ended up liking it.”
The Stone Ninjaz found themselves at DV8 for their first show, performing just before Too Short.
“We were surprised at how many people were familiar with our music,” Rivera says. “We didn’t expect it.”
It wasn’t Padilla’s first time performing on stage, but it was a first for Rivera.
“I wasn’t nervous. I was more anxious,” he says. “It’s different from the booth. On the stage, it’s faster.”
Unlike typical groups that rap about women and “bling,” the Stone Ninjaz rap about life experiences.
Padilla and Rivera say they place close attention to all aspects of performing.
“We treat it as a profession,” Padilla says. “We want to make sure it’s perfect. When you practice anything, you want to make your weak points your strong points.”
Since their debut performance, the Stone Ninjaz have performed at Dunbar Auditorium, Club Congress and Vaudeville.
The Stone Ninjaz have also created a music video to accompany their song, “No Way.” They shot the video, which can be seen on YouTube, using a webcam from Padilla’s Macbook.
“It was actually really hard,” Padilla says. “The webcam recorded the visual stuff, but it didn’t get the audio. We had to go back in and get the audio in synch.”
Rivera says Padilla does all the production art. “We share the promotional stuff and I balance it out with my own ideas, but Manny is the hard drive.”
The Stone Ninjaz’ main focus this year is touring and expanding their fan base. By using YouTube and Facebook, they’ve received offers to play in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Texas and Argentina.
“One of our friends was promoting our music on Craig’s List,” Padilla says. “A lady from Atlanta heard our music and liked it. She wanted us to come and perform, and she said that she would even pay for our plane tickets.”
Rivera notes that music has changed. “The Internet is the best way to get yourself out there,” he says.
Their first full-length album, “The Art of Flow,” should be released in about two months. They self-produced the album on their own label, String Theory.
“This is an album two years in the making,” Padilla says.
He recounts one example of their wide-ranging supporters.
“There was this guy in Iraq who was holding one of our shirts up in front of the Iraqis,” he says. “To see support like that is just amazing.”
Check out the Stone Ninjaz on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube or Craig’s List.