Written by Teresa Donnellan Photographed by Natasha Magino
Contributing Reporting from Shaakira DeLoatch
Beneath Conrado’s various streams of creativity runs a foundation of social responsibility. From his current pursuit of creating hip hop music to his talent for photography, Conrado uses his art to convey a social message through what he calls “artivism,” art that explores social issues through a documentarian lens. You can see and hear his latest work in the music video for his single, “Inspiracion.” The son of Honduran immigrants, Conrado grew up in a poor, diverse neighborhood of Alexandria, Va., outside of DC. As a result of a wild adolescence, he was incarcerated at a young age. When he returned to high school, he found a mentor in his former ninth grade teacher. “He spoke to me ... about my background and my history and what I really needed to learn about myself and how that’s important to become the man that I need to be,” Conrado said, “because at that time I was just thinking of dropping out, and I was just not really thinking about how education was essential.”
ARTVISM "Art that explores social issues through a documentarian lens"
He ended up graduating, having a son, getting married, and having a daughter. Now he’s working to put himself through college while providing for his family and creating art. Conrado first found a passion for art by writing poetry in middle school. Towards the end of high school, he was the president of his school’s poetry club and participated regularly at slams. He said writing spoken word poetry helped him develop “a better understanding of who I am as an artist and really dive into what I wanted to do.” He also began taking photographs in high school, eventually joining Streetmeetdc, a collaborative event between models and photographers that highlights different areas of the DMV. The DC creative community has afforded Conrado amazing opportunities, including being able to document the opening of the Eaton Hotel in DC. Calling himself an “artivist” rather than activist, Conrado tries to bring something he’s passionate about into all of his art. “I don’t really organize people or do stuff like that,” he said, shying away from the term “activist,” “but I do use my artwork to talk about certain issues.”
Conrado sees his art as a means of documenting and highlighting his community and his life, documenting it, and, in a way, committing it to history. You can currently view two of his photographs on display at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA. A year ago, Conrado branched out into music, specifically hip hop. “I’ve been blessed with mad opportunities and... rocking shows,” he said, adding, “Really, my background shaped who I am today because a lot of my music talks about the issues of being an immigrant, of coming from the block and not really having too many resources, and coming from places that you feel not powerful, and you feel like the world is always against you and no one really cares what you want to do or believes in you.” That frustration often comes through in his music, Conrado said, explaining, “That’s why I consider my music a really raw...rage-against-the-machine type of thing.”
Perhaps some of that angst is a result of the current political climate, as Conrado mentioned President Donald Trump’s use of the term “bad hombres” and generalizations about the Latinx community. “You start to feel attacked, and all these communities are being attacked because of that [rhetoric],” he said. “I feel like these communities are really at a point where they’re coming together…We really need to speak up and tell people that we are not as people are trying to portray us.” He added that members of the Latinx community are in every sphere of American society, saying, “We’re as American as every single community here.” “There’s so much I want to do,” Conrado said. He hopes to make a career out of his art, ultimately touring with his music in Latin America and the United States. He wants to collaborate with other socially conscious, talented artists. Conrado’s next hip hop project, “Know the Ledge,” will feature 7 tracks inspired by Latin American and 90s hip hop and will drop at the end of this month. He plans to tour the DMV performing his songs in early 2019. He urges his fellow artivists to stay true to themselves: “Do you,” he said. “Represent where you’re from...to the fullest.” You can keep up Conrado on instagram @conradomuluc and on Youtube at Conrado Muluc.