MoPOP’s Sound Off! gives up-and-coming artists mentorship from industry leaders, entrée into an artistic community invested in their growth, connections with peer musicians, and the chance to showcase their original music in MoPOP’s iconic Sky Church venue.
This years’ three live showcases — set for February 19, February 26, and March 5 — raise the bar for an all-ages show with a first-class experience at MoPOP for performers and the audience alike.
REFUGIO is a Mexican hip-hop artist who uses his music to express his wide array of feelings regarding social, racial, and economic inequality. REFUGIO tackles injustice through his raps, no matter where his voice lies, REFUGIO's emotion is always felt. As someone who identifies as bisexual, REFUGIO tackles themes of identity. As someone who grew up in a traditional Mexican household, his sexuality and expression has always been a point of struggle, and though he is still figuring it out over instrumentals, REFUGIO aims to be a voice for kids like him that he never had growing up.
We took some time to get to know REFUGIO ahead of the rapper's Sound Off! 2022 performance on February 19 at MoPOP. Check out what they had to say!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as an artist!
REFUGIO: "My name is REFUGIO, I'm from Vancouver, Washington, and just a little bit about my music, I get a lot of inspiration from, starting out, listening to a lot of 90s rap, that kind of classic like NAS, Eminem, Wu-Tang type of thing. Then started getting into more introspective stuff, like a lot of that Kanye, Common, Lupe Fiasco type of thing. So I take a lot of inspiration and trying to speak my experience and offer my perspective. One of the things I love about hip-hop is that everyone has their own story. Everyone has their own experiences that no one else can replicate. And so I really try to offer my experience through my music and just try to have people relate, and hear different perspectives on their own."
What was your reaction when you found out you were going to be part of Sound Off! 2022?
REFUGIO: "When I saw the email I was hyped. ... Ever since I saw that it's been one of the things I'm most looking forward to because it's that exposure. The kind of music I make is all about exposure. I just want the most amount of people to hear what I have to say, you know? So it's really cool. Excited to be part of the whole program, because obviously it seems like something that's just made for artists to succeed."
What does it mean to you to be part of this community of up-and-coming artists within Sound Off! 2022?
REFUGIO: "You see all these artists around you and you see that you're not alone in this journey. There's so many other people who are talented and passionate about what they're doing and you bounce off that a lot. For me, I really just like listening to people and seeing what people do, seeing what they care about. It gives me that drive to translate into my own thing. So it's really cool. I just like listening to other artists' music. I'm like, 'OK! This is really cool.' And I mean maybe in the future we work together. Maybe we just support each other. That kind of stuff is really cool to me."
How would you describe your music?
REFUGIO: "I've kind of been doing different things with my music lately, but I think the biggest way of describing music is personal. It's unfiltered. it's honest, sometimes it's angry. But again, it comes from that place of just wanting to express how I feel about things, whether they're going on in the world or just in my own circle or my own head type of thing. But most of all, it's personal, for sure."
Why is it important for you to express personal emotions, feelings, or thoughts through your music?
REFUGIO: "Music is really the biggest and sometimes the only way that I get things out. Like, if I don't really know how to deal with something or I'm mad or frustrated about something, the first thing that I think of is, 'How would I write lyrics about this?' So it's not only personal just for me, but also because coming from the experience that I come from, there's not a lot of people who speak about some of the things that I speak about and speak from the same places that I speak from. I don't really know any other queer, Mexican rappers. That's just a very specific niche in music that our voice is not represented anywhere. I want to put my experiences out for people like me to finally have that person that they can relate to."
What has it been like as a young creative navigating the pandemic the last couple of years? Have you been able to pull any positives from it?
REFUGIO: "I think if I had to say something positive about these last couple years, it would just be that you get a lot of time to think. Definitely. I think it's put me in a situation where I was not able to do some of the things, real life-wise or career-wise, and not having that go as it should have gone opened me up to make more music. Not only time-wise, but also just inspiration. Like I felt like so many things about everything going on, not just with the pandemic, but just like life through the pandemic. So obviously with my music being personal, it gave me a lot of things to write about and time to experiment, time to find different things about myself."
Outside of music, do you have any pop culture passions?
REFUGIO: "I'm definitely a music-heavy person. I think the way I see music is like the way other people will have no problems watching a movie for three hours, but then it's not everyone's cup of tea to sit there in silence listening to an album for an hour. But I love doing that. I like TV shows, obviously everyone watches TV, and I video games, just casual stuff. But I just be so wrapped up in the music."
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE AT SOUND OFF! 2022...
We know you may be curious about health and safety protocols, so here are the extra steps we’re taking for these in-person Sound Off! showcases in our 140,000 square foot museum:
Performers will be separated from the audience by a 20-foot buffer.
All guests 12 years and older will be required to show proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR COVID test taken within 72 hours prior to the event.
Masks are required for guests 3 years and older.
Please only bring what you need as coat check is currently closed.
There will be no concessions sold during Sound Off! events. Please come hydrated and consider eating before you arrive.
Hand sanitizer dispensers are available throughout the museum.