CEO of Kontraband Beatz, Antonio Washington is an easy-going guy with high ambitions. Photo by Daniel Mondragón

Daniel Mondragón is a 25-year-old photographer who was born and raised in the Mission. As part of our series Young Mission Talent, Mondragón takes portraits of his favorite young artists of the Mission District and talks with them about their art.

Antonio Washington is a 26-year-old music producer who was born and raised on Bartlett St. in the Mission. He has been producing since he was 13 (half of his life) and created his own independent label Kontraband Entertainment when he was 18. It was then when Antonio says he started taking it seriously. Today Antonio has a single under the name GunPlay being sold on Amazon and iTunes featuring recently departed artist The Jacka as well as Despize, another Mission artist. 

CEO of Kontraband Beatz wearing his very own clothing line. Photo by Daniel Mondragón

I met Antonio in 2008 when I first started photography. He was already making music but during my two-year stay in Los Angeles from 2012-2014 I noticed he was increasingly making more noise through social media. He was collaborating with big-name artists like E 40 and The Jacka, Dominic Newton, a  37-year-old rap artist who was shot and killed a earlier this month in East Oakland.  The friend’s death was still very much on his mind. 

“We had a lot of work in store for the public and what happened to him was really a tragedy,” says Antonio  “Rest in Peace to a great friend, mentor, and my brother The Jacka.” Antonio says this will only fuel his work and he will carry lessons taught by the 37-year old rapper forever.

Antonio (Right) with recently deceased rapper “The Jacka,” (Center) who Antonio worked with and admired greatly.

Antonio  has worked with other artists including Beeda Weeda, Cokeboys and Killa Tay.

¨I don´t take breaks, ¨ says Antonio with a huge grin on his face. “I have beats and my clothing label just dropped. I am always making moves with my music or with my artists. It never stops.¨

Highly ambitious, Antonio says “I would like to get into the mainstream music industry and work with the best artists out there. I definitely see myself making beats for the biggest names in rap and hip-hop.”

Producer Antonio Washington playing with his favorite tool, a beat synthesizer on Mission. Here is where he finds most of his inspiration. Photo by Daniel Mondragón

I ask ’why we don´t see more young artists from the Mission or even the city in mainstream music and entertainment.  ¨They probably don´t have the heart or they are scared so they have one foot in and one foot out, you have to be 100 percent committed and believe in yourself. If you keep going and work hard it will pay off in the end,¨ he says.

Antonio is a proud Mission Local who has lived here since birth. 26 years has given him a lifetime of inspiration and insight on a community rich in culture. For this he says ” I am grateful.” Photo by Daniel Mondragón

Within the arts, especially music, style or sound is reminiscent of the geographic location where it originated. For instance, southern rap beats are slow and chopped, while east-coast rap sounds mainstream and funky. “The Mission is beautiful and unique, I’ve made a lot of connections and have done my best work here because we have so many resources around us,” says Antonio who’s music  is inspired by the Mission.   His heavily synthesized bass punches with a style that is reminiscent of Bay Area culture but is also unique.  His new song GunPlay, for example,  demonstrates Mission influence it its synthetic drum sets. This sound is almost always associated with gangster rap or music expressing violence, something Antonio has experienced in his community first hand.

When asked what it was like growing up in the Mission, Antonio says, “it taught me to think before I move. I saw everything from gang-violence to drugs and alcohol use. Homelessness and people I knew fell due to their circumstances or bad decisions they made. Today I think about my actions before acting because of how and where I was raised. It also taught me to always be aware of my surroundings, you should always know where you’re at and what is going on in the Mission so you can stay safe. It’s not a bad neighborhood but it’s important to be alert.”

I wonder how Antonio feels about the changes in the neighborhood.  He lives in a three- story complex with more than a dozen units. “It´s changed a whole lot,  I´ve seen all kinds of people move in and out of my apartment complex,” which is located on 20th off Bartlett.  

The young artist has his eye on the future and tells me about what is next. “I have a compilation mixtape, an instrumental mixtape, and collaborative work with artists from everywhere in the country. Growing up in an open-minded city has helped me be open to working with other artists. Not everyone has the same style and often times we need to adapt to be able to work together, that’s how great songs are made. For example I am working with a rapper from Miami who is coming to the Bay Area to perform.” 

Antonio posing in front of the corner he grew up at on Bartlett St. Photo by Daniel Mondragón

“My music is for everyone! I don’t just make hip-hop and rap music, I make R&B and commercial sound as well. I made a commercial in jingle form for Serrano’s Pizza,” a collaborative effort with a local pizzeria which happens to be downstairs from his apartment unit.

To other young artists  Antonio advises,  “Never give up, just keep pushing, keep on pushing even if no one is praising you for what you’re doing don’t let up and do what you love always.”

When asked where he see’s himself in five years, Antonio simply replies, “Rich.” We both break into laughter. On a more serious note he explains “even when I do get rich I will remain hungry and never become complacent. I will always aim to be better and sharpen my tools.”

Antonio Washington, 26 year old Mission Native, shows me his beatpad. This is the same tool that has brought him to where he is today. Photo by Daniel Mondragón

In recent light of news about the shooting and murder of Bay Area rapper, The Jacka, Antonio would like to honorably mention his good friend and mentor. 

His new single can be purchased on iTunes.

Some of Washington’s work can be found on his YouTube channel:

And below the latest music video with music produced by our young local artist Antonio Washington.

For anyone who wants to reach Washington e-mail is the best way:  Kontrabandbeatz@gmail.com

Antonio’s social media channels

Twitter @kontrabandbeatz

Instagram @kontrabandbeatz

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2 Comments

  1. My Dearest Daniel Mondragon! Another wonderful post and I read it today because I know you’re leaving for Brooklyn this morning. I haven’t taken a bath or put a bra on yet, and I don’t know when you’re leaving this morning, but I hope you get this little love post.

    Danny Dear, so many of us are gonna miss you. This town actually desperately needs you–as you are its true son– but I know you must leave to know that if you need this town back. I appreciate you and your work. No–I LOVE you and your work. You’ve a huge, massive heart and as you go out into the world with your humility, awe, and love, you’ll attract a lot of anger and confusion from some, but others will show up like angels to protect you in a pinch when you’re honorable and not hustling people for tiny egotistical gains. Those are like sugar highs and pass like gas.

    Be willing to be uncomfortable and suffer for your Truth and what you believe. You cannot go wrong in the long run. The Lydia Chavezes will find you. They also NEED you to keep going on because there’s a lot of hustlers and death out there. Hungry Ghosts.

    You read Malcom X. You know the deal.

    But everyone’s dead or broke or evicted. It’s up to YOU, now. You’re the next wave. The new counterculture.

    I love you, Danny Mondragon. You’re a very, very good man. Love, love hard. Be embarrassed for caring too much, and you will always be free. That I also know for sure, while I don’t know much else at my age of 47. I know less and less. But there’s something to this “honor” thing.

    And as for Janet and her family… when I was attacked by the two tweakers and their pit bull, all these big GUYS stood around watching in disbelief. But the next day Janet saw me dancing outside with a black eye, and she heard about what happened and marched her little mommy body to the park and asked everyone what happened and she stomped across the park to the two who beat me up and she told them to never show their faces in our park again. She went up to their FACES and yelled at them in BROAD DAYLIGHT when no one else would even protect me in the MOMENT.

    So heroes and angels are often the pariahs of this society. Be careful who you trust. As Kurt Vonnegut said, there’s often a dark side to the reason survivors actually SURVIVE in this world. So cuidado, baby. See who elevates you, not enervates you. Enervate means the opposite everyone thinks: it means to TAKE AWAY your energy.

    You work out. Listen to your body and who FEELS dangerous even behind the smarmy smiles.

    The world’s gotten quite okay with ‘bags running things so you’ve gotta be more feral to find your kin now.

    Much love to you, Danny Mondragon. You are a leader. Step up even when you are terrified. You’ll feel the transcendence of being a true “bad ass.” It’s not enough to throw tantrums in society anymore. They’ll kill you.

    This is a looooong game, Danny Mondragon. You’re gonna be okay no matter what happens. Your camera and how and what you see tells me so.

    Besos to you, papito–

    Your secret arty faery god mother and neighbor,

    Erika

    x

  2. P.S. By the way, I think Brooklyn’s been taken over by the same kinda suburban bland people who took over here, so I’m thinking you oughta’ check out the Bronx because white folks are still too afraid of the Puerto Ricans to gentrify it, which I’m relieved about as I came of age in the Bronx and I’m still living off those original fumes even now, all these years later.

    Californians are too “chill” for you right now, anyhow. They only seem to riot over baseball games here, and not losing their houses or jobs, which I don’t get. I work out so hard because I’m actually getting ready for the revolution! Chickens have not only come to roost, but they keep checking their watches because something’s coming.

    Anyhow, as passionate as you are now, and as wild as you feel in San Francisco, you’re like a relaxed old man next to wonderful, mad Puerto Rican energy, and you’ll love that for a change. Being the “quiet” one for a change.

    And the Puerto Rican girls? With your sister and your mother, you’ll handle us Boriqua girls well from all your training already. Papi…there’s a reason we get mentioned in songs. We’re secrets because we love hard. Crawl-over-shards-of-glass hard.

    Ask James. He is my god, my everything.

    x

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