With the demise of the 1960s gang scene in NYC came an unlikely fruit. A few South Bronx gang members (Benjy, Robert and Victor) rooted in the Melendez family unit grew to form a musical group known as the Ghetto Brothers. While the crew had been immersed in the violent and criminal parts of gang life, Benjamin “Yellow Benjy” Melendez social consciousness and focus towards Puerto Rican nationalism in time moved his people more and more towards positive community building. Journalist Jeff “Chairman” Mao elaborates:
“By mid-1971, Benjy’s social conscience and interest in Puerto Rican nationalism dovetailed with the rise of young urban activist groups like the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, and the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Catching the revolutionary spirit in the air, the Ghetto Brothers eradicated junkies and pushers from their neighborhood, cleaned parks and garbage-strewn empty lots, and participated in clothing drives and breakfast programs.”
We tickle your fancy a bit? Well, as it turns out, the Ghetto Brothers will be reissuing their rare and truly unique 1972 Latin Rock album Power Fuerza as a deluxe edition, including “remastered audio and extensive 80-page liner notes booklet, with rarely-seen photos and visual artifacts from gang members, plus interviews with group and cultural historians.” You know that liner booklet is going to have some gems.
Pre-Order Power Fuerza on Truth & Soul Records
Power Fuerza itself was recorded in just a single day and drew influences from The Beatles, Santana, and Tito Puente to create an “NYC-flavored musical stew.” Group leader Benjy explains the sound further:
“We were doing rock n’ roll but we added a little soul for our black brothers, Latin for those who like Latin, rock n’ roll for those who like rock n’ roll. So that’s why the Ghetto Brothers were an amalgamation of all these styles. If you were black you heard something there. If you was white you heard something here. If you was Latino you heard the congas and timbales. So we added all this flavor and that’s what people liked about us. What they really liked was the message.”
Not only will the release give more people a chance to appreciate this slept on project, it will also be an opportunity to shed light on and important and overlooked period and population in NYC history. The original release’s back cover explains:
“If the Ghetto Brothers’ dream comes true, the world will learn that the ‘little people’ wish to be acknowledged, wish to be properly educated in order for them to pass on their knowledge to their children, and proudly inform them about their heritage and culture, and be a functioning part of the dream of America. If the Ghetto Brothers’ dream comes true, the ‘little people’ will be ‘little people’ no more, and make their own mark in this world. Listen to the Ghetto Brothers… and take heed.”