Video: Officer Richard Pacheco is the rapper in white. His older brother J.J. is in orange.
It’s nearing the end of fifth hour and Student Resource Officer Richard Pacheco casually spins back and forth in his computer chair situated at the far end of his desk. A large, old school boom box takes up the other end, blasting 90s rap. Pacheco begins to nod his head slightly as he mouths some of the lyrics that spill from the giant speakers. The CD skips and the words become hard to translate.
“Man, this thing is so old,” Pacheco said. “Shows you how old our rap really is, too.”
The rap playing on the CD is 17-year-old Pacheco and his older brother J.J. Pacheco.
The KCMO reserve cop, now 36, has been rapping since before his voice started changing. His curiosity for the genre began when he first heard the song “Basketball” by Kurtis Blow.
“I liked it because I played basketball as a kid and I could relate to that,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco would listen to the song on repeat everyday when he was seven. He liked the way the words were magnetic to the beats. The laid back sound made Pacheco think about writing his own rap songs.
He didn’t know how to write rap songs, but he taught himself by listening to other rap artists like 2-pac and Ice Cube. He gradually became more familiar with the styles of these artists and mimicked them until he could create his own style.
One year later, eight-year-old Pacheco took out a piece of paper from the desk in his room, grabbed a pen, and wrote every thought that came to his head until the words turned into poetry – a rap.
It took the whole day and it was choppy, but it was well developed for Pacheco’s first set of rhymes.
After hearing his brother’s first rap, J.J. decided he would listen to some of the artists Pacheco was listening to.
“I was always more into rock, never hip hop,” J.J. said. “It’s weird my younger brother’s taste in music influenced me rather than the other way around.”
J.J. picked through all of Pacheco’s rap albums until he landed his hands on Run DMC.
“That’s when I knew I loved hip hop too,” J.J. said.
J.J. liked the way Run DMC used rock music in some of their songs. His favorite rock/rap collaboration to this day is “Walk this Way” by Run DMC and Aerosmith.
Pacheco and J.J.’s parents both supported their interest in rap by helping them buy home mixing and recording equipment.
“Our family has always been involved in music,” Pacheco said. “We have uncles who play guitar, cousins who play piano. It’s just in our blood.”
Soon after they put the new equipment in their room, Pacheco and J.J. felt it only appropriate that they give themselves a true rap title.
They decided on “Mexicans4Lif.” Pacheco and his brother thought it was important to show where they came from in their rap, and they both agreed “Mexicans4Lif” was a perfect representation of who they were.
Growing up in Wyandotte County, the ideas that fueled their music came through observations of controversial problems going on at the time.
“We went to a private Catholic school as kids so gangs weren’t a threat to us,” Pacheco said. “Gangs were still visible on the news though. In the 90s, that’s what city kids dealt with.”
The problems were never personally about the Pacheco brothers, but about what they saw going on around them. School, gangs, violence, politics, racism: they were all elements of the message they wanted to get across to listeners.
Pacheco was the master behind the lyrics and his brother would add his ideas to whatever lyrics Pacheco created. J.J. would then do his job with the backup beats on their home mix equipment. Together, they would come up with a track that displayed both their contrasting rap styles. J.J. had the deeper, slower rap style while Pacheco rapped with a quicker pace. They made sure they threw in hispanic lyrics that mixed in with the English ones to personalize their rap.
Pacheco recalls one of their most popular songs being about a gangster trying to make it on the streets.
“We made these fictional characters based off of who and what we saw on the news,” Pacheco said. “We saw these things going on in the streets around us as well.”
The “gangster” Pacheco and J.J. created sold drugs, made money on the streets and was everything the brothers stayed away from. However, they wanted to show the audience that carrying a gun wasn’t the answer to all problems.
“It was a story of this young gangster that we portrayed on stage,” Pacheco said. “Then at the end we’d rap that this wasn’t the right way.”
The messages Pacheco and his older brother rapped about are the same messages he tries to send to adolescents as a policeman.
Pacheco saw family members working for law enforcement from the time he learned how to walk.
“My uncles and cousins were cops as soon as they graduated college,” Pacheco said. “I followed in their footsteps because they taught me a lot about what goes on in a career like that.”
Growing up though, Pacheco didnt know if he wanted to be a policeman or even a rapper. He always saw law enforcement as a possible career, but he saw other careers as possibilities as well, rapping being one of them.
As they grew older however, their careers separated them from rap. With Pacheco at Police Academy and J.J. studying at college, there wasn’t much time left for them to collaborate anymore. Still, rap never completely dissappeared from their lives
“We still talk about laying down new tracks,” Jj said. “It’s always on our minds, lately especially.”
Pacheco isn’t hesitant at all about going back to rap. When he walks the halls during lunch hour, he’s constantly reminded of it, hearing groups of students talking about the latest rap artist. It makes him feel connected to the students on a certain level knowing they have a common love for hip hop.
“My 10 and 11-year-old daughters joke about performing again a lot,” Pacheco said. “They’ll say ‘Dad, we can be the backup dancers!’”
Besides his wife and three daughters, Pacheco has talked to world geography teacher David Muhammad about performing his rap for a staff talent show in the future.
“He really would like students to see what he can do,” Muhammad said. “It would be even better if he went up and performed decked out in his police uniform.”
Muhammad is one of the only staff members who has heard Pacheco rap.
“I wasn’t expecting a cop to show hidden rap talent,” Muhammad said. “He has mad skills and the student body would go wild for it.”
Pacheco isn’t sure about wearing his full police uniform, but he’s willing to put himself and his music out there for the whole student body to hear.
“I think [students] would be completely shocked,” Pacheco said. “It’s not every day you see a cop that knows how to throw down rhymes.”