It’s not often you hear music that’s as clear a reflection of the artist’s personality as that of Peter Santos, a.k.a. Olde Spanish. Like him, his music is laced with subtle idiosyncrasies, various stylistic elements that combine for a unique flavor that is as authentic as it is unusual. The music bumps, but it does so in a way that is very much his own.
Santos’ flow, for instance, is a unique animal. Drawing inspiration from such alternative greats as MF DOOM and Earl Sweatshirt, he opts for nontraditional diction and inventive rhyme schemes. He said he’s particularly fond of alliteration and assonance— any device that allows him to expand his focus outside the traditional confines of rhyme.
But Santos’ music, like any worth its salt, speaks best for itself. The hook to the song “Losers” off his latest album, “Peter’s House,” summarizes his music’s particular flavor.
“We just some losers, tryna make something of it
At least we not no f*ckin cookie cutters in the oven.”
Cookie-cutter, he is most certainly not. The 25-year-old producer and emcee actively rejects the tired, fake-hard, look-at-me personas so many rappers disingenuously effect in the hopes of poaching some of the success that many have already found by that formula.
“I’m very denouncing,” he said, “but only with inauthenticity.”
Santos said he holds such contempt for rappers who strike him as inauthentic because they “represent something very dear to [him],” that being Hip-Hop. He’s as serious about music as he is protective of it, and as a result prides himself on doing it his own way, in his own voice and in his own style.
That style is particularly evident in Santos’ production. His use of live instrumentation alone gives the music a unique quality, almost all of which he records himself. He called himself a “master of none” in that respect, knowing just enough on the various instruments he plays to write and record the riffs he implements in his beats, then forget those riffs within a few days.
“I’m actually not as talented as I seem,” he said, adding that autotune has been key, especially with more pitch-sensitive instruments such as the trumpet.
And though Santos by no means considers himself an expert on any of his instruments—be it drums, bass, guitar or trumpet—the fact that nearly every element of his production is his own creation gives the music an intensely personal quality; it’s a portrait of his own creative personality.
But he doesn’t captain his production out of some narcissistic obsession over being the only creative authority on his music—the staggering number of artists he features alone disproves that. Rather, Santos said his propensity to do it all himself goes back to an old adage his parents hammered into him as a child: if you want something done right, you do it yourself.
As trite of an adage as that is, it seems the best way to put it. His vision is very particular, his sound unique, and the only way to really nail it, to ‘do it right,’ is to take total autonomy.
And furthermore, doing it himself is simply the way he learned to do it. Santos was never a child of great means or opportunity, so much of what he has learned, about music or anything else, have been lessons of experience.
Santos’ upbringing wasn’t the smoothest, having left his native town of Manta, Ecuador when he was just four years old to live with his grandparents in Metairie. There he lived 14 years before leaving for Baton Rouge to attend LSU in the Fall 2014 semester as an Experimental Music & Digital Media major.
“But I was a young’un who just wanted to make beats and rap back then,” he said, “so naturally I failed out very hard, having only passed my piano class.”
After that semester at LSU, he bounced between a few restaurant jobs and even a position as a corrections officer at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabrielle before enrolling at BRCC in 2016. There he finished his schooling with a major in Entertainment Technology and a concentration in Audio Engineering.
But Santos said his formal education taught him quite little. And while that’s not an unusual thing to hear from a creative, it seems particularly fitting for his brand. He’s unconventional, offbeat, against-the-grain; clichés, the lot of them, but accurate nonetheless. That’s just the nature of his work: easy to bump, but difficult to dissect. Though it’s hard to pinpoint just what makes his music what it is, perhaps no assessment is necessary beyond the fact that it’s good, it’s true and it’s just the right amount of weird.