For five hours every weekday morning on, J. Cruz accompanies the Los Angelenos on their morning commute in his role as host of The Cruz Show on Power 106. Morning hip hop shows are a notoriously freewheeling, and at times brutal, form of entertainment but Cruz, who grew up in Van Nuys and North Hollywood, offers a milder approach. He is, perhaps, best known as the progenitor ofLlama Llama freestyle raps, wherein he asks guests from Ludacris to Migos to freestyle using Anne Dewdney’s classic Llama Llama Red Pajama as primary source material. It is, to say the least, disarming. “To see these artists let down their guard,” says Cruz, “and be vulnerable is a beautiful thing.”
Cruz is also part of a vanguard of figures within the hip hop world bringing fatherhood, and the emotional vulnerability being a dad entails, front and center. “You don’t have to be cold to be in this culture,” he says, “hip hop is about families and we’re seeing that more and more.” Cruz says this came about in no small part thanks to television shows like MTV’s Run’s House, featuring Reverend Run of Run DMC, and T.I. and Tiny, starring T.I. on VH1. “What started on television eventually made its way onto records,” says Cruz, “these days, some of the biggest names in hip hop are more likely to rap about being a dad than about how tough they are.” Among Cruz’ cohort are DJ Khaled, whose frequently appears in matching suits with his toddler son, Asahd, Jay-Z who featured his daughter Blue Ivy on the track Glory and J. Cole, whose Hello dwells on the responsibilities incumbent on stepfathers. As for Cruz himself, though his son is only six months old, he’s already changed the way Cruz approaches his show. “Even though he can’t talk, he inspires me everyday,” he says, “without him, I wouldn’t even know what Llama Llama was.”
What is your name?
Jesse Cruz Garcia
How old are your child/children?
6 months old
What are their names?
Cameron Cruz Garcia
Are they named after anyone in particular?
He’s named after his father’s middle name.
Do you have any cute nicknames for your child?
I call him Little Man. I call him Little Poo-poo because he pooped on me.
What do they call you?
He can call me Dad. He can call me father. If I call him little man he can call me big man.
How often do you see them?
Every single day. He’s teething so he’s up when I get up. When I come home, I spend an hour with him before his mother comes home then we all spend time together.
Describe yourself as a father in three words.
Happy. Sensitive. Love.
Describe your father in three words.
I need more words. I need a few hours. Funny. Interesting. [Pause] Different. My dad did the best he could. He never left. That I appreciate. He did the best he could with minimal funds, minimal education. He needed to grow up before he had children. He had five boys and one girl. I would have liked a closer relationship but I don’t fault him.
What are your strengths as a father?
I’m really good at changing diapers, man. I am very sensitive and understanding when it comes to my son. And in return, I’ve gotten a lot more playful which is really helpful on my show.
What are your weaknesses as a father? Relatedly, what is your biggest regret as a father?
He’s only six months old. I’m a little too sensitive when it comes to him. When he’s crying, I automatically think, “Someone has made him cry!” I’m a little overprotective.
What is your favorite activity to do with your children, that is, your special father-kid thing?
I like listening to music with him, watching television and picking him up and putting him over my head. He thinks that’s the best thing in the world.
What has been the moment you were the most proud as a parent? Why?
Just being able to provide things for my son that I didn’t have when I grew up. It’s important to me that we’ve been able to set aside money financially for later.
What heirloom did your father give to you, if any?
Nothing. Oh, he gave me a crucifix necklace that I still have.
What heirloom do you want to leave for your children, if anything?
The crucifix necklace my father gave me.
Describe the “Dad Special” for dinner?
I can’t wait to have a slice of pizza with the little guy. But I also can’t wait to talk to him about great his mother’s cooking is.
Are you religious and are you raising your children in that tradition?
I’m not but I do have faith and I will ask him to have faith. Whatever he wants to do from there, I have his back but I am there to guide him.
What’s is a mistake you made growing up that you want to ensure your child does not repeat?
I lied a lot when I was a kid. I lied for nothing, for no reason. I don’t want that for him.
Aside from saying it, how do you make sure you kid knows you love him or her?
I will tell him verbally and through my actions. I make sure he feels important and he knows everything we do is for him.