That’s how I remember the story. I was 11 years old and one fine afternoon in 1997 I heard for the first time on the radio “The True Game” by Grace shot. It was amazing. Especially when I found out that the ground zero of the group was in the passage next to mine, in the Villa Alonso de Ercilla in La Florida. That they came from the same blocks as me was decisive for me. If they could work on music, I could also afford that dream.
Tiro de Gracia changed my life and that of many people, as the multi-platinum success of Human being, that magical hip hop album passed through the New Chilean Rock sieve. Epochal to the max, the debut of the Tiro heralded a brilliant career for John Sativa, Hard Lenwa and Zaturn. The passage of time, however, would tell otherwise, transforming his story into a cautionary tale for the urban generation.
I say this because, with all due respect to the proportions, there are substantial parallels between the impact that TDG caused in Chilean society at the end of the nineties and the impact caused by the most popular urban singers today. The first, with their mere existence, defied the inertia of a country not so accustomed to the children of the working class becoming music superstars. The seconds too.
“We are the shadow of the southern sector of Santiago (…) We talk about the experiences of the neighborhood, of friends, of what happens around us. There is still a lot of racism and class prejudice in our society”, Lenwa Dura told the newspaper El País during the group’s first visit to Spain, making the Olympic lap after Human being. Almost a quarter of a century later, the artists who emerged from towns are still in tune.
The 90s myth tells that Tiro de Gracia’s refusal to give interviews was not, as was officially said, part of their promotional strategy, but only a way of masking the mutual discomfort between them and the press due to the social and generational gap that separated them. Today those walls are still standing, although they are already shaky due to the pressure that the urban boom puts on the media.
With so much common ground, now Tiro de Gracia could be an OG, that is, an oracle for their younger peers. But after the boom everything was decadence for the project. Before the second album, his human core was already cracking, as evidenced by the departure of producer Camilo Cintolesi with these words: “I believe in teamwork. When that is lost, the respect between people, I am not interested”.
From then on, the rest would be downhill. The sequel to Human being failure. Zaturno walked away from the group. Subsequent releases never caught on the same. Lenwa Dura left on horrible terms. There were shameful dimes and public fights with legal lawsuits involved. Juan Sativo went non-stop from young promise to old crack giving lousy solo shows under the name of Tiro de Gracia and, along the way, devaluing the brand.
Between excesses of cocaine, delusions of grandeur, combo fights, money entanglements, accusations of unfair labor treatment, threats at gunpoint and, in general, a complete lack of preparation to deal with success, the magic of Tiro de Gracia it faded to leave only a trail of nostalgia for those of us who grew up with their music and for the generation of rappers that followed, who considered them legendary despite everything.
Now that it is 25 years since Human being, Juan Sativo walks on one side, while Lenwa Dura and Zaturno go on the other. Both projects call themselves Tiro de Gracia. In between there was a meeting that was never free of tensions and did not bear fruit. The anniversary of such a huge album could fill a stadium, but you have to settle for seeing them on smaller stages, reduced to being a nostalgic self-tribute.
From being truly inspiring, the story of Tiro de Gracia became a warning about what happens when the weight of fame crushes shared dreams, creative affinity, empathy between teammates and the hunger for achievement.
When the music stops being at the center, the rest withers, you lose validity and you have no choice but to live on memories. No one is safe from the same fate.