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She Grew Up Listening to Oldies in Huntington Park with Her Father, Now She’s Writing Music For Our Podcast

12:19 PM PDT on November 2, 2021

[dropcap size=big]M[/dropcap]oni Mendoza is the creative genius and muscle behind the tracks powering Smoke Screen: The Sellout. If you found yourself vibing to the music in scenes of the Sellout, that was all Moni. 

She created the beats that captured the gravity of Huizar’s alleged backdoor dealings, an electro cumbia that moved the narrative, and a corrido to memorialize the strength of a community that has to advocate for themselves. Her catchy tracks appear in each of the nine episodes of The Sellout. 

Moni Mendoza talked with L.A. TACO about her background, the community she loves, and what inspires her. 

Born in Costa Rica, Mendoza came to the States when she was barely a toddler. “I came here when I was a year and a half and I was raised in L.A. I would say most of my life I was raised in Huntington Park,” said Mendoza. Two decades later, she still lives there. 

“It’s nostalgic...I still see the same people that I've seen since I was a kid, you know, that still live here. You say hi to each other,” said Mendoza. She mentions that some of her friendships in Huntington Park have lasted 20 years, some of which she met through skating.

As far as neighborhood gems that bring Mendoza back, she loves Tony’s Donut House, a shop off of Florence and State where she would get donuts with her cousins. “Tony's still on that corner, and it still rules. Tony has been standing strong ever since I was like seven or eight years old,” Moni reminisced. Another local spot Moni loves is Salt Lake Park. She’d head there with her skater friends and sometimes her family.  

“I have one really good memory there,” Mendoza told L.A. TACO and Neon Hum, “I remember when I was a mom, she would get me [saying] like, let's go, let's go. And we would cross the street and she and I would run through the sprinklers at night sometimes.”Pacific Boulevard: The street full of shops, taquerías, clubs, old movie theaters, and mom and pop restaurants is where Mendoza has found inspiration, in the past. 

“You know, I used to go there and listen to music on my earphones when I wanted to go get inspiration,” she said. Mendoza also loves watching people cruise down Pacific Boulevard in their cars. Mendoza said she got into music because of her parents. She recalled listening to oldies with her father in his Oldsmobile, and classic artists like Emmanuel and Julio Iglesias with her mother. She enjoyed dancing Salsa at family parties. Mendoza was a huge Tina Turner fan, and would often talk to her cousins about the latest pop songs growing up. She eventually started playing the drums at 14. 

“So that got me into music and then getting into my own things,” said Mendoza.

Mendoza draws on emotion, life experiences, and traveling to fuel her creativity. “The one thing that I've learned...trying to make music all the time was like, sometimes you have to just live life to write life, right?” said Mendoza. When making music for “The Sellout,” Mendoza explained how the process was sort of like making music with instructions, it was like “stepping into new territory” for Mendoza.

“My music is already kind of emotional and has those melancholic sounds and like, my music is kind of driven by that as well and to focus on that was easy,” said Mendoza, “the process, for me, really allowed me to really experiment.”

Mendoza said that her Technotronic cumbia track “Baile”  is one of her favorite songs she’s made during her career as a producer. It’s one of the first songs you hear in episode one and is used throughout the show. She also enjoyed creating her corrido track, which is in Episode 2, because she got into corridos a few years ago and loves Mexican culture.

“There's a lot of power in the melody and the emotion. When it was like the final thing I was like, Oh my gosh, like I'm so happy to be part of it,” said Mendoza. Growing up in Huntington Park and near Downtown LA, Mendoza said that she first noticed changes coming to Downtown when she was 18. “I wasn't seeing new, new up and coming things until I saw Starbucks in Downtown LA. I was like, oh, man, like, that's when you felt it,” said Mendoza.

While she has seen Huntington Park change over the years, Mendoza said that some changes are positive, and pointed to a few family-owned businesses that opened up in recent years, like Cruzita’s, a cafe owned and operated by a local mother-daughter duo and Root of Life, a juice bar owned and operated by a local couple who went to Huntington Park High School.

“I want us to thrive regardless,” said Mendoza.

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