Hip Hop recording artist Panama, whose real name is Armando Cadogan Jr., is a multi-talented entertainer on the verge of achieving great success in the near future. Before his rapping career started, he was best known for his role as Bubbles’ tormentor on the HBO series The Wire.
Panama's journey started in Baltimore, Maryland where he was enrolled in the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as a theater major. From there, he was able to land a role in Season 1 of The Wire. During the third episode of that season, Panama was cast as a drug dealer. Despite the brief appearance, the show asked him to reappear in another episode during season four.
While gaining recognition on an award winning show, Panama was able to make use of the opportunity to showcase his lyrical ability to the public. His musical gifts caught the attention of many, but it was New York City’s Power 105 radio station that truly gained the most interest in his distinct gift of music and power story telling of lyrics. Panama has also been featured on many media outlets such as MTV, BET, Music choice, The Source, and Yahoo Music. With singles such as “Play Your Position,” and his recent hit, “Addicted,” which has been all over the airwaves, Panama has been showing no signs of stopping as he plans to start his own company, Open Book Entertainment.
In our exclusive interview with the New York born/Baltimore raised artist, Panama discusses topics such as where he grew up, the story behind his rapper name, the differences between acting and music, what sets him apart from other artists, and much more!
- Q: Where are you actually from? It seems like you're from 18 different places. - Andy Bankin
- A: Where I’m actually from? I can’t give you an exact location, because I travel so much. Baltimore, New York, Alaska, Texas…different parts of my life. I was birthed in Brooklyn. Baltimore; I did schooling out there. I became a man out there. I filmed 'The Wire' out there. So Baltimore made me feel like an honorary resident of the state. New York; this is my birthplace. I know these streets. I know these subways. This is my home. My throne. Panama: all my family is Panamanian. Born and raised in Panama. Spanish is my first language. So I carry that whole aura on me. I can go back in time and say “Yeah, I’m African,” but my parents, my immediate parents, and my grandparents, and my great-grandparents, are Panamanian. So if you ask me, “Where you from?” I’ll tell you, “I’m from everywhere.”
- Q: What’s the difference between rapping as Panama and acting as Armando Cadogan Jr., where everyone knows you as “that dude from 'The Wire'?” - Andy Bankin
- A: The difference between rapping and being “That dude from 'The Wire'” is I’m not the dude from 'The Wire.' I’m just an actor who was on 'The Wire.' But I didn’t have a platform to be heard with the music. As soon as 'The Wire' broke through, everyone wants to hear Panama’s music. Now when I send the music out, people go “Oh, he was on 'The Wire'? Let’s check him out.” Before I was sending out music and it’d be like, “Delete. Who’s Panama? Delete. Delete.” Now it’s “Panama. HBO’s 'The Wire.' New song.” and they go “Let me open this.” Now I get interviews as Panama, but 'The Wire' still comes back because that’s my platform.
- Q: How do you play someone like that guy from 'The Wire'? - Andy Bankin
- A: It’s a craft man. I get into it. As soon as it’s “cut” I’m out of it, because I already honed it. I already identified with that character. I come from a very poverty-stricken country. Seen a lot. I’m not here to glorify it. Speak on it. But I’ve seen it. Seen a lot. So where characters like that come from, I express it. I’m not going to say I’m the hardest. I don’t do that shit. But I’ve been around the scariest brothers you could ever meet. Killers. Everything. I’ve been around it, but that’s not for me to be a part of. I went to school. I got educated. But when it comes to identifying with characters. It’s not an issue for me. Once I’m in it, I’m in it.
- Q: What’s new with the music? - Andy Bankin
- A: I’m coming out with a project called “Never Cold in Panama” that’s a mixtape. Probably like ten strong records. Then I got a project called “The Panamanian Summer” that’s an EP. Then I have a documentary called 'Before Success,' where my director, Mills Miller –- who shot Fabolous, Jadakiss, The Dream –- he follows me around. My shows, events, dialogue, conversations. So we got these three projects, and then in between time, I’m doing shows. Trying to make it happen. Honing my craft. Just trying to give it all I got. Studying the game. Analyzing the game. Trying to be more of an exec than just an artist. I’m learning all these avenues and outlets, so when the time comes, the label’s dealing with a mogul. Not just an artist. Dealing with a boss. So that’s where I’m at right now -- boss.
- Q: How do you approach concerts? - Andy Bankin
- A: I have my own dynamic. Sometimes I’ll get very psychological with the fans. Sometimes I’ll be like, “Everybody put your middle finger up, and go ‘who the F are you?'" because I’m not expecting everybody to know me. Or I’ll say, "If you want to hear some more music say 'Love.'" And they’ll go “LOVE!” So we have a relationship. We can communicate. When I perform, I get that love. I break the audience.
- Q: What are the artists you looked up to growing up? - Andy Bankin
- A: Growing up? Definitely the late Michael Jackson. I loved Quincy Jones. I love his mogul ways. He’s probably the only artist in this industry that has touched every artist in this industry. He created a sound. Now, as far as influence and flow and delivery, I got introduced to rap in middle school going into my high school years. I like rappers like Joe Budden, Jadakiss, Fab…
- Q: You made a distinction between rappers and artists… - Andy Bankin
- A: Definitely! An artist conveys pictures. Visionaries. Make an example. Set the bar. A rapper throws out lyrics. They just want to rap. They can give you all the flows in the world, but the artist has a story. Artists have the talent and the skill. Rappers have the skill, but sometimes lack talent – two big things. Talent stays here. Skills are something you learn. Skills are something you excel in. The artist is talented. The artist may never play an instrument, but he’ll go, "That’s not the key. I need to hear this and this and that.” The rapper goes “Yo, just throw me the beat on, man.” The artist is with the producer side by side. Big difference between artists and rappers.
- Q: Would you ever do other forms of music other than rap or R&B? - Andy Bankin
- A: I would do a whole Spanish album, just because I really identify with that industry. My dream right now is to rock out my country. Calling myself Panama helps me a lot. I come from the streets. Trouble. I was exposed early, so for me to have Panama to me is heavy. Heavy pressure. I want them to know that I’m here for you. I’m here for these voices. So for me to rock out my country…if I could do that now…shit, I might even quit rapping. Just because I did it. I was in the Panama national newspaper. My aunt –- I told my aunt multiple times I’m on TV, been on BET, been on HBO, been on Music Choice, been on MTV, they don’t understand because they’re Spanish -– one day she opened a magazine in Panama, and sees her nephew’s face. You know how that makes me feel? That she understands now? My grandmother’s smiling. She doesn’t know what I do. I told my grandma I’m going to an event at 9:30. “Why so late?” She didn’t understand until she saw that newspaper.
- Q: What's your mantra? - Andy Bankin
- A: Live well. Love life. Laugh often. Aspire to greatness and strive for excellence. Loyalty before royalty. God bless.
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