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Record label sees talent, passion in 7-year-old rapper

By KBell
Sept. 19, 2010 at 4:19 a.m.

Seven-year-old Marty Valdez III, who goes by Young Gator aka Spotlight on stage, has been rapping since he was 3-years-old. The second grade student has recently recorded and performed with White Pearl Entertainment. Although most of his songs are written for him he has written one of two with a little help from his mom, Leighanne Garcia, and is working on being able to freestyle. He hopes to one day be able to perform with two of his favorite rappers, Lil Wayne and Drake.ANGELI WRIGHT/AWRIGHT@VICAD.COM

Listen Up! Marquee's and Young Gator's music can be found at www.whitepearltv.com.

Marquee's CD featuring a song by Young Gator, "$ Signz," can be found at Hastings, 5206 N. Navarro Street.

Marty Valdez III adjusted his oversized black cap, opened his wallet that was chained to his skinny jeans, and busted out a page of hand-written lyrics.

Not that he needed the notes.

The 7-year-old handed them to his mom, Leighanne Garcia, 24, and spit a 50-second rhyme he'd memorized two days ago.

"Young Gator, aka Spotlight - that's my stage name," Valdez said after his living room performance.

With an attitude much more colossal than his 4-foot stature, Valdez has been rapping since he learned to speak, he said.

And, somewhat embarrassing to him now, his mother has video-taped his rhymes along the way.

She sent one of those videos to Marcus Perez on Facebook.

Better known as Marquee, the 31-year-old owns the Victoria-based record label, White Pearl Entertainment.

The passion and talent he saw in Valdez wowed him, Perez said.

"I'm a critic when it comes to music, but you can tell when someone's hungry," Perez said about receiving the video. "Some people just fake the funk, but he has it in his blood."

Perez came up with the name Young Gator because "he's mean like an alligator when he gets on the mic."

Since hooking up with Perez two months ago, Valdez has recorded a song with him, performed at a White Pearl Entertainment concert at the Victoria Community Center and appeared in a music video.

The PE class at Valdez's school - O'Connor Elementary - even exercises to his music, Garcia said.

But Valdez just shrugged when asked how he felt about all the attention he's getting.

"I just love music," he said. Lil Wayne is his favorite artist, he added.

Garcia reminds her son to maintain straight A's and be on good behavior at school if he wants to continue making music and attending hip-hop dance classes, she said.

"Schoolwork, behavior and manners come first before music," she said.

"I wouldn't be so good if I didn't have this opportunity to rap," Valdez conceded.

Perez said he's working on developing "YG" into a "true-to-life" artist, adding that Valdez's signature tilted cap, skinny jeans and Michael Jordan shoes is a style the youngster created himself.

"He likes to stay fresh. The presentation comes with him, so it's not something I have to build," Perez said. "I'm training him up to where everything is true to him."

And for that effort, Valdez was inspired to rattle off some more lyrics.

"I'd like to thank that boy Marquee for listening to me. I been wrecking since I was 3, and he gave me the opportunity to be what I want to be."

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