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Lápiz Conciente ("Conscious Pen") is a Dominican rapper who refers to himself as "El Papa del Rap Dominicano" ("the pop of Dominican rap"). Born as Avelino Junior Figueroa Rodriguez in 1983 in the Los Mina neighborhood of Santo Domingo, Lápiz Conciente was interested in music from an early age; he was prevented from pursuing much in the way of hip-hop, because it was marginalized in the Dominican Republic at the time, but he pursued it in an underground fashion, posting homemade videos of rap confrontations with competitors. He began a full-time music career when he was 14, first as a member of the urban merengue groups Los Warriors and later El Proyecto, before deciding to go it alone. Due to his participation in the latter, he came to the attention of the hip-hop collective known as the Charles Family, with rappers JO-A, Enigma, and 3ni-Blaze, who essentially adopted him as an ally and collaborator. He was featured on the popular singles "Calle Es Calle" and "La Guayaba y La Redada." Due to personal and professional differences with JO-A, Lápiz Conciente left the Charles Family and joined Toxic Crow as one of its rappers. During his tenure with the group, they recorded the full-length Sin Rivales in 2006 and scored a hit single with "Capea el Dough" that also featured 3ni-Blaze. After disputes over direction with other rappers in the group, he left and went solo. He began a public rivalry with JO-A and Toxic Crow in the video "La Llamada"; they both responded with videos of their own, underscoring the competitive nature of Dominican hip-hop; the community loved it, with respective factions betting on their favorites. In 2008, Lápiz Conciente got his own radio program along with rapper Melymel "Jam", and then signed with The New Sound Records and issued his self-titled debut EP in 2009, followed by an album, Rafaga del Plomo. In 2010, he worked with the popular reggaeton singer Don Omar on a TV special and album, Don Omar Presents: Meet the Orphans. The album, released by the Orphanto Music Group label was wildly successful throughout the Caribbean. The rapper also left his recording contract and began his own label to release his albums as well as those of other artists he supported and admired. In 2012, Lápiz Conciente and Toxic Crow called a truce and jointly re-released Sin Rivales as a statement encouraging the unity of the Dominican hip-hop community. On his own the rapper issued the pre-release hit single "Mi Amor." Lapiz Mundial appeared late in the year, followed suddenly by El Army in January of 2013. "Amor por Accidente" (featuring Metrolo), El Army's lead single, hit the top spots on digital charts and its video garnered over four-million view on YouTube. These albums were followed by two La Historia compilations in April to keep up with fan demand. In January of 2014, Lápiz Conciente released his fifth album, Letras. ~ Thom Jurek