Latin hip hop
Latin rap on the West Coast
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, most Latin rap came from the West Coast of the United States. Cuban-American artist Mellow Man Ace was the first Latino artist to have a major bilingual single attached to his 1989 debut. Mellow Man, referred to as the "Godfather of Latin rap" and a Hip Hop Hall of Fame inductee, brought mainstream attention to Spanglish rhyming with his 1989 platinum single "Mentirosa". In 1990, fellow West Coast artist Kid Frost further brought Latinos to the rap forefront with his single "La Raza." In 1991, Kid Frost, Mellow Man, A.L.T. and several other Latin rappers formed the rap super group Latin Alliance and released a self-titled album which featured the hit "Lowrider (On the Boulevard)". A.L.T. also scored a hit later that year with his remake of the song Tequila. Cypress Hill, of which Mellow Man Ace was a member before going solo, would become the first Latino rap group to reach platinum status in 1991. The group has since continued to release other gold and platinum albums. Ecuadorian born rapper Gerardo received heavy rotation on video and radio for his single "Rico, Suave". While commercially watered-down, his album enjoyed a status of being one of the first mainstream Spanglish CDs on the market. Johnny J was a multi-platinum songwriter, music producer & rapper who was perhaps best known for his production on Tupac Shakur's albums All Eyez on Me and Me Against the World. He also produced the 1990 single "Knockin' Boots" for his classmate Candyman's album Ain't No Shame in My Game, which eventually went platinum thanks to the single
2012 and 2013 marked the rise of teen rappers such as Earl Sweatshirt and a corresponding rise by teen Latino rappers. In Texas, a group called Freshmen Records from the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border with Mexico began producing ethnically unique hip hop tracks. Their single "Graduation" focuses on Hispanic identity in America.
Latin rap in the East Coast and Miami
On the East Coast, Latin artists such as the Beatnuts emerged in the early 1990s, with New Jersey native Chino XL earning recognition for his lyricism and equal controversy for his subject matter. In 1994, Platinum Producer and DJ Frankie Cutlass used his own label, Hoody Records, to produce his single “Puerto Rico”. The single exploded onto the underground club circuit to become an instant classic. “Puerto Rico,” a ready-made anthem for the Latino audience—who embraced it enthusiastically—paved the way for Latin Hip Hop artists just starting to carve out a niche in America’s music scene. In the late 1990s, Puerto Rican rapper Big Punisher became the first Latino solo artist to reach platinum sales for an LP with his debut album Capital Punishment, which included hit song Still Not a Player. Other Latin artists on the East Coast would follow and receive a great deal of support from Latino consumers including rappers such as Cuban Link and Immortal Technique. In Miami artists such as Don Dinero, A.B. Junior and Pitbull have been successful with rhymes in Spanish and English as well.
Southwest and Chicano rap
Latin rap (as well as its subgenre of Chicano rap) has thrived along the West Coast, Southwest and Midwestern states with little promotion due to the large Latino populations of those regions. During the '90s, Southern California Chicano artists, such as Kid Frost, A.L.T., A Lighter Shade of Brown, B-Real, Psycho Realm, Gunter, Delinquent Habits and Jonny Z received mainstream success. More recently, Texas artists such as Chingo Bling, Juan Gotti and South Park Mexican have enjoyed steady sales, and have headlined a number of successful Southwest tours. San Diego artist Lil Rob opened doors for Chicano rap by receiving mainstream attention for his singles "Summer Nights" and "Bring Out the Freak in You". Mav of Sol Camp and MC Magic are the most successful rappers to come out to the Southwest region. Baby Bash also had a huge impact with his single "Suga Suga". Artists Sinful of Tha Mexicanz, and Kemo the Blaxican have continued to improve the popularity of Spanglish rap on the West Coast.
Jonny Z is considered to be a pioneer of Latin hip-hop, due to him being one of the first Latinos combining Spanglish lyrics with freestyle, salsa, mambo, and regional Mexican banda. He scored four Billboard Hot Dance singles between 1993–1997, including one of the greatest Miami bass songs of all time, "Shake Shake (Shake That Culo)". Besides bass music, he also recorded the Chicano anthem "Orale". The Oxford encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States Volume 2, Page 301 states: "A new style of Latina and Latino hip-hop was created in Miami and Texas by the bass rappers DJ Laz and Jonny Z, who mixed Latin styles with bass music".
Latin rap around the world
The constant migration of people from one country to another has greatly influenced the dispersion of cultures and music across the globe. In the music realm, this can be heard with and Latin rap. The latter form of music has been a hit especially in countries with a large number of migrators to the United States who were only popular among Hispanic and Latino audiences. For example, Mexico has a growing hip hop scene with groups such as Control Machete, Cartel De Santa, C-Kan, MC Davo and Molotov. Similarly, the movement has spread to Puerto Rico, a country where many of its residents have moved to New York, Miami and Chicago over the years. Latin rap which was very much derived from black hip hop was jumpstarted by a wave of rappers that included Ruben DJ and Vico C. Ruben DJ's hit, La Escuela, (The School) and Vico C's hit, La Recta Final, (The End of the Road) received considerable radio time during the late 1980s. In addition to Latin rap in Puerto Rico developing after African American hip-hop, and rap and reggae have a substantial impact on the genres (rap, and Latin rap) relate a certain message to their respective audiences. Puerto Rican rap emerged as a form of cultural and social protest within the Puerto Rican context. This is similar to the way American and Jamaican youth used rap and reggae/dancehall as a means to communicate their feelings on social, cultural, and political issues. In essence, Puerto Rican rap became the voice of Puerto Rican youth like dancehall and rap music are methods of expression for their Jamaican and lower-class U.S. youth counterparts as they made it in France too since 2003 "1492 Army".
There are many hip-hop scenes in Latin America, including a growing rap movement in Buenos Aires.
In the mid-1980s, freestyle music was initially called Latin hip hop. This dance music genre, not to be confused with improvised freestyle rapping, was dominated, at the time, by electro funk beats and vaguely Latin melodic and percussion elements, over which Latino vocalists sang melodramatic pop vocals, usually in English even though it was started by African-Americans primarily. Freestyle was primarily popular among Latinos in the New York City and Miami club scenes, but achieved mainstream pop success with hits by The Cover Girls and Exposé, among others.
- allmusic Credits
- RIAA Database
- NBC Latino
- Giovannetti, Jorge L. "Popular Music and Culture in Puerto Rico: Jamaican and Rap Music as Cross-Cultural Symbols." In "Musical Migrations: Transnationalism and Cultural Hybridity in the Americas", ed. Frances R. Aparicio and Candida F Jaquez, 89. New York: Palgrave, 2003
- Sounds and Colours
- Gill, Michael F. (2007-08-13). "The Bluffer's Guide to Freestyle". Stylus. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
- Verán, Cristina (Apr 11, 2006). "Let the Music Play (Again)". The Village Voice. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
- LatinRapper.com - Source for Latin rap news and interviews.
- BrownPride.com at BrownPride.com - A collection of texts and links about Latin rap.