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Reggaetón is a genre of music characterized by its repetitive beat rhythm that originated in Puerto Rico. Its roots can be traced back to the “underground” music of the island during the late 1990s, when music borrowing elements of reggae, rap, and hip-hop was being performed (in Spanish) in small, unofficial venues. Bootleg recordings and word of mouth were the means of distribution for this music until 1997. In 1998 eventually that music coalesced into what today is known as reggaeton. The music’s popularity skyrocketed in the early 2000s as it spread to North American, European, Asian, and African audiences.[1]

Reggaeton blends musical influences of Jamaican dancehall and Trinidadian soca with those of Puerto Rico, such as salsa, bomba, Latin American hip hop, and electronica. Vocals include rapping and singing, typically in Spanish. Lyrical style tends to resemble hip hop.


The origin of the word reggaeton comes from the Puerto Rican tradition of combining a word with the suffix -tón. Many people confuse reggaeton with Reggae or Reggae En Espanol, reggaeton is not the Spanish Version of Reggae but has its own style, rhythm and history. When Reggaeton began in the clubs of San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1991 the music was actually named "underground", until 1998 when the genre was called Reggaeton. The term was officially used to describe the genre beginning in 1995 after DJ Nelson brainstormed "Reggaeton" as the name for his new album.[2]

There are several Spanish spellings of the word "reggaeton".[3] Spanish spellings include reggaeton,[4] reggaetón[4] and reguetón.[4] Fundéu BBVA recommends the fully adapted form "reguetón" and states that if the spellings "reggaeton" or "reggaetón" are used in Spanish, they should appear in italics.[4]


Before the music was known for its name reggeaton it was named "underground" when rap lyrics was actually done under a repetitive beat towards the middle of the decade, Puerto Ricans were producing their own "riddims" with clear influences from hip hop and other musical styles/genres. These are considered the first proper reggaeton tracks, initially referred to as "underground". As Caribbean and African-American music gained this momentum in Puerto Rico, reggae rap in Spanish marked the beginning of Boricua underground and served as an outlet for creative expression for millions of young people. This created an entire inconspicuous, yet prominent underground youth culture that sought to express themselves. As a youth culture that exists on the fringes of society and criminal illegality, it has often been publicly criticized. The Puerto Rican police launched a raid against underground by confiscating cassette tapes from music stores under penal codes of obscenity, issuing fines, and the demoralization of rappers through radio, television, and newspaper media.[5]

The term "underground", coming out of hip hop discourse, characterizes underground artists as asserting a self-identification that rejects the commercialization of music. In San Juan "underground", however, it was not just about authenticity or ideology, but was literally about position in the market. "Underground" music was circulated via informal networks, copied from cassette to cassette, until the mid-1990s. DJ Playero was one of the most famous producers of "underground" at the time, releasing several underground cassettes that featured early performances of some soon-to-be-famous artists like The basis for reggaeton was laid in Puerto Rico at this time, with the melding of Spanish reggae, with influences from fast dancehalls, hip hop and various other Latin American musical genres.

Rise to popularity

This new genre was simply called "underground". It contained very explicit lyrics about drugs, violence, poverty, friendship, love, and sex. These common themes, which in many cases depict the troubles of an inner-city life, can still be found in reggaeton today. "Underground" music was recorded in "marquesinas" (or Puerto Rican open garages) and distributed in the streets via cassettes. These marquesinas were crucial to the development of Puerto Rico's underground scene due to the state's "fear of losing the ability to manipulate 'taste'".[5] Marquesinas were often in "housing complexes such as Villa Kennedy and Jurutungo."[5] Despite being recorded in the projects of Puerto Rico, the majority of the recordings made in marquesinas were of high quality, which helped in increasing their popularity to the Puerto Rican youths of not only the projects but those of the middle and upper class as well. The availability and quality of these cassettes led to the genre's popularity, crossing over socio-economic barriers in the Puerto Rican music scene. The most popular cassettes in the early 1990s were DJ Negro's The Noise I and II, and DJ Playero's 37 and 38. Gerardo Cruet who created these recordings spread out the genre from the marginalized residential areas into other sectors of society, particularly into private schools.

By the mid 1990s, "underground" cassettes were being sold in commercial music stores. The genre caught up with the middle class youth and inevitably found its way to the media. By this time Puerto Rico had a few clubs dedicated to the underground scene. Club Rappers in Carolina, and club PlayMakers in Puerto Nuevo were the most notable. Bobby "Digital" Dixon's dembow track was exploited in order to appeal in the context of the club. Underground music wasn't intended originally to be club music. In South Florida pioneers like DJ Laz and Hugo Diaz of the Diaz Brothers were pushing the genre to popularity from Palm Beach to Miami.

Underground music in Puerto Rico faced harsh criticism. In February 1995, there was a government-sponsored campaign against underground music and its cultural influences. Puerto Rican police launched six raids at records stores in San Juan,[6] in which hundreds of cassettes were confiscated from record stores and fines were imposed (in accordance with Laws 112 and 117 against obscenity).[5] The Department of Education banned baggy clothing and underground music from the school systems.[7] In the following months after the raids, local media demonized rappers, claiming they were "irresponsible corrupters of the public order."[5]

In 1995, DJ Negro released The Noise 3 with a mock up label that read Non-Explicit Lyrics. The album contained no cursing until the last song. The album was a hit and underground music further crept into the mainstream. Senator Velda González of the Popular Democratic Party and the media continued to view the movement as a social nuisance.[8]

In the mid-1990s, the Puerto Rican police and national guard even went as far as to confiscate reggaeton tapes and CDs in an effort to get the "obscene" lyrics out of the hands of consumers.[9] Schools also banned hip hop style clothing and music in an effort to quell the influence of reggaeton in the educational environment. In 2002, Senator Velda González led public hearings in an attempt to regulate the sexual "slackness" of reggaeton's lyrics. While the effort did not seem to negatively affect the general public's opinion about reggaeton, it did reflect the unease of the government and upper social classes with what the music represented. Due to its often sexually charged content and because of its roots in poor, urban communities, many middle and upper class Puerto Ricans found reggaeton to be threatening, "immoral, as well as artistically deficient, a threat to the social order, apolitical."[7]

Despite earlier controversy, reggaeton slowly began gaining acceptance as an important part of Puerto Rican culture, helped in part by politicians, including Velda González, who used reggaeton in election campaigns to appeal to younger voters, starting in Puerto Rico's 2003 elections.[7] Currently, Puerto Rican mainstream acceptance of reggaeton has grown increasing more visible with reggaeton's appearance in popular culture, including a 2006 Pepsi commercial featuring Daddy Yankee[10] and Ivy Queen being named the musical spokesperson for Mountain Dew by PepsiCo.[11] Other examples of a change in sentiment within the greater population of Puerto Rico can be seen in some religiously and educationally influenced lyrics. Reggae School for example is a rap album produced for the sole purpose of teaching math skills to children, reminiscent of School House Rock.[12] Reggaeton expanded and became known when other producers followed the steps of DJ Playero, like DJ Nelson and DJ Eric. In the early 1990s, albums like Ivy Queen's En Mi Imperio in 1996, DJ Playero's Playero 37 (in which Daddy Yankee became known) and The Noise: Underground, The Noise 5 and The Noise 6 were very popular in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Singers like Don Chezina, Tempo, Eddie Dee, Baby Rasta & Gringo, and Lito & Polaco were very popular.

The name reggaeton only gained prominence in the early 2000s, with the dembow beat characterizing the genre; this is in contrast to the more reggae, dancehall and hip hop-derived tracks previously created. The name was created in Puerto Rico to signify the unique fusion of Puerto Rican sounds.[1] Today, the music flourishes throughout Latin America. Reggaeton soon increased in popularity with Latino youth in the United States when DJs like DJ Joe and DJ Blass worked with artists such as Plan B and Speedy[13] in albums such as Reggaeton Sex, Sandunguero and Fatal Fantassy.

2004: The cross-over year

2004 was the year that reggaeton gained widespread popularity in the United States and Europe. Tego Calderón was already getting some airplay in the U.S. and it was very popular in the youth market. Daddy Yankee's El became popular that year in the U.S. as did Héctor & Tito. Luny Tunes and Noriega's Mas Flow was well received, while Yaga & Mackie with Sonando Diferente, Tego Calderón with El Abayarde, Ivy Queen with Diva, Zion & Lennox with Motivando a la Yal and the compilation Desafío were popular as well. Then in 2004 rapper N.O.R.E. released his hit single "Oye Mi Canto" which seemingly broke cultural and language barriers, which featured the likes of Nina Sky & Soon after Daddy Yankee came out with his album Barrio Fino and his hit single "Gasolina" which spread around the world becoming a mega-hit and with it introducing reggaeton to the rest of the world. Tego Calderón also increased the reggaeton genre with singles like "Pa' Que Retozen" and "Guasa Guasa". Another important artist who contributed to reggaeton's increasing popularity, especially in Europe, is Don Omar, with singles like "Pobre Diabla" and "Dale Don Dale".[14] Other very popular reggaeton artists include Tony Dize, Angel & Khriz, Nina Sky, Dyland & Lenny, RKM & Ken-Y, Julio Voltio, Calle 13, Héctor Delgado, Wisin & Yandel, and Tito El Bambino. In late 2004 and early 2005, Shakira recorded "La Tortura" and "La Tortura – Shaketon Remix" in her album Fijación Oral Vol. 1 (Oral Fixation Vol. 1) popularizing reggaeton in North America, Europe and Asia. After the success of these songs and reggaeton, artist began to incorporate bachata with reggaeton.[15] Artist such as Ivy Queen began releasing singles that featured bachata's signature guitar sound and slower more romantic rhythm as well as bachata's exaggerate emotional singing style.[15] This is reflected in the hits "Te He Querido, Te He Llorado" and "La Mala".[15] Daddy Yankee's "Lo Que Paso, Paso" and Don Omar's "Dile" also reflect this. A further use of bachata occurred in 2005 when producers began remixing existing reggaeton with bachata's characteristic guitar sounds marketing it as bachaton defining it as "bachata, Puerto Rican style".[15]

2006–2010: Topping the charts

In May 2006 Don Omar's album, King of Kings, became the highest ranking reggaeton LP to date in the US charts, with its debut at number 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart and its peak at number 7 on the Billboard's 200 albums. It also gained the number 1 spot on the Billboard Latin Rhythm Radio Chart with the single "Angelito."[16] Don Omar was also able to beat the in-store appearance sales record at Downtown Disney's Virgin music store previously set by pop star Britney Spears, further demonstrating reggaeton's rise to popularity in the United States. 2007 also saw new records set with Daddy Yankee's June release of El Cartel III: The Big Boss setting a new record for highest first week selling reggaeton album with 88,000 copies sold.[17] It peaked at number 1 on both the Top Latin Albums and Top Rap Albums charts being the first reggaeton album to peak at number 1 on the rap charts. It also peaked at number 9 on the Billboard 200 making it the second highest ranking reggaeton album on the mainstream chart.[18] The third highest ranking reggaeton album came later that year in the form of Wisin & Yandel's album Wisin vs. Yandel: Los Extraterrestres debuting at number 14 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart.[19] In 2008 a new 3rd highest ranking album came with the release of Daddy Yankee soundtrack to his movie of the same name Talento de Barrio debuting at number 13 on the Billboard 200 knocking Wisin vs. Yandel: Los Extraterrestres down a spot. It also peaked at number 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart, number 3 on Billboard's Top Soundtracks and number 6 on the Top Rap Albums chart.[18] 2009 saw the release of Wisin & Yandel's album La Revolucion debuting at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 making it equal 1st as the highest charting reggaeton album along with King of Kings. It also debuted at number 1 on the Top Latin Albums and number 3 on the Top Rap Albums, demonstrating a crossover appeal for reggaeton in mainstream "English-speaking" markets.

Musical characteristics


The dembow riddim itself was first created by Jamaican dancehall producers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The dembow riddim also referred to as son bow, and dembo consists of a simple kick drum, kickdown drum, palito, snare drum, timbal, timballroll, and sometimes a high hat, cymbal and such. However, the original idea of dembow's percussion pattern cannot be traced to any individual producer, because it was partly influenced by the dancehall dembow riddim, but also by other West Indian music such as soca, calypso and cadence, which in turn gives the dembow a pan-Caribbean nature. Steely & Clevie, creators of the Poco Man Jam riddim are usually credited with the creation of the original dembow.[20] At the heart of dembow lies the 3+3+2 or tresillo rhythm, complemented by bass drums in 4/4 time.[21]

The dembow riddim was first highlighted in the song "Dem Bow" by Shabba Ranks, from his 1991 album Just Reality. Dembow's drum and percussion pattern is created through a drum machine. In the late 1970s, Dancehall music was revolutionized by the drum machine starting to be used more often in pop music, and many dancehall producers used these drum machines to create different dancehall riddims. Dembow's role in reggaeton is to be the basic building block, and the skeletal sketch in percussion.

The dembow used in reggaeton also incorporates other different riddims such as the Bam Bam riddim, the Hot This Year riddim, the Poco Man Jam riddim, the Fever Pitch riddim, the Red Alert riddim, the Trailer Reloaded riddim, and the Big Up riddim. As a result, different samples are often used to create dembow in reggaeton. As reggaeton continues to evolve, so does the dembow riddim, and many of the newer reggaeton hits incorporate a much lighter and electrified offspring of the riddim. Examples can be heard in songs such as "Pa' Que la Pases Bien" and "Quiero Bailar" which incorporates the Liquid riddim.[22]

Lyrics and themes

Reggaeton lyrical structure resembles hip hop lyrics. Like hip hop, most reggaeton artists recite their lyrics rapping (or vocals resembling rapping) rather than singing; however, many reggaeton artists alternate between rapping and singing. Reggaeton uses the traditional pop structure of verses, choruses and bridges. Like hip hop music, reggaeton songs have hooks that are repeated throughout the song. Latino ethnic identity has been a common theme in reggae ton, articulated musically, lyrically, and visually. Many artists talk about love, gansta rap, la playa or being in the club. The club scene is really what Reggaeton music represents to youth. It is played frequently in Latino night clubs around the world. Many DJs use reggaeton and hiphop in their mixes because of the attention it grabs and it can be danced to.

Usually, reggaeton CDs are not labeled "explicit" like many hip hop CDs are. One exception is that Daddy Yankee's Barrio Fino en Directo (Barrio Fino Live) was labeled explicit for objectionable content in the live concerts (and for explicit language by Snoop Dogg in the song "Gangsta Zone"), even though the regular studio version of Barrio Fino was not labeled explicit. Some reggaeton artists, such as Alexis & Fido, are able to circumvent radio and television censorship by using sexual innuendo and lyrics with double meanings in their music. Some songs have also raised concerns about women's depiction on their lyrics.[23]

While reggaeton started as a genre composed of mostly male artists, there has been a slowly increasing number of female artists debuting over the years. Notable female reggaeton artists include the "Queen of Reggaeton" Ivy Queen,[24] Mey Vidal, K-Narias, Adassa, La Sista and Glory.


Main article: Perreo

Perreo is a dance associated with reggaeton music that emerged in the early 1990s in Puerto Rico. It is a dance that focuses on grinding, with one partner facing the back of the other (usually male behind female).[25] Another way of describing this dance is "back-to-front" dance, where the woman presses her rear into the pelvis of her partner to create sexual stimulation. Traditional couple dancing has been face to face, such as the waltz or square dancing. Reggaeton shocked westerners with their sensual dance moves but quickly became popular in several music videos.[26]

This is also known as daggering or "grinding" or "juking" in the United States of America.[27]


Latin America

Reggaeton is very popular in Latin American countries such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Peru. Reggaeton has become staple music in many parties and events, complementing the common mix of merengue, salsa and electronic music, and has paved a huge fan base.

United States

With the help of N.O.R.E. (also known as Noreaga), a New York-based rapper, and his producing of Nina Sky's 2004 hit "Oye Mi Canto", which featured prominent reggaeton artists Tego Calderón and Daddy Yankee, reggaeton quickly gained popularity in the US.[28] Soon after, Daddy Yankee caught the attention of many big names in hip hop with his song "Gasolina", propelling the style across the country.[28] Also in 2004, XM Radio launched a channel called Fuego (XM), which played exclusively reggaeton music. However, XM Radio removed the channel in December 2007 from home and car receivers, but can still be streamed off the XM Satellite Radio Website. The genre has also provided the foundation and basis for a modern Latin-American commercial radio phenomenon known as Hurban,[28] a combination of the terms Hispanic and Urban that is used to evoke the musical influences of hip hop and Latin American music. Reggaeton formed from hip hop and reggae, and has helped Latin-Americans contribute to the urban American culture while still keeping many aspects of their Hispanic heritage. The music relates to many of the socio-economic issues happening in America including gender and race which highly connects to hip hop in America today.[28]


Reggaeton has not become as popular in Europe as in Latin America. However, it has a great appeal to Latin American immigrants, especially in Spain.[29] A Spanish concept called "La Canción del Verano" (The Summer Song), under which a particular song or two define the mood for the season and are regarded unofficially as such by Spanish media, served as the basis for the appearance popularity of reggaeton songs such as Panamanian rapper Lorna's "Papi Chulo (Te Traigo el Mmm)” in 2003, “Baila Morena" by Héctor & Tito and Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" in 2005. Nowadays, reggaeton is the most usual music in discos and clubs in Spain. Countries in Europe have used many Reggaeton songs in zumba classes or dancing. Even though they might not understand the language, they catch on to the tight beat. For example, one of Daddy Yankee’s biggest earliest fan clubs were in Moscow, and France. Many big artists like Don Omar, DY, Wisin Y Yandel, etc. perform in many European countries.


In the Philippines, reggaeton is also a popular music genre. Instead of performing in Spanish or English, artists mostly use the Filipino language.


Reggaeton in Arabic is new in the culture of North Africa. It began in Tunisia and launched from rap music with the first rapper in Tunisia balti : with the master sina young singer who lives in Italy met in a song talking about illegal immigration year title the names clandestino, sina master who enter Tunisia in countries that sing the reggeaton. Master sina made another reggaeton title with the International Algerian singer ridha talieni. These are the second song "bye bye" balti also did another song style is reggeaton "Balti - J'me taille Feat Miro Starf".[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b Wayne Marshall (2006-01-19). "Rise of Reggaetón". The Phoenix. Retrieved 2006-07-24. 
  2. ^ "1:53 - DJ NELSON - INTERVIEW WITH URBAN FLOW UK - YouTube". YouTube. 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  3. ^ "Ya No Sería 'Reggaetón' Sino 'Reguetón'". El Mundo. Retrieved 2012-01-20. "The music genre Puerto Ricans Daddy Yankee, Don Omar and Calle 13 are spreading through the world has a name; it is pronounced 'reguetón', but there is no consensus of how to write it in Spanish; the Puerto Rican Academy of the Spanish Language will propose that it be written how it is said."
  4. ^ a b c d "Reguetón". Fundéu BBVA. Retrieved 2012-01-20. "The adaptation 'reguetón' is appropriate and already has a certain use. Therefore it is the recommended form. If the original form is used, it would be written in italics, although since it is a mix of an English word and a Spanish one, there are reasons to write it with tilde and without it (problem solved by the completely adapted form)."
  5. ^ a b c d e Mayra Santos, "Puerto Rican Underground", Centro vol. 8 1 & 2 (1996), p. 219-231.
  6. ^ Sara Corbett (2006-02-05). "The King of Reggaetón". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  7. ^ a b c Frances Negrón-Muntaner and Raquel Z. Rivera. "Reggaeton Nation". Archived from the original on 2007-12-21. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  8. ^ Hilda Garcia and Gonzalo Salvador. "Reggaeton: The Emergence of a New Rhythm". Archived from the original on 2005-01-15. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  9. ^ John Marino, "Police Seize Recordings, Say Content Is Obscene", San Juan Star, February 3, 1995; Raquel Z. Rivera, "Policing Morality, Mano Dura Style: The Case of Underground Rap and Reggae in Puerto Rico in the Mid-1990s", in Reading Reggaeton.
  10. ^ Matt Caputo. "Daddy Yankee: The Voice of His People". Archived from the original on 2008-03-02. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  11. ^ " Sentimiento: Music: Editorial Reviews". Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  12. ^ Giovannetti, Jorge L. (2003). Frances R. Aparicio and Cándida F. Jáquez, ed. "Popular Music and Culture in Puerto Rico: Jamaican and Rap Music as Cross-Cultural Symbols" Musical Migrations: Transnationalism and Cultural Hybridity in the Americas. New York: Palgrave. 
  13. ^ "Q&A with DJ Blass". 3 July 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  14. ^ "El Reggaeton". 8 February 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c d Raquel Z. Rivera, Wayne Marshall and Deborah Pacini Hernandez. "Reggaeton". Duke University Press. 2009. pg. 143-144
  16. ^ "Reggaeton Music News - Lyrics & Noticias de Musica Urbana". Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  17. ^ Katie Hasty, "T-Pain Soars To No. 1 Ahead Of Rihanna, McCartney",, June 13, 2007.
  18. ^ a b Artist Chart History – Daddy Yankee – – Accessed November 10, 2008
  19. ^ – Artist Chart History – Wisin & Yandel
  20. ^ Marshall, "Dem Bow, Dembow, Dembo: Translation and Transnation in Reggaeton." Lied und populäre Kultur / Song and Popular Culture: Jahrbuch des Deutschen Volksliedarchivs 53 (2008): 131-51.
  21. ^ Reggaeton. Rivera, Raquel Z., Wayne Marshall, and Deborah Pacini Hernandez, eds. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2009 and Marshall, Dem Bow, Dembow, Dembo: Translation and Transnation in Reggaeton
  22. ^ Marshall, Wayne. "The Rise and Fall of Reggaeton: From Daddy Yankee to Tego Calderón and Beyond" in Jiménez Román, Miriam, and Juan Flores, eds. The Afro-Latin@ reader: history and culture in the United States. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2010, p. 401.
  23. ^ "ICM: Instituto Canario de la Mujer". 17 January 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  24. ^ Ben-Yehuda, Ayala (2007-03-31). "Reggaetón Royalty – Ivy Queen Earns Her Crown As A Very Male Subgenre's Only Female Star". Billboard. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 2012-11-29. 
  25. ^ World, Upside Down. "Reggaeton Nation". Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  26. ^ Fairley, Jan (2010). "How To Make Love With Your Clothes On". 
  27. ^ Andrea Hidalgo (2005-06-02). "Perreo causes Controversy for Reggaeton". 
  28. ^ a b c d Marshall, Wayne. "The Rise of Reggaeton". [Boston Phoenix], 19 January 2006.
  29. ^ Reggaeton in Spain