Friday, October 23, 2009

Quieres hip hop? Mira aqui!

As reggaeton continues to monopolize the Spanish-language music scene, there are artists out there reclassifying the genre. In fact, these musicians are making a style all of their own. Hip hop has an immense following in the United States, but it is usually overshadowed in Spanish speaking countries because of reggaeton. These artists are making a statement by not following the worn, reggaeton path and people are noticing.

This duo of half-brothers from San Juan, Puerto Rico defy classification ...literally. They vehemently refuse to be labeled as reggaeton. They do, however, accept the categorization of hip hop.

Calle 13 is the Spanish equivalent of Slim Shady (no, not the minority-bashing Eminem, there's a difference). Their cheeky songs are full of parodies and jokes that parents disapprove of and teenagers idolize. The Intro track to their Residente o Visitante album warns listeners with a choir singing the type of Spanish slang that will be used in the disc, like jackass, little boy b!#^$ and a phrase involving male genitalia.

Whether that offends anybody doesn't seem to matter to award committees, because the duo leads the Latin Grammys with five nominations for this year's event. Their nominations include Album of the Year and Best Urban Music Album.

But these rabble rousers are not all jokes and shenanigans. They've made political statements that resulted in cancelled shows. A clever T-shirt commenting on a Colombian mayor's involvement in controversial military bases kept Calle 13 out of the country. These guys can't even find asylum in their own country. Comments about laid off government workers halted a performance in their hometown of San Juan. Ay caray!

These thick-skinned entertainers do have a soft side. Their song "Un Beso de Desayuno"make the sexually charged lyrics of Marvin Gaye fame seem like a nursery rhyme. If the Spanish is too much, look up a translation and try to disagree.

Calle 13 is clearly a talented pair, and their musical diversity supports their refusal to be classified. Their song "La Era de la Copiera" is a taunt to those artists trying to be like them, but they can relax because no one is coming close.

Though she may not be Calle 13, Mala Rodriguez is doing her own thing and doing a damn fine job of it. Straight out of Spain, Mala adds more to Spanish hip hop than her smoking good looks.

Mala is the strong, sexy woman that every music genre needs (imagine Lil' Kim without the jail time). Her song "Nanai" includes the lyrics "look me in the eyes / you want to kill me / I'm not going down." Rhymes like those make her a hip hop artist, but Mala can sing like any other cantante out there.

"Volvere," the first song off her album Malamarismo showcases this feisty songbird's multiple skills. Her gentle coos lull listeners until she starts to rhyme. Before the song ends, she belts out "Yo soy / un mundo enterno." Goosebumps.

She's likely given the same feeling to stupefied listeners around the world. Songs like "Toca Toca" let listeners know that Mala is a strong woman in charge of her life even though she's surrounded by clowns like Calle 13. She knows the capability of her prowess when she rhymes "Besarme / Caida libre." Chances are, most do.

Calle 13 survived their interaction with the songstress and their product was magical. "Mala Suerta con el 13" is a sensual combination of Calle 13's macho tom foolery and Mala's gorgeous voice narrating the track. Their other collaboration, "Pal Norte," is a more upbeat and dance-inducing, but no less impressive.

Al Resto
Alright, that should be enough insight into the world of Spanish hip hop. These musicians are not the only artists on the scene, but a great place to start. Even though there are plenty of songs listed above, I had to leave you with my five extras.

2. Calle 13 - La Fokin Moda
3. Calle 13 - Uiyi Guaye
4. La Mala Rodriguez - Por la Noche
5. La Mala Rodriguez - La Loca


DJ Gringuito


  1. Check this: