July 5, 2009

Is Latino Hip-Hop Dying?

When you think of Urban Latino music, the stars that come to mind are for the most part Reggaeton artist's.

They are who you see in the media and they are the one's who dominate the airwaves. Especially in Latin America.

The only Latino Hip-Hop artist that I can think of that is making any noise is actually Pitbull.

Does Latino Hip-Hop have any stars other than Pitbull?

Perhaps Fat Joe.

But what we are missing in Latino Hip-Hop is the community that has developed around Reggaeton.

Reggaeton has been able to establish itself as it's own genre in great part due to the culture that has developed around it.

Blogs, radio, websites, mixtapes, etc. revolving completely around Reggaeton.

Without a community to contribute and participate in Latino Hip-Hop, it will inevitably die.

So organize yourself and help us create a community.

Wishing you continued success!

--
Cristopolis Dieguez
latinohiphop.org
cristopolis.com

3 comments:

Alb said...

I think you have raised an important issue of the specific state of Latino Hip Hop within the greater context of Hip Hop music and culture. To address the issue and how it affects artists, I would begin by saying that I believe Latino Hip Hop (including reggaeton) suffers from regionalism, ethnic leanings and all of the divisiveness that affects the entire Latino community. In other words, being a Latino artist in Hip Hop is as much about your individual talent as your ethnicity, level of assimilation and the community you cater to. In my experience, Latino artists, especially in Hip Hop, often think that because they are Latino and their community/public is Latino, then their art will be accepted, validated and propagated. This has often not been the case, since most Latino artists actually cater to a more specific community, a subgenre, a niche community. This has a lot to do with cultural imperialism and a myriad of other factors (record labels, level of genre popularity, ect.) If you are a Latino artist, you have the right to sample and utilize rhythms from the entire diaspora of Latin America. However, that does not mean your contribution will be accepted or even recognized. Latino artists think they can hop on a trend that for the most part has only benefited those artists from that community. I believe musical art forms still "belong" to the communities from which they came and those same communities are the ones that can break new artists utilizing those genres. This is also exemplified by the artists on the Billboard charts. Check the charts and tell me how many artists have "crossed over" to another subgenre of which they were not ethnically or regionally connected and were successful? As an producer, songwriter and performer, I respect every subgenre and would do my research before unsurping a rhythm and expecting it to "hit". Some communities won't change and have to some degree alot of "say" in who makes it and who won't. As an artist you wan't to experiment and try different things but remember those communities are ultimately the judge, jury and executioner of your work.

CRISTOPOLIS said...

Alb, thank you for the great comment.

I agree that there are definitely regional and ethnic barriers affecting all of latin entertainment.

But my take on Latino Hip-Hop is that it has always been looked upon as 'rap in spanish', never really developing it's own sound.

I believe that 'Reggaeton' has developed a distinguishable sound and has thus effectively created a self sustaining culture around itself. While Latino Hip-Hop has been comfortable living as a regional sub-genre of the greater Hip-Hop culture.

What I would hope to see is for Latino Hip-Hop to create a sound and community for itself much in the same way as Latin Jazz and Spanish Rock have before it.

What do you think?

Alb said...

I think that despite the number of Latino Hip Hop artists that have already had some type of success (Big Pun, Cypress Hill, Joel Ortiz, Immortal Technique, ect.) whether it be commercial, fame, mixtape or just productivity wise, there continues to be a lack of central community around Latino Hip Hop. I have to continue to stress the devisiveness and cultural imperialism that continues to plague our ethnic communities. If a Latino rapper that is Puerto Rican wants to make it, he has to cater to his/her community to some degree (probably alot) and a Salvadoran rapper needs to dot the same party because these communities do not have a history of buying eachothers music. (i.e. Vallenato, Cumbia and Banda are not popular in Puerto Rico and probably never will be due in part to regional tastes, cultural imperialism and a lack of historical and cultural access) A Central American or South American rapper will have a hard time in the U.S. centralizing all of the Latino communities with their particular sound and liguistic inflection. Many listeners are already accustomed to hearing a particular "voice" and can't or won't wrap their heads around another accent. The only reason Cypress Hill and Big Pun were able to do it is because, number 1, they rapped in English not Spanish in the majority of their records. Number 2, Whites and Black also identified with their music and number 3 they both were already on fairly large labels and connected to other Hip Hop luminaries. How many Latino rappers can claim that nowadays? Especially local acts. You can't count on one community to be your fan base in Hip Hop when that community isn't centralized. African American rappers can do it because their subgenres like Southern crunk or or the Gulf Coast Ratchet are centralized in those regions. There is no central Latino Hip Hop market. There are only subgenres organized around ethnic subcultures, (i.e. Domincans listen to Dominican rap and Mexicans listen to Mexican rap) This is the crux for all Latino rappers. How do you cater to a segmented community? In terms of creating a community and a sound it can happen but that doesn't mean it will lead to what some might want or expect. Take Go-Go music for example, it has all the elements that a Latino Hip Hop community should want but they still haven't been able to be commercially succcessful in the music business (aside from touring locally). Why? Because Go-Go music at all levels did not want to commodify the music for mainstream distribution, (i.e. shorter songs, less rototom solos, more original songs, less regionalism, ect.) The same could be said for the Latino rap community. What won't the community change and how does that unwillingness to change prevent it from mainstream success? Is mainstream success even something to be desired? I think rappers want to be known outside their zip code and want to be respected in different ethnic subcultures but until someone breaks that mold (they should probably follow in the footsteps of those that have already done it) the game will continue to be segmented. Latinos for the most part always see things through their cultural filter. If this filter prevents them from "hearing" talent then it never gets past the ear drum into the brain or into the heart.