Latin hip hop

Latin hip hop or Latin rap is hip hop music recorded by Latin American artists in the United States and Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

Latino hip hop in the United States

Latin rap in 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, and rapper who was perhaps best known for his production on Tupac Shakur's albums All Eyez on Me and Me Against the World.[1] 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.[2]

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 Sur Lado Entertainment from the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border with Mexico began producing ethnically unique hip hop tracks.[3] Their single "Un Million De Palmas" 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 1992, Mesanjarz of Funk, led by the Spanish/English flow of Mr. Pearl, became the first Spanish rap group signed to a major label (Atlantic Records). 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, Pitbull and Qba Libre 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".[4] Some Chicano rappers have even began to create their own subgenre. "Soul Rapper" Conivan has created his version of Chicano rap by fusing oldies and hip hop on his latest project "Analog Flo". Latin rap, and Chicano rap continue to develop into larger enterprises.

Latin hip hop in other countries

Migrations have brought Hispanic and Latino people and influences across borders. Calle 13 and Choc Quib Town are popular with Latino audiences in the Americas. Since 1992 Mexico has had a growing hip hop scene that first developed in Cd. Juárez Chih. with groups and rappers such as D.N.3 Feat. Raúl Panther G. (DJ Panther), Team-O and Aztlan in México City with Caló specialized in rap house and the list it keeps growing among the years with Bocafloja, Control Machete, Cartel de Santa, Dharius, Kinto Sol, Akwid, Locura Terminal, Dyablo, C-4, KDC, Tanke One, Eptos Uno, Bonnevilla, MC Aese, Romo One, Aleman, C-Kan, Don Aero, Zimple, Santa RM, MC Davo, UnderSide 821, Big Flow Music, Tren Lokote, W Corona, Adan Zapata, Thug Pol, Santa Grifa, Maniako, Toser One, Zaiko & Nuco, Griser NSR, Gera MXM, Charles Ans, Dante Storch and Molotov who have produced millions of views on YouTube. In Spain, rappers Mala Rodríguez, Nach, El Chojin and Porta have a growing fan base that ranges from Spain to Latin America. 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, Latin rap in Puerto Rico has had a substantial impact on the genres (rap, and Latin rap) and 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.[5] 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 the Puerto Rican youth in which they use dancehall and rap music as methods of expression for the Jamaican and working-class American youth counterparts as they made it in France too since 2003 "1492 Army".[5]

There are many hip-hop scenes in Latin America, including a growing rap movement in Buenos Aires.[6]

Latin rap has also surfaced in the United Kingdom with a group called Cultura Londres which includes Richie Londres of Sol Invicto and Eric Bobo of Cypress Hill in addition, Latin rap also surfaced in Australia with Maya Jupiter.


A music scene, similar to the early underground gangsta-rap scene, has emerged in northeastern Mexico (Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Coahuila), where the musical phenomenon of hip-hop is being co-opted by the influence of organized crime and the drug war in the region.

Narco-Rap is extremely well known, and similar to any other style of rap, is popular among all socioeconomic backgrounds and listened to by diverse audiences; even those that don't necessarily relate or have experienced the same reality of these rappers. Although it is concentrated in northeastern Mexico, it has now spread out to the northwest side of the border, as well as southern parts of the country. Even if narcos are mostly concentrated in the North due to the proximity to the United States border, there is drug related violence that can be seen throughout the entire country, making the lyrics of these raps relatable to huge audiences all around Mexico. However, sometimes the reach of these raps is not ideal to younger audiences. These raps glamourize gang violence and make it seem like something kids should aspire to be a part of. Not only do these rappers seek respect from their audiences, they also want to intimidate other rappers that could potentially be associated with a different cartel. Their raps are a form of expression and also a medium to make themselves sound superior to any competition.

Most of the lyrics in these raps are very violent and crude, sometimes degrading women as well. Since machismo is a very predominant attitude in Mexico and other Latin American countries, it definitely comes through in some of these raps. Latin American rappers take pride in being a 'macho' within society and being more powerful than the women surrounding them on a daily basis. It is an attitude that has been around Latin American societies for many centuries.

Mexican narco-rap contains lyrics similar to those of a narcocorrido (drug ballad). However, unlike corridos, which relate to rural regions of Pacific Mexico (and which are generally linked to the Sinaloa Cartel) narco-rap emerged in the urban area of Tamaulipas, on the border with Texas, a turf currently under armed dispute between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.

Derived from the constant presence of "halcones" ("hawks", cartel spies) and cartel-convoys circulating the streets of the region, young people have been involved in the local narcoculture, and narco-raps express the reality of life on the streets in cities ruled by drug cartels.

Some of the main exponents of the genre are Cano y Blunt, DemenT and Big Los.[7][8][9][10][11] [12][13]


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 electronic Latin melodic and percussion elements, over which Latino vocalists sang melodramatic pop vocals, usually in English even though it was started by Nuyorican natives and African Americans primarily.[14][15] Freestyle has been primarily popular among Latinos in the New York City, Miami, Chicago and California club scenes, but achieved national mainstream pop success with hits by Lisa Lisa, The Cover Girls, George Lamond, Stevie B, TKA and Exposé, among others.[14][15]

Latin trap

In 2015, a new movement of trap music referred to as "Latin trap" began to emerge.[16] Also known as Spanish-language trap, Latin trap similar to mainstream trap which details "'la calle,' or the streets — hustling, sex, and drugs".[17] Prominent artists of Latin trap include Messiah, Fuego, Anuel AA and Bad Bunny.[18] In July 2017, The Fader wrote "Rappers and reggaetoneros from Puerto Rico to Colombia have taken elements of trap — the lurching bass lines, jittering 808s and the eyes-half-closed vibe — and infused them into banger after banger."[18] In an August 2017 article for Billboard's series, "A Brief History Of," they enlisted some of the key artists of Latin trap—including Ozuna, De La Ghetto, Bad Bunny, Farruko and Messiah—to narrate a brief history on the genre.[16][19] Elias Leight of Rolling Stone noted "[Jorge] Fonseca featured Puerto Rican artists like Anuel AA, Bryant Myers and Noriel on the compilation Trap Capos: Season 1, which became the first "Latin trap" LP to reach Number One on Billboard's Latin Rhythm Albums chart."[20] A remixed version of Cardi B's hit single "Bodak Yellow" (which reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart), dubbed the "Latin Trap Remix", was officially released on August 18, 2017 and features Cardi B rapping in the Spanish language with Dominican hip hop recording artist Messiah contributing a guest verse.[21][22][23] In November 2017, Rolling Stone wrote that "a surging Latin trap sound is responding to more recent developments in American rap, embracing the slow-rolling rhythms and gooey vocal delivery popularized by Southern hip-hop."[20]

See also


  1. allmusic Credits
  2. "RIAA Database". Archived from the original on September 24, 2015.
  4. "The Oxford encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States - Suzanne Oboler, Deena J. González - Google Books". 2005-08-25. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  5. 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
  6. "Buenos Aires Rap: An Interview with Diane Ghogomu". Sounds and Colours. June 9, 2014.
  7. "En Tamaulipas los narcos disparan a ritmo de rap". VICE. 2012-06-13. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  8. "El narco-rap, la banda sonora del horror en Reynosa". Mexico CNN. Archived from the original on 2016-01-31. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  9. "Se suman los raperos norteamericanos a la 'ola narco' | El Paso". Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  10. Maria, Juana (2013-07-09). "McALLEN: 'Reynosa la Maldosa' - El Nuevo Heraldo: Noticias Locales". El Nuevo Heraldo. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  11. "US Rappers Dedicate Their Songs to Mexican Drug Lords". Borderland Beat. 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  12. "Mexico's Narco Rappers Are Here to Stay". VICE. 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  13. ""Voy a morir porque creen que soy un Zeta"". Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  14. Gill, Michael F. (2007-08-13). "The Bluffer's Guide to Freestyle". Stylus. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  15. Verán, Cristina (Apr 11, 2006). "Let the Music Play (Again)". The Village Voice. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  16. "Ozuna, Bad Bunny, De La Ghetto, Farruko & Messiah Narrate a Brief History of Latin Trap". Billboard.
  17. Portilla, Christina (August 23, 2017). "Latin Trap Brings New Music to Miami". Miami New Times. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  18. "Trap's Latin American Takeover". The FADER.
  19. "Rappers Discuss Brief History Of Latin Trap". Vibe. August 21, 2017.
  20. Leight, Elias; Leight, Elias (November 7, 2017). "Inside Latin Trap, the Viral Sound Too Hot for American Radio".
  21. "Bodak Yellow (feat. Messiah) [Latin Trap Remix] - Single by Cardi B" via
  22. Berry, Peter A. "Cardi B Drops Spanish Remix of 'Bodak Yellow' With Messiah - XXL". XXL Mag.
  23. "Cardi B Premieres "Bodak Yellow" Spanish Remix With Messiah". Vibe. August 18, 2017.
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