Saturday, May 20, 2006

Boricua Guerrero

I understand only enough Spanish to half-follow 100 Mexicanos Dijeron, and know of Puerto Rico not much outside the realm of 36-24-34. So when I decided it was time to tackle The Profecy, the 1996 track with Nas and Daddy Yankee, I figured I was ready to see what's behind a little something called Reggaeton. Oh, I've heard that sound blaring out of two-doors and four-doors alike the past couple years but, for the most part, kept driving past. Because of this, I got in contact with Richard Cruz for some help. Cruz contributes to the urban Latino publication, Bridgez, and even Vibe Online, where he has interviewed the likes of the aforementioned Daddy Yankee. Engaging in a sort of interview myself, here's what I found out.
--
RTA: All right, break down the basics. Reggaeton?

RC: Reggaeton. You either love it (as I do) or hate it (as I once did). Either way, thanks to good ol' marketing and promotion, it's emerged as a global phenomenon. And although some speculators say its popularity has reached its peak here in the mainland, it really doesn't need the mainstream support. It can survive on its own, and really should be left to do so. There are millions of 18-24 year old Latinos in the United States to whom the genre appeals. We did our little songs with Ja Rule and G-Unit to get attention, but now it is time to evolve.

RTA: Okay, let's address the hate first.

RC: Back then it was viewed as "fake dancehall", real dirty and not marketed right.

RTA: But you don't seem too thrilled about the Ja Rule / G-Unit concoctions now either?

RC: As a fan of good music, it sucks. As a marketer or A&R, it makes sense.

RTA: You see it as the Ja Rule's of the world trying to ride the Reggaeton wave? Or Reggaeton trying to assimilate?

RC: A combination of both. Nothing wrong with collaborating with Hip-Hop artists outside of the genre, but continuing to do so for shock value demeans the genre and the people it represents.

RTA: So then what's on the love side?

RC: Although content-wise it hasn't changed much, for myself, there is now more so a connect between mainland Puerto Ricans and island Puerto Ricans.

RTA: Did this connection change the music stylistically?

RC: I wouldn't say that the connection changed it stylistically, but vice versa: the new wave of Reggaeton attracted mainland US fan base, as well as those who had encountered Reggaeton before, but shunned it consequently. Tego Calderon was really the one to break down that barrier: he flows with a heavy Hip-Hop influence, but his production is rooted in reggae, bomba y plena, as well as the typical synth-heavy contemporary style. Gradually, the genre also began marketing itself better.

RTA: How so?

RC: Same tactics used by US rappers, producer and artist shoutouts over tracks. From there, the clubs began bringing these acts in for performances, and all together helped establish faces with names. Then when dancehall blew up in 2002, that really opened the doors for Reggaeton.

RTA: With those doors open, one of the most prominent voices seemed to be NORE. How much credit do you give him?

RC: Mr. Hang Hang Sangria? NORE?

RTA: Yeah.

RC: Mr. I Woke Up and Turned Boricua, NORE?

RTA: Him too.

RC: NORE has been quoted as saying he was responsible for the music's newfound popularity, and with Oye Mi Canto being an inescapable hit, that's true, but only partially. You have to remember that Mr. Santiago was far from the first one collaborating with artists like, oh, let's say, Daddy Yankee.

RTA: You mean the Nas collabo?

RC: The Profecy, right. And while that song didn't really have the impact of Oye Mi Canto, Hip-Hop hadn't totally established itself as the tremendous multi-platinum entertainment machine it would soon become.

RTA: Okay, so when I hear The Profecy, I hear Nas and then a minute and a half of something else. What is that something else?

RC: That's Daddy Yankee, then under the moniker of "Winchester Yankee." Beyond the name, from then till now, you should also note a change away from a more distinct, darker lyrical content. It stands a far cry from his modern hits, but interesting nonetheless.

RTA: Is that the most noticeable change?

RC: Not even close. That "something else" you heard, that's speed. It's that rapid fire delivery which was characteristic of most mid-90s Reggaeton. But his flow has changed since then. Most acts have changed really.

RTA: Slowed down?

RC: Significantly. The artists are rapping on the beat as opposed to rambling like many mid-90's artists did. The music is way more accessible now.

RTA: Has that mid-90s flow been completely abandoned?

RC: No, someone like Calle 13, who's tomorrow's next big thing, still utilizes the older style. Just look at his track Cabeceo. There you can probably ID a flow quite similar to Yankee's on The Profecy.

RTA: With all this mind, back to The Profecy for a second, not that Nas pioneered or predicted it, but, as he said, "much love to Puerto Rico, we rolling with you", it seems undeniable that this connection between mainland Hip-Hop and Latinos has only grown in the decade since.

RC: And will only keep growing. With the work we're doing at Bridgez, we're simply looking to give that connection its due coverage.

RTA: Talk about Bridgez.

RC: There are so many Hip-Hop publications out right now, but not a single one that caters directly to Latinos, so that's where we come in. The Latino contribution to Hip-Hop goes unrecognized too often. From Crazy Legs to Tony Touch to Big Pun to a Daddy Yankee, we've been here since the start.

RTA: Then what about your work with the Union of the State Project?

RC: Top Secret.

RTA: Ha.

RC: Well, it's an event in August that is acknowledging the future of New York City Hip-Hop, alongside other lifestyle elements, art and fashion namely.

RTA: Who's that future?

RC: We have four rappers now, but I don't want to disclose any of the performers as of yet . . . they're all well known, signed to majors, and set to make an impact. However, we're creating that platform for them first, helping them get a marketing push, and just bringing together various tastemakers in the city to recognize it first. That's the future.

Daddy Yankee, Nas: The Profecy
BONUS: Calle 13: Cabeceo
BONUS: Daddy Yankee: Machucando
BONUS: Tego Calderon: Cambumbo

*NOTE: Check out the growing Bridgez Magazine, spotlighting the Latino contribution to Hip-Hop, and contact Richard directly at cruz05@mac.com for more info on the Union of the State Project.--Fletch

14 Comments:

Blogger Fletch said...

I'd be real curious to hear what y'all think of these songs. I'm not a Reggaeton expert or devotee by any stretch, and have heard more in the last week than ever before, but the three bonus links come hand-picked from me. And while I'm not as much as a fan of Machucando, I've found if you have company and turn it up loud enough, the chorus has this compulsive rhythm. However, on Cabeceo and Cambumbo the production is much more aligned with traditional Hip-Hop production. In fact, the former reminded me of Jay-Z's Do It Again initially (the guitar). I don't have a clue what they're saying, except for a random word here and there, but I can nod along just the same.

May 20, 2006 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Colin said...

I have a strong dislike for reggaeton. The only song I have kept is the one you just upped, even then it's playcount is still at 0 on my iTunes since I can never stomach listening to all of it. Just Nas and then skip.

The sound of it doesn't appeal to me, and if I don't know what they're saying what's the point?

May 20, 2006 7:08 PM  
Blogger the prisoner's wife said...

i'm w/ Colin. i'm one of the ones that "hates it" & has called it "fake dancehall" (lol). i wanted to blow up my radio everytime i heard "Gasolina"...

with that said...i do like Tego, esp when he's over a hip hop banger.

(and btw: my fam hails from central america & i love salsa, merangue, latin jazz...Celia will always be la Reina).

May 20, 2006 8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with the majority, I cant stand reggaeton. It just doesn't appeal to me, as one who primarily listens to music for the lyrics, I find this near impossible with such a genre.

May 21, 2006 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Colin said...

As for stuff I can't understand, Brazillian pop is just too dope to not listen to, and anything along the lines of the Buena Vista Social Club is amazing.

May 21, 2006 4:16 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Colin, I'm glad you said you can get with something like Brazilian pop despite not understanding the lyrics. I was about to come in here talking about rhythm's ability to translate across language, and then praise Luiz Melodia or this really great collection called "Wudang Mountains", or even some Fela Kuti. I don't like much of Daddy Yankee's stuff, the PW named Gasolina for example, but it's due to production and not lyrics. In fact, I would say that not knowing Spanish all that well may actually help me like Spanish-language music more, in the way that I think the Group Home record would have been even better if I didn't know what they were saying. Lil Dap in Chinese?

But then to PW's point, of the three albums I listened to just recently (Barrio Fino en Directo, Calle 13, and El Abayarde), Tego's album had the best material. So I give him much more of a stronger endorsement than something like Gasolina.

May 21, 2006 4:41 PM  
Blogger the prisoner's wife said...

Fletch,

i wonder how dude feels about spanish reggae (not reggaton). acts from belize & panama...places with large jamaican influences but w/ spanish influences as well.

May 21, 2006 4:53 PM  
Blogger Subculture said...

Yeah I gotta say. Reggaeton makes me want to kill myself.

May 22, 2006 6:42 AM  
Blogger Fletch said...

5 imaginary dollars to the first person who comes in here and defends Reggaeton.

May 22, 2006 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reggaeton is really bad. When I was reading this, I was like, man what the hell happened to Fletch? What the hell is this...

I'm not a fan of reggaton. I don't even listen to it much. It's just basically spanish rap... That's how I see it even if it's not.

This is weak.

PS: Nas' drops his new album "Hip Hop is Dead" on September. On hiphopgame.com

May 22, 2006 6:59 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

damn, y'all are tough. lol

I made this entry not to endorse Reggaeton or diss it, but I figure since a lot of people tend to think it's a genre with merit, that it was at least worth covering, especially considering that Nas worked with one of its principal figures.

Someone who doesn't like on-the-radio Reggaeton, listen to Cabeceo or Cambumbo and tell me what you think. I don't have an opinion on the genre still, but these songs are more than listenable to me.

And to anonymous, I would wager a lifetime of listening to Daddy Yankee in a cold basement that "Hip-Hop Is Dead" isn't gonna be the final title, just like "Nigger" wasn't and "Nasdaq Dow Jones" won't be. I can get w/ the September release date though. (I hope Nas names it "Rebel To America", that way I can get more google hits . . .)

May 22, 2006 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't like it, dont listen to it. But don't hate on those who enjoy it.

I am a big fan of (good) reggaeton, and I bet you my Nas catalog is crazier than that of all you haters!

One.

May 25, 2006 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^LOL^

I'm Dominican/Puerto Rican and half to endore this music on the daily basis. I have gained a 6th sense in that I can completely tune it out. If I happen to actualy listen I get the urge to punch the closes person to the radio in the face. It's like nails to a chalk board.

July 04, 2006 9:40 PM  
Anonymous elnegrobembon said...

well, since there's nobody really defending, i'll give it a try.

The first thing I want to set straight is that i love hip hop. i'm really a noob at reggaeton, and didnt much care for it about 2 years ago, but ever since i moved to puerto rico, the rhythms of reggaeton have become more and more irresistible.

Anyway, not unlike hip hop, you're going to find a lot of weak, uninspiring songs in reggaeton. But what i've come to realize is that reggaeton, for the most part, is simply meant for dancing and having a good time. Deep, complex lyrics and wordplay aren't necessary.

I do have this to say about Daddy Yankee. Most people here probably have never heard of him before "Gasolina" or "Oye Mi Canto", but his old school days, his "Winchester" days, I'd say, were extremely underrated and overlooked...except by Nas, obviously.
He's gone mainstream now, and his lyrics obviously dumbed down. But i do have to admire the way he can switch from being an underground rapper to a mainstream success, and be very talented at both...not to mention his incredible flow.

Anyway, Reggaeton/Spanish Hip Hop is probably misunderstood/hated on for many reasons, but what i dont understand is how many hip hop fans hate it. Since reggaeton has had so much influence from hip hop and they're so similar, it's hard for me to understand that.

(Didn't meant for my post to be so long..sorry about that)

October 16, 2006 12:50 PM  

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