Raise the Flag
Whether incorporating Hispanic tradition of their rhymes or all-out spitting in Spanish, Latino rappers have been leaving their stamp on hip-hop greater than ever. Six rising Latino rappers mirror on how heritage informs their music.
Interviews: Bianca Torres
Editor’s Note: This story initially appeared within the Winter 2018 subject of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
For so lengthy, Fat Joe and the late Big Pun needed to carry the load. The two rap giants who reigned via the 1990s and 2000s had been lengthy thought of the faces of Latino hip-hop, as they emblazoned their music and pictures with their Hispanic heritages. Fat Joe (Cuban and Puerto Rican) has been connecting hip-hop to Hispanic tradition ever since his involvement in recruiting options for DJ Playero and Nico Canada’s 1997 Boricua Guerrero: First Combat, a groundbreaking reggaetón/hip-hop crossover undertaking. And Pun, the primary solo Latino rapper to launch a platinum-certified album (1998’s Capital Punishment), made an eternal ode to his Puerto Rican heritage with the 2000 monitor “100%”—it’s posthumous video, shot in Puerto Rico, decked out with the island's flags and imagery.
Yet it appears to be a brand new day for artists like Fat Joe—in addition to different Latino rap stars like Cypress Hill, N.O.R.E., The Beatnuts, Joell Ortiz and Pitbull. While Hispanic rappers had been as soon as discovered few and much between on the mainstream stage, their presence in hip-hop has been seen and heard in 2018 greater than ever. Cardi B has been loud and proud about her Dominican roots since day one, and embracing them has helped her land her largest hit but with the crossover track of the summer season, “I Like It,” which options Spanish spittas J Balvin and Bad Bunny. Controversial rapper 6ix9ine, who’s Mexican, raps fully in Spanish for his Anuel AA-featured “Bebe.” Colombian rapper Lil Pump jumps on “Arms Around You,” a Spanish collaboration with XXXTentacion, Maluma and Swae Lee. Even non-Hispanic superstars like Drake are out right here assimilating—he sings good Spanish on Bad Bunny’s “Mia.”
As the Latin entice bonanza runs parallel to hip-hop, rappers of assorted backgrounds, sounds and localities who rep Hispanic roots are getting their shine on. XXL spoke to 6 budding Latino artists about how their tradition has influenced their music and careers.
Ethnicity: African-American (Mother),
Languages Spoken: English, Spanish
My mother and pop divorced, so I used to be raised within the South as a Black particular person. If you’ve been to [Dominican Republic], it’s best to know they’ve a number of Spanish, darkish Dominicans. They be Black as fuck identical to me. My dad occurred to be a Black Dominican and my mother’s Black. African-Americans and Latinos have it tough within the U.S.—I’m each, so I suppose I’m double tough. I suppose I’m extra checked out as a Black particular person anyway.
I communicate Spanish. I imply, I haven’t actually applied that. Speaking two totally different languages, I suppose it could assist you along with your vocabulary. It made me suppose a sure form of approach about shit. If any individual comes and speaks to me in Spanish or like, a fan throughout my Instagram Live communicate to me in Spanish, I’ll simply communicate Spanish with them. But I simply depart it at that. I really feel like I’m undoubtedly a voice. The sort of shit I’m on, it’s simply totally different for a Dominican artist. I don’t suppose actually that Dominican artists are doing the brand new wave shit, you realize?
You produce other races in hip-hop however the Latino [artists] coming within the final yr or so—it’s like, a big-ass wave. Everybody is turning into a celebrity as a result of there’s so many Spanish talking nations. Whenever you make a track that each Latino can hearken to, it’s only a big-ass track as a result of there’s so many individuals that hearken to it. There’s so many Latinos. I’m going to do some Spanish [music] however on some tremendous like, nigga shit. Cardi is Dominican as fuck, proper? It makes me completely satisfied and shit.
Languages Spoken: English, Spanish
[Being Mexican] is a bonus as a result of I gotta make the most of the issues that make me totally different from everyone. And generally, it’s a drawback since you simply gotta work as laborious as the opposite individuals. Now, it’s undoubtedly simpler however once I first stepped within the sport—there was no Hispanics rapping.
I had 4 brothers and one sister [growing up], however they had been from both Mexico or California. I’m the one one from Atlanta, so I suppose I used to be introduced up on a number of ATL artists like T.I., Jeezy, OutKast, Gucci [Mane]. My mother and father didn’t actually hearken to music like that. But my dad can be bumping narcocorrido. My mother preferred singing, I used to catch her singing a number of [Michael Jackson] and Selena.
I acquired a few songs in Spanish. I’ve been doing a number of my type, South rap. I wanna hold including to my résumé. I wanna be totally different and do all forms of music. I make turn-up music however I wish to say one thing, too. And discuss stuff. There’s a number of stuff happening. People don’t even know our tales. I began to note issues that’s happening on this world and I wanna communicate up about it for the Hispanics.
Ethnicity: Puerto Rican (Mother), African-American (Father)
Languages Spoken: English
Hometown: Prince George’s County, Md.
Growing up, my mother all the time knew that I used to be extra on the Black facet than the Spanish facet, simply because I didn’t communicate Spanish. Whenever I’m round Spanish individuals, I’m form of like a fly on the wall. When I began making music, I figured the title Rico Nasty would give a background of who I’m. I didn’t need individuals to [think], "Oh, she’s Puerto Rican, and he or she didn’t need to inform anyone. She’s ashamed." Because I do take delight in it. I bear in mind rising up, going to New York and the Puerto Rican Day Parade, doing sure shit like that. I’ve a track referred to as "Rojo"—generally I attempt to incorporate sure phrases.
I really feel like I get a wide range of individuals in my crowd. Because of that, there’s a pleasant quantity of Hispanic individuals and Latinos that come to my reveals. There’s additionally a extremely massive quantity of Black and White individuals. The rock brings the White individuals and the hip-hop brings the Black individuals, however the Spanish individuals like to bounce, in order that’s why they arrive to reveals. It’s so enjoyable and it’s so free.
Ethnicity: Puerto Rican
Languages Spoken: English, Spanish
I’m Boricua, child. Being Puerto Rican provides a extremely lovely perspective to my music. It’s performed an enormous element as a result of I see past being Puerto Rican. My mom’s facet is Afro-indigenous, in order that they grew up with African customs and tradition. My upbringing built-in an Afro-indigenous identification—very Taino, very Black.
I grew up listening to every little thing, from basic hip-hop to Puerto Rican/Spanish music [like] salsa, merengue and mambo. Rock ’n’ roll, soul, Motown. La Brujas: a spoken phrase poet from Def Poetry Jam. I really like [Big] Pun however my massive reference is Hurricane G, probably the greatest feminine rappers from New York within the 1990s. She labored with Method Man and Xzibit and has an iconic album referred to as All Woman. She refers to herself as an Afro-Yoruban priestess. She sings about Yemaya and the West African Yoruban deities. All the issues that I discuss in my music is identical factor she talks about.
I believe being Latino has helped me, however I’m by no means marketed as a token Latina. Do I’ve a privilege? Yes. But I take advantage of the alternatives to denounce my privilege and characterize individuals like myself that aren’t all the time represented. Because of my intersection, I’m not at the same time as included within the Latino market as you’d assume. To be sincere, I’ve been extra embraced by the pan-African communities. Despite my lyrics, how Puerto Rican I’m, lots of people assume I’m Black and White. People come as much as me after a present and go, “I didn’t know you had been Puerto Rican. I didn’t know you spoke Spanish.”
Incorporating Puerto Rican tradition into my music is all I do know. My music is all in regards to the New York Puerto Rican expertise, [songs like] "Brujas" or "ABCs of New York." I really like every kind of music, I admire everyone within the sport, however I can solely rap about what I do know and what I stay: my tradition, my customs, my pastimes. I perceive that I’ve performed a big half within the Latino rap world and it’s one thing that’s blown up. Hip-hop is part of our narrative, particularly if you happen to’re Caribbean. Dominicans and Puerto Ricans from New York—that’s part of your narrative regardless. It’s a good looking intersection.
Ethnicity: Puerto Rican
Languages Spoken: English
Hometown: West Palm Beach, Fla.
I regarded as much as [Big] Pun so much. Pun was undoubtedly an inspiration to me. He made me really feel like something was doable within the rap trade. You by no means see a number of Latino rappers. You see Fat Joe however Pun actually set the usual.
I believe the rap neighborhood has accepted much more Latino rappers. It took some time, however I’m glad everybody’s getting together with one another. Hip-hop isn’t a main factor for a selected artist or particular individuals. You don’t gotta look a selected approach—you may be Latino and be an artist and it’s OK. It ought to’ve been like that from the leap. Sometimes, it’s not even a couple of race factor. It’s just a few individuals of our pores and skin shade don’t pop off in sure cities or states. It’s kinda like a tradition shock.
I’m happy with the truth that I’m Puerto Rican; if I can communicate to different Puerto Ricans that’s a tremendous accomplishment. But I wouldn’t say I’m a voice. I don’t put that duty on me—that’s not my purpose. Nowadays, none of that even issues. I really feel like individuals are simply centered on the music. I’m very excited, not even simply on a hip-hop scale [but] on a music scale on the whole. [The Latino music landscape] is the largest it’s ever been. Especially whenever you acquired an artist like Bad Bunny—it’s superb. And then you definately acquired the crossovers: Drake with Bad Bunny. We’re accepted into hip-hop and [hip-hop has] accepted what we do as effectively.
Ethnicity: Colombian (Father),
Languages Spoken: English,
Lots of people don’t know I’m Spanish till they hear me talking in Spanish or they see my Spanish flag tattoos. I acquired a number of Spanish phrases in my mouthpiece once I speak to individuals—that’s what catches lots of people’s consideration. People want to listen to the sound of the Spanish tradition. There’s a number of Spanish tradition [music] that’s so good proper now: Bad Bunny is hearth, J Balvin is hearth, Lil Pump is hearth—I simply discovered he’s Colombian, in order that’s tremendous lit.
Saying raps in Spanish, I didn’t know the best way to freestyle in Spanish or write or do the correct melody, the correct swag. But I acquired some Spanish music within the works. I did it some time in the past, it simply wasn’t prepared. It’s lastly sounding how I would like it to sound. [I] acquired this Spanish track with Kap G. I acquired a few ’em within the chamber. We simply able to go loopy.
I undoubtedly have an enormous Latin fan base. I acquired a number of followers in Mexico and Colombia. My followers beg me to do a present on the market, however I’m simply ready for the correct time. I’m simply placing on for the tradition.