Latin Hip-Hop Will Never Die. Nunca!

Out of pure awe and respect, I hope that is DJ Crazy Bazarro doing the scratching himself that starts off the BTR Latin Hip-Hop show because, damn, it is good.

Immortal Technique

Staring off with sound bytes about “the man that lost his head,” DJ “Crazy” Bazarro doesn’t let his listeners really know where he is taking them during the opening minutes of his show. I think that is the point. The intention is to represent Latin hip-hop as more than one tightly defined sound: because it’s not. It isn’t scratching or beatboxing, reggae bass or subversive rhyme. It’s all of that. And it isn’t long until we begin to fall into the groove of the music, just like the needle on Bazarro’s opening track No Me Importa by Immortal Technique. As if a message from the crazy DJ himself, settle in and listen up: “I ain’t never been afraid to tell how I really feel. Nunca.”

From what I learn by speaking with DJ Bazarro, Latin hip-hop is borderless. There is no one single thing that defines its sound, style, or beat. “Latin hip-hop is a collection of all kinds of Latino artists with different sounds and different flows of rap and rhyme,” Bazarro tells me. “There are so many different styles to choose from. The culture of Latin hip-hop always seems brand new. You can get so many different flavors of rap with one great style of music. Latin hip-hop is in its own place in the world of music.”

Chino XL

Listening to the June 11 playlist on BTR, one can easily identify with the different sounds to which Bazarro refers. For example, take the second track in the set, Where It’s At by Funkdoobiest, and notice the way it pulls from early nineties rappers Lords of the Underground (particularly the “Chief Rocka” reference dropped in the second half of the song). Then compare that to the much more R&B sounding Talk To You by Chino XL. These are two distinctly different tracks with varying moods and rhythms, yet they both qualify as Latin hip-hop.

It may not be as fresh as you think either. Latino hip-hop artists have been on the scene since the birth of hip-hop in the late seventies. DJ Bazarro explains, “If you do your history on hip-hop alone, you’ll see that the culture of Latin hip-hop grew as a result of commercial radio not giving enough airplay to the Latino artists of the late 1970’s.”

Growing up alongside the American hip-hop tradition, Latin hip-hop has never waned in comparative talent. Of course the exposure has been significantly less, but that is a result of financial restraint and not a lacking in the fountain of talent. Often being considered as Reggaeton today, Latin hip-hop is veering further away from the American hip-pop that has become over commercialized, being played as a result of the high demand for college campus dance floor crap. This is a good thing for the Latino rappers, and is representative of Latin hip-hop’s refusal to continue on in the shadow of America’s pop produced music, instead staying true to itself. “Reggaeton is a phrasing that didn’t come along until the late 1990’s,” Bazarro adds. “This is right around the time when Latino artists took a much more reggae-style drum track and began to rap over it, making it their own.”

One of the observations I can’t help but come to terms with while listening to the Latin Hip-Hop Show is how regional it is. Of course, American urban giants like New York, Miami, and Los Angeles feature a much greater Latino population than other metropolitans of the U.S. That being said, the hip-hop featured in the show is going to be more ‘Latino-Quarter associated’ than the hip-hop that comes out of Detroit or Atlanta. Heightening the phrases commonly found in neighborhoods like Sunset Park (Brooklyn), East L.A., and Little Havana (Miami), Latin hip-hop constantly finds ways to reinvent “Spanglish” and spread the growing vernacular to the rest of American culture. Listen to Willeaahhhhh by Will Tell at the halfway point of the show as a prime example.

Latin hip-hop may not be anything new to hip-hop fans from stemming Buenos Aires in the south to Montreal in the north, and everywhere in between. But it is constantly finding new ways to evolve; and this is exactly what DJ Bazarro taps into in his BTR program. Quoting directly from his mic break: “Ya’ll know we break new music man. If you’re sick of the same old shit—I’m gonna say it like that again for ya—If ya’ sick of the same old shit, this is where it’s at. That’s what we’re here for. There’s a lot of good music they don’t want you to hear out there. And that’s what we’re here for.”

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– Kory French


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