Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reggaeton in "Tha Global Cipha"

Yesterday, I walked into my classroom at Columbia to find a greatly pleasant surprise: James G. Spady and Samir Meghelli came to visit!

James and Samir are two of the co-editors (the third is H. Samy Alim) of the newly-released book Tha Global Cipha: Hip Hop Culture and Consciousness, a collection of interviews with artists from all over the world—from U.S.-based MCs and DJs, to dancehall, rai, shaabi and reggaeton artists. Ivy Queen, Tego Calderon, Yaga & Mackie speak from these pages right alongside Jay Z, Eve, Talib Kweli, Trina, Pitbull, Fat Joe, DJ Kool Herc, Lady Saw, Sean Paul, among many, many others. Even Sonia Sanchez, George Clinton and Rick James!

I have my copy and can't wait to dig into its pages.

It was perfect timing for James and Samir’s surprise visit, given that Carlos “REC” McBride had accepted my invitation to come speak about his work as the Director of The Teen Resource Center in Holyoke, Massachusetts—particularly about the ways in which he is integrating hip hop and reggaeton into his programs. To top it off, REC brought one of the young members of the Center, Juan a.k.a. Knowledge.

Juan and REC gave us a very focused picture of the way reggaeton and hip hop play out in an economically-depressed, largely Puerto Rican town in the U.S.’s Northeast. Meanwhile, James and Samir took us on a global tour, exploring many of the “children” and even “foreparents” of hip hop.

I have yet to get feedback from the students (which I will be sure to ask for during our next class session). But judging by the way they enthusiastically interacted with our guests, I suspect they might agree with me that it was the most dynamic class all semester.

Juan, REC, Samir and James: I can’t thank you enough.

Monday, November 27, 2006

La Bruja and "Mi Gatita Negra"

Last Tuesday in the class I am teaching at Columbia University, we watched two segments of The Chosen Few, El Documental (Part I): Sex & Reggaeton and Women in Latin Hip Hop / Reggaeton.

La Bruja is featured in both, speaking her sharp mind.

In the discussion that followed, many students expressed that for them La Bruja had been the main voice of reason in those sections, particularly because of the way she criticized the portrayal of women in popular music as one-dimensional objects of lust.

It occurred to me that showing La Bruja's risqué Mi Gatita Negra video might provide some counterpoint to the discussion, since lust is very prominent in that video's imagery.

One of the students had her laptop, so she searched for the video on youtube and we all crowded around her screen to watch.

Posted By:LA BRUJA

Get this video and more at

The ensuing debate was fascinating. Some argued La Bruja was contradicting herself by producing the usual kind of images that exploit female bodies as bait. Others said the images were innovative because the video's milkman was being equally exploited. Others argued that maybe La Bruja was just showing her sexy side; she may be righteous and socially-conscious but that does NOT and should NOT cancel out her sensual existence. Others speculated maybe the video was just a promotional ploy to hook viewers; once they became La Bruja fans, she would have them captive to receive the knowledge she can drop.

One of the students, who goes by Poet Warrior in myspace, had the fine idea to try to contact La Bruja and get answers straight from the source. And get answers she did! You can read their exchange in La Bruja's latest myspace blog titled How Could You Bruja?

Much respect to La Bruja. And to Poet Warrior.