Thursday, October 23, 2008

Latinos & the N-Word

Click here to check Raquel Cepeda's article in this week's Village Voice titled "The N-Word is Flourishing Among Generation Hip-Hop Latinos." It brings up great points about race and class. For example: "The palpable racial tension that's been rearing its head this historic presidential election, the subject of race and who is truly considered black or white in this black-and-white race, is something Latinos need to pay attention to. For many of us, especially those of Caribbean descent who make up a sizable chunk of New York Latinos, race should matter, and so should that one particular word."

Then she has some amazing quotes, such as this gem from Immortal Technique: "The European Spaniards have left a legacy of self-hatred and racism among the Latino population; without acknowledging that, we will not evolve past our own inequity," says Immortal Technique, an Afro-Peruvian hip-hop artist who also uses the n-word. "Racism in America, as horrible and ugly as it may be, still isn't as bad as what it is in Latin America, and the sad part is that we are being racist against ourselves."

Immortal Technique

I'm extremely pleased by the always necessary reminder that the so-called Latin American racial democracy is just a myth. I also appreciate Cepeda's use of the term "Afro-Latino" to mean not just a child of African American and Latino parents... but a child of Latino parents who are also part of the African diaspora.

And, I can't lie, I was caught off guard (and got very happy) by the shoutout to my book: "With few exceptions within our community—Raquel Rivera's 2003 book New York Ricans From the Hip Hop Zone devoted prime real estate to the discussion of Latino identity in hip-hop—this is a conversation we've failed to have, whatever our personal feelings."

So what do you think? Do you agree that "the profusion of the word into the New York City Latino vocabulary is reaching an almost caricaturist quality"? Is the way Latinos are using the word today different from the way they used it years back? Why use the word at all? Why not use it?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Reggaeton Vote

Click here to check out a great article by Marisol LeBrón posted on the North American Congress on Latin America's website. It's titled "The Reggaetón Factor in the U.S. Elections".

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Article on Reggaeton & Urban Aesthetics/Policy

Folks doing research on reggaeton will have noticed there are few academic articles on the subject. But, thanks to Zaire Dinzey-Flores, we have one more article to add to the slowly growing list.

It's titled “De la Disco al Caserío: Urban Spatial Aesthetics and Policy to the Beat of Reggaetón” and it appears in the latest issue of the Centro Journal XX (2): 34-69, 2008.

Dinzey-Flores writes the following abstract for her article:

"Conversing with urban sociological theories, and relying on a content analysis of the songs’ lyrics, this essay exposes the 'urban spatial aesthetics' of reggaetón. The paper examines the particular views of the city that reggaetón makes public and the policy manifestations of these representations. I exhibit the reggaetoneros’ lyrical construct of an urban socio-spatial community actualized between the disco, the barrio, the caseríos and the street. I show that the lyrical profile of reggaetón underscores poverty, violence, masculinity, and race as vital constructs of an authentically urban experience. The environmental elements and themes display an aesthetic that recognizes the city as dualistically liberating and constraining; an aesthetic identified here in the 'blin-blin' sensibilities. I conclude suggesting that reggaetoneros have made public the plight of the urban poor in Puerto Rico and unearthed their potentials, becoming socio-political ambassadors who calibrate the urban policy frames in Puerto Rico."

The Centro Journal is available in libraries or through the Centro website.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Talento de Barrio

Yesterday, I went to see Daddy Yankee's Talento de Barrio—the movie that he stars in and for which he served as executive producer. It was a huge hit in Puerto Rico and opened in New York and Los Angeles last Friday. (According to EFE news agency, the film generated $1.4 million and was seen by 280,000 people in Puerto Rico during it's first month.)

I expected to hate it. But I didn't.

O.k., so I found the music uninspiring. The script mostly sucked (specially the dique romantic parts). The acting was often weak (though Daddy Yankee was much better than I thought he would be).

But still, I actually enjoyed the movie. Unlike Illegal Tender and Feel the Noise, where almost everything felt extremely artificial and over the top, there was something about the images in Talento de Barrio (cliched as they often were) and speech patterns (stunted by the weak script as they were) that actually FELT like Puerto Rico. Those shots of the "Valle Verde" housing project in the middle of green mountains, the tender conversations between the main character Edgar Dinero and his hardworking mom, maybe even the simple fact that the movie was all delivered in Puerto Rican Spanish (minus a few affectations, like Soribel's misplaced, ultra-corrected "s")... Little details like that conspired so that I wouldn't hate the movie.

Granted, I won't argue with the reviewers that trashed it.

The Village Voice's Tim Grierson, for example, said:

"When conservative watchdogs snarl about the ugliness of gangsta rap, Talento de Barrio might be what they picture in their head—a vile, stupid, violent-crime drama that would be laughable if its content wasn't so toxic. Drug boss Edgar Dinero (reggaeton star Daddy Yankee, who mostly glowers) prowls the gritty streets of Puerto Rico and dreams of becoming a rapper. Directed limply by José Iván Santiago, Talento de Barrio lustfully idolizes its shallow, gun-toting bad boy, as can be witnessed by the disinterested lip service given to crime's downside and a particularly risible moment when Edgar carts out the old "the whole world's corrupt" justification during a brief monologue. Reggaeton's success was due to its Latin-influenced reinvention of commercial hip-hop's sonic palette, but Yankee's vanity project resorts to every rap-music-video cliché to tell the umpteenth story of a young tough who has to choose between burgeoning stardom and the "reality" of the 'hood. Talento de Barrio sells Yankee's fans a fantasy of hot babes, cool cars, and an endless supply of fresh threads—just so long as you don't get killed first, of course. Which would be a total drag, because then who's gonna buy his records?"

Meanwhile, the New York Times' Neil Genzlinger said:

"Some rappers have shown themselves to be adept actors as well, and now Daddy Yankee, a big star in the related musical genre of reggaetón, takes his big-screen shot in “Talento de Barrio.” Unfortunately, any acting skills he might have — and it looks as if he might well have some — are powerless against the thudding cliché of a script he is saddled with. [...] He has a loving mother, he is protective of his sister, and he has aspirations that go beyond gangsterism: to be a reggaetón star, of course. But his criminal life has a gravitational pull that keeps sucking him back in. The violence-laden story, such as it is, is ineptly stitched together; it’s unclear who is shooting at whom and why; and the dialogue seldom advances beyond “Yo, dog” and “Whassup?” The soundtrack is the only draw here."

I agree with the reviewers. The movie is not a good one. But I have to admit it gave me a little taste of images and sounds that I've been hungry for. Meager (and inept) as that little taste was... I ate it up.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"Ninguno" (NoOne) for Office

"Ninguno, el candidato de los hip-hoppers... Vota por NINGUNO!!!!" So reads the caption that Puerto Rico-based hip-hop artist Sietenueve posted on the image above via his myspace page. (Click here for a larger image.)

Now in Englich, the caption reads: "NoOne, the hip-hopper's candidate... Vote for NoOne!!!"

See, this is my kind of political campaign. If I'm going to be bombarded by all this electoral madness... I'm so glad these folks in Puerto Rico are making a critical intervention AND providing some comedy relief by proposing that concerned citizens go vote for "Ninguno" as their write-in candidate..

Sietenueve, along with Jerry Ferrao y los pleneros de Ninguno and other artists, are joining the Comité de Amigos de Ninguno (Friends of NoOne Commitee) today at 5pm in this witty campaign for "Ninguno". (At the Centro de Convenciones parking lot in San Juan, right next to the place where the 4 candidates for governor will be debating tonight... moderation courtesy of none other than Daddy Yankee.)

The "Ninguno for Governor" campaign is the brainchild of the political theater group Papel Machete. For more on the campaign click here.

I'm sold on Ninguno! Everyone makes promises... Ninguno delivers.

Black On Both Sides - October 11

"Are you Black or Latino?" Ha! I love this event's answer: Black AND Latino. Black on Both Sides.

Black on Both Sides brings together a cross-generational line-up that includes hip hop pioneers and emerging artists for critical conversation and performance. Panelists will include DJ Laylo, Ariel Fernandez, Black Artemis, Carlos REC McBride, Frank Lopez, Rokafella and more.

Free and open to the public. Due to limited space, we ask that you pre-register by sending an email to:

This event is organized by the afrolatin@ forum in collaboration with the Hip Hop Theater Festival, the Hip Hop Association, and New York University's Center for Multicultural Education and Programs and in association with the Caribbean Cultural Center, African Diaspora Institute. It is co-sponsored by Africana Studies and Latino Studies at NYU, the Schomburg Center and the Columbia University Latino Heritage Month Committee.