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Latin Hip-Hop And Rap Offers Own Styles, Messages
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Latin Hip-Hop And Rap Offers Own Styles, Messages



Switching gears now, we are in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month. What better way to celebrate the occasion than music? Today, we'll be sampling the diverse sounds and rhythms of Latin hip-hop and rap. Joining us are the co-hosts of NPR Music's ALT.LATINO podcast - that's an online program about Latin alternative music. Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras are back with us. Welcome back. Thanks for joining us.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Thank you very much.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Thanks for having us.

MARTIN: So Felix, how big is hip-hop in Latin and Central America?

CONTRERAS: You know, it's as big as it is anywhere else. I mean, rap and hip-hop has become sort of the lingua franca all over the world, and it does have roots here in the Latin community here in the U.S., with the start of hip-hop, because a lot of the early hip-hoppers were Latinos, as well.

It's spread out just as it has in the rest of the world, and it's pretty strong. It's very influential.

MARTIN: Jas, I understand that you want to start us off in Puerto Rico, which, of course, is part of the United States. We just want to make sure people know that we know.


MARTIN: But what have you got for us?

GARSD: Well, I want to start you off with Calle 13.


CALLE 13: (Singing in Spanish)

GARSD: They have racked up a record number of Latin Grammy nominations, 10 Latin Grammy nominations. So they're kind of - they've been around for a while, but they're really the stars of the moment. This is "Vamo a portarnos mal," or "Let's Misbehave."


CALLE 13: (Singing in Spanish)

MARTIN: Well, I'm down with that program.


MARTIN: So Jas, I know you love the band. Actually, you featured them before. What is it that makes them pop?

GARSD: I mean, I love that they have such a strong message. They always - I mean, this is a more fun song, just kind of like everyone, let's just misbehave and have a good time. But for the most part, they have a really strong activist message about, you know, Latin rights and the situation - several situations that are happening in Latin America.

And, you know, what - that's one of the things that Latin rap really stands out about. They address Latino issues.

MARTIN: Now, what's interesting about that is that rap in this country, in the United States, originally was very political.

GARSD: Right.

MARTIN: And as it has evolved, it's become much more about, you know, the party scene and let's have fun and so forth. Is there the similar mix or tension in Latin American rap?

GARSD: Yeah, there's totally - in Latin American rap, there's - especially I'd say in what's known as reggaeton, you know, there's a lot of chinchilla jackets and - you know, I - well, you know, Calle 13 actually has a dis against one of the big reggaeton artists, Daddy Yankee. And he says, you know, I don't really care if you wear a chinchilla jacket on a tropical island.


GARSD: So...

MARTIN: They have their beefs, too.

GARSD: Yeah. Uh-huh.

MARTIN: Felix, what do you have next?

CONTRERAS: Let's see. What we're going to do next is we're going to put a spotlight on Mala Rodriguez from Spain.


MALA RODRIGUEZ: (Singing in Spanish)

GARSD: One of the things I love about Spanish-language rap is that everyone from every different country in Latin America and from Spain has such a different dialect and inflection. And it's something that's particularly beautiful about Mala Rodriguez. She's from Spain. She has a very southern Spanish accent, with a very sexy lisp.

And what she's saying here is I want to recognize myself and feel at home in the middle of nowhere, stutter without fear. I have so much to do. Come on, Poppy. Let's see the daybreak.


RODRIGUEZ: (Rapping in Spanish)

CONTRERAS: We had her on our show a while back, and she's really remarkable in the way she's coming from her background in southern Spain of flamenco, and then adding all this other contemporary stuff to it. And you hear - like you said, you can hear traces of flamenco and traces of her accent, but it's still her own version of rap.

MARTIN: We're talking about Latin hip-hop and rap with the hosts of NPR Music's ALT.LATINO podcast, Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd. And I understand that you have another female rapper for us that we've had on our program before, Ana Tijoux, who's from Chile. Tell us about her. Well, tell us more about her.


GARSD: Ana Tijoux is French-Chilean, and yeah, we enjoyed her on TELL ME MORE. She also did an acoustic Tiny Desk Concert on NPR Music, which was pretty fantastic. And her most recent album was called "1977."

MARTIN: Which relates to a pivotal moment in Chilean history.

GARSD: Right. She - I mean, she is from France because her parents escaped the dictatorship, and she was born in 1977. But I wanted to bring some of her more recent work, which is the "Elefant Mixtape," and I just think it's a lovely mix.

MARTIN: Okay. Let's hear it.


ANA TIJOUX: (Rapping in Spanish)

MARTIN: What did you want to tell us about her?

GARSD: Well, what I especially like about her is how she almost - I would say she almost, like, melts the Spanish language and reshapes it. You know, Spanish depends so much on inflection, but one word can mean totally different things depending, on where you inflect, like ingles means English, and ingles means groin. So it just - and so what she does is she just - she does the inflections completely differently on words, and she just - it's like she's inventing her own language.


TIJOUX: (Rapping in Spanish)

MARTIN: So part of the art form and part of the creativity is not just - is not the music and the beats, it's also the use of the language.

GARSD: Absolutely. She is masterful at the Spanish language.

MARTIN: But you have one more than you wanted to share, Felix?

CONTRERAS: We're going to finish off with a group that we both like a lot...

GARSD: Actually, sorry, this is not the group. This is the solo work, Raka Dun.

CONTRERAS: Okay, sorry, sorry. It changed. So...

MARTIN: You know, you seem like an old married couple. (unintelligible) You have to, like, correct Felix. Felix, stand up for yourself. Stand up for yourself.


CONTRERAS: Every week. Every week.

MARTIN: Get your words out.


GARSD: So next up, we have Raka Dun. He is one-half of the rap duo from Panama Los Rakas. And this is going to be from his brand new EP, called "Afro Latino," and this is the song "Sueno Americano." I've got to tell you, Michel. We got permission to do it as an exclusive premiere right here.

MARTIN: All right. Let's hear it, awesome.


RAKA DUN: (Rapping in Spanish)

MARTIN: Raka Dun is from....

GARSD: They're from Panama, by way of Oakland.

MARTIN: By way of Oakland, represent, all right, very nice.

CONTRERAS: They're making - they are brilliantly drawing that - closing that circle between the Afro-Latino experience in Latin America and here in the United States - really nice, great work.


DUN: (Rapping in Spanish)

MARTIN: And so what are you going to have for us next time?

GARSD: Next time, we're going to have electronica meets South American folk.

MARTIN: Should be exciting.


CONTRERAS: It is a lot of fun.

MARTIN: Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras are the co-hosts of NPR Music's ALT.LATINO podcast of Latin alternative music. You can hear them at Thank you both so much for joining us, once again.

CONTRERAS: Thank you.


DUN: (Rapping in Spanish)

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