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Album Review

When Mean Machine recorded the groundbreaking "Disco Dreams" back in 1981, hip-hop got its first taste of Spanish-language rapping—specifically, nuyorican (New York Puerto Rican) Spanish. A lot has gone down in hip-hop since then, and these days, Spanish-language rapping reflects the many different ways in which Spanish is spoken. There are Argentinean MCs who rap in Lunfardo, the Italian-influenced Spanish of Argentina; there are rappers from Spain who flow in Castellano and will pronounce ciudad (city) "thee-oo-dahd," cerbeza (beer) "ther-bay-tha" and gracias (thank you) "grahth-ee-ahs." And for Los Angeles-based rapper David Rolas, a distinctly Mexican-American way of speaking Spanish prevails on his second album, Tatuajes. For many Chicano MCs (as opposed to MCs who live in Mexico), Spanish-language rapping is secondary; they will include some Spanish lyrics on the side but rap in mostly English. Rolas, however, raps in mostly español—and he isn't the least bit shy about combining hip-hop with Latin influences. Tatuajes ("Tattoos" in English) is a place where hip-hop and funk successfully interact with Mexican banda and grupero as well as Colombian cumbia; Rolas even manages to find the hip-hop potential in Marco Antonio Solís' "Necesito una Compañera." Tatuajes, like Rolas' previous album, Nuestra Vida, is full of humor, but the L.A. resident can be poignant when he wants to — and that is especially apparent on "Querida Madre," an ode to Rolas' mom (who, like his father, is originally from Mexico). Sadly, hip-hop has its share of faceless clones in the 21st century — unimaginative sucker MCs who go out of their way to emulate 50 Cent, Jay-Z or Ludacris but fail to bring anything personal or individualistic to the table. Rolas, thankfully, is one of hip-hop's more imaginative, risk-taking voices — and he shows no signs of a sophomore slump on the memorable Tatuajes.

Tatuajes, David Rolas
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