Apple Music Urbano Latino
To witness the origin of the Urbano Latino genre, you’d have to travel back to the ‘70s and meet a Puerto Rican DJ by the name of Disco Wiz working his turntables for crowds on the mean streets of the Bronx in New York City. Mixing soundbites, special effects, and breaks and pressing them onto an acetate record plate, Wiz and an enterprising party-starter named Grandmaster Caz laid the framework not just for Latin hip-hop but for an entire culture. Soon, hip-hop was blasting out of boomboxes everywhere. In predominantly Latino neighborhoods on the East Coast, freestyle—an upbeat hybrid of electro-funk that was spiked with Latin percussion—was gaining steam. By the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Mellow Man Ace (and the group he co-founded, Cypress Hill) brought bilingual rap to the forefront. Some 15 years later, another quick-tongued MC out of Miami by the name of Pitbull would also rap in Spanglish, gaining notoriety for depicting Miami’s underbelly as vividly as Scarface had done at the movies. Throughout the ‘90s, regional pride was a key ingredient in Latin hip-hop, as exemplified by the Latin Alliance’s early-‘90s hit “Lowrider (On the Boulevard)” (a funky homage to West Coast Chicano car culture) or “Puerto Rico” (from New York’s Frankie Cutlass). MCs like Fat Joe and Big Pun carried the torch of East Coast rap, earning their place among hip-hop’s greatest. Studying the technique of their fellow boricuas on the mainland, Vico C, Ivy Queen, Tego Calderón, and other gifted wordsmiths started rapping about life in Puerto Rican projects, drawing clear connections between the shared class struggles of Latinos and African-Americans. And the movement was unstoppable; Mexico and other parts of Latin America exploded with their own Spanish hip-hop movements throughout the ‘00s.
But it wasn’t all rapping and no dancing within Urbano Latino music. Enter hip-hop’s cousin reggaeton, a rowdy relative of Panamanian reggae (a genre that itself borrowed from Jamaican reggae in the first place). In the '90s, DJs in Puerto Rico essentially took hip-hop vinyl and put a dancehall beat under it, added doses of salsa and bomba, and sped up the whole thing into a frenzy. The result was the now-famous dembow drum sound, synonymous with reggaeton. Unapologetically raunchy from its inception, the genre eventually cleaned up enough to find a wider audience. By the mid-'00s, reggaeton had flourished in the mainstream thanks to hits like Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina.” With its bigger audience, it also found broader influences, incorporating live instruments and hints of salsa, merengue, vallenato, and other tropical genres. Acts like Calle 13 continue to push the boundaries of Urbano Latino music, delivering a message and delving into rock, folk, and world music without losing their edge—just as members of reggaeton’s new class like Colombia’s J Balvin continue bringing heat to dancefloors everywhere.