What is Hip-Hop?
Current Hip-Hop Movement
Justifying Latino History in Hip-Hop Culture
Role of Hip-Hop in Politics
Immigration Pattern and Message Conveyed
Links to Latino Hip-Hop Artists
Lexicon Interview




Justifying Latino History in Hip-Hop Culture

The emergence and creation of hip-hop has been well-documented by various sources as being an African-American movement.  However, the emergence of hip-hop was not due solely to the hardships African-Americans faced, but to the hardships all minorities were forced to live with in the “ghetto-environment.”  Therefore, this page explains how Latinos influenced the formation and formula of early hip-hop.

Although African-Americans are narrowly credited with the formation of hip-hop, Latinos have been involved in the scene since its conception.  According to Raquel Z. Rivera, “The social conditions and economic prospects for young people living in poor urban communities during the 1960s and 1970s were appalling (4).  She goes on to state that both African Americans and Latinos, particularly Puerto Ricans, called these poor communities their homes.  One of the worst areas to live in at this time was the Bronx, which was riddled with poor housing, fierce gang rivalries, and drug use.  According to Cheryl L. Keyes, Afrika Bombaataa, a former African American gang member himself and deemed the “Godfather of Hip-Hop” asserted his concept of youth solidarity by rechanneling violent gang rivalries into artistic competitions.  In 1973, Bombaataa formed a nonviolent coalition called the Youth Organization, later renamed the Zulu Nation.  This organization was essentially a youth organization incorporating break-dancers (mainly Latinos), DJ’s, and graffiti artists (5).  One of the first Latino famed Latino hip-hop artists during the formative years of this organization was DJ Charlie Chase of the Cold Crush Brothers.  According to Chase, he influenced the hip-hop scene by slipping in musical elements from Latin music just enough so that people would inadvertently enjoy them without realizing they were actually dancing to Latin music (6).  According to DJ Ill Will, “Back then race was never really a problem between Blacks and Spanish” (7).

Even though Latinos clearly had a large impact on the formation of hip-hop, they were not assimilated into the mainstream hip-hop scene until 1990 (8).  This may be due to the fact that hip-hop began to be dominated with purely African-American concerns by popular rap artists (9).  Logically, this African-American domination of rap would lead one to forget the influence Latino artists originally maintained on hip-hop and to associate hip-hop as a genuine African-American cultural movement instead of a ghetto-driven movement of repressed minorities including both African-Americans and Latinos.  This statement is confirmed by Rivera through an anecdote she provides of a Puerto Rican rap-fan during the afro-centric hip-hop phase discovering that his Puerto Rican heritage no longer related to the issues presented by such African-American rap artists like Public Enemy.  The point is driven home further when his African-American friends tease him by saying, “Why can’t your people make good hip-hop” (10).  Therefore, the marginalization of Latino-oriented issues and concentration of African-American concerns into mainstream hip-hop culture in a sense segregated Latinos and African-Americans while elevating African-American hip-hop to a purely cultural movement. 

As stated above, Latinos eventually were accepted into mainstream hip-hop once more.  One of the primary reasons for this acceptance was due largely to Kid Frost, who gained mainstream accepted with his debut album, Hispanic Causing Panic (1990), on Virgin Records.  Frost used this fame to organize a coalition of Latino rappers called the Latin Alliance (11).  Since this time, Latino rappers including Mellow Man Ace, Cypress Hill, and Fat Joe have contributed to the success of Latino hip-hop and guaranteed that rap will no longer be simply considered as an African-American cultural movement, but as an outcry from the disadvantaged minority groups living in the ghettos of America. 























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