June 23rd, 2007

The Webnography of Reggaeton Faultlines

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gleaned lots of what I know ’bout the narratives swirling ’round reggaeton via the web, especially via the messageboard debates that flare up into all sorts of contested, conflicting accounts and claims. In that sense, I’ve maybe learned less about reggaeton’s history this way, per se, than about how people frame and claim reggaeton to (re)draw the lines of community. (Not that any such thing as “reggaeton history” can be abstracted from any and all of this narrativizing.)

Perhaps it simply speaks to the genre’s popularity that reggaeton can serve as a bridge or a wedge, but it may say something also about its multivalence and, especially, its address (where you at?), especially of late — not to mention the memory of what things once were/seemed/meant in another time and place.

One illustrative example of what I’ve found to be an invaluable source for reading reggaeton is a relatively innocent post by abstractdynamic and nowadays sporadic blogger, Abe Burmeister. Back in August 04, upon hearing reggaeton all around NYC and finding relatively little about it on the net, Abe went searching for information about the genre, to little avail. This prompted him to write

I don’t know enough about Reggaeton and neither it seems does the internet.

You’d never know it the occupied zones of Manhattan, but Reggaeton just might be the biggest music in New York right now. Its certainly the fastest growing. Like hip hop before it (and salsa too I suspect) its evolving isolated from the outoftowners and media forces that think they define New York. One wonders if they’ll pimp it world wide when they finally wake up, or are they perhaps too scared to wake to the spanish?

Tellingly, the Google search link he provides in his post now returns almost 10 million hits for ‘reggaeton.’ [Update: as of 1/09, it was up to 14 million.]

But more important, Abe’s post served unwittingly to launch a fierce, if disjointed, debate about the genre’s national identity and about the increasing presence of Latinos in the US. Strongly worded statements, history lessons, and derogatory language alternate with promotional spam, love letters to reggaetoneros, and requests such as this one —

can some1 sent mei a good azz pic of don omar. he iz so fine

Posted by: brenda | August 30, 2004 06:35 PM

A selection of certain comments — from among the HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS posted — provides an illuminating if painful look at the contours of these rather fraught debates, including Puerto Rican, Mexican, Panamanian, pan-Latino, and Jamaican claims to the genre, calls for black, brown, Latino, and Caribbean unity, as well as some intense stereotype slurring among Latinos and between Latinos and (African-)Americans. The back&forth gets pretty down&dirty at a certain point, so be warned. But it offers a revealing portrait of reggaeton under construction and in contest —

Damn people realize that reggaeton doenst just belong to the panas or the boricuas shit its pa todos mis latinos, mexicanos and shit dont fucken be ignorant just beacuse its coming out strong from one area doesnt me its ur music . shit i know how this shit got started but just because it started there doenst mean it stays there. I live in Californoia, Orange County and i list en to this shit and i support al the reggaeton artist i even throw reggaeton clubs and parties in La and Oc to help get the music out there I do it because i love the music and i aint from panama or puerto rico im from MEXICO shit and damn proud . theirs even mexican reggaeton artist too. so for the record shit its nit boricua music its not panama music its latino music!!! . . .

Posted by: Evilone_714_Aftermath_ent.. Krew | October 30, 2004 08:33 PM

SURE DEM BORICUA GUYS R FINE AZZ HELL, BUT DON’T THINK U ALL THAT!!!!!!!! MEXICANOS MAYBE INDIOS AND CRAP, BUT GUESS WHAT NOT ALL OF US MEXICANOS LIKE THEM RANCHERAS AND PASITO DURANGUENSE, SOME OF US LIKE REGGAETON, BACHATE, MERENGUE, AND KUMBIA. OH YEAH, MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE ARE PROUD 2 BE MEXICANS, NOT LIKE Y’ALL BORICUAS, Y’ALL WNNABE MAYATES!!!!!!! SO WATCH WHO U BE TRYIN 2 PULL SHIT ON, CUZ WE MEXICANS CAN BEAT Y’ALL BORICUAS AT THAT BULLCRAP!!1111

LATERZZZZZZZ

Posted by: ?????? | November 3, 2004 08:01 PM

Yoo “El Boricua” mira nene.. yo soy cubana y a mi me encanta el reggaeton..so wus the big fukkin deal?.. everybody is allowed to like reggaeton papa!! me oyes.. tu no eres el jefe de nadie.. y no importa quien lo esta escuchando mientras se este bendiendo..

Posted by: DaDdYsLiLMaMa | November 11, 2004 10:43 AM

para los que aun les gusta discriminar con sus propias raices……..hater!!!!

bueno primero que nada los BORICUAS no queremos ser mayatez…we are mayates.somo mezcla INDIA !!!!! ESPANOL!!! Y AFRICANA !!!
de donde creen que vino tanta poderosa percusion……de AFRICA….”no vino de mongolia”
la genmte que no sabe de las raizes de los demas,estudien o cayen que por eso nosotros los latinos estamos abajo,por eso es que ARNOLD SWATCHENAGER o como se llame es governador y no un latino. “tenemos que unirnos no separanos con racismo” racismo entre latinos que poca verguenza es esa y falta de respeto a vuestros antecedente!!!!!!

es como si les dijieran “esos mexicans just wanna be latinos” thats called an oximoron.
no tiene sentido decir tan absurda verbla ingnoracia.

Posted by: black!!!! not an option | November 11, 2004 05:26 PM

Latinos SHUT UP. Get back on the boat that brought your ass over here. COUNTRY NIGGA WHUT.

Posted by: Genocyde | November 22, 2004 05:02 PM

this is to COUNTRY NIGGA , u need to go back to Africa. U also need to stop talking shit about latinos. U are just jelous u can’t get no latin girls. You Monkey!!!! Ha Ha

REGGAETON FOREVER
YO SOY BORICUA PA QUE TU LO SEPAS

Posted by: lili | November 22, 2004 08:29 PM

reggaeton is alright honestly jamican reggae is much much better, im not hating or anything like that because my mother is of jamaican-latin descent and i listen to reggaeton as well as hip hop r&b and REAL reggae. it pisses me off when noreaga and nina sky makes a oye mi canto song and not show the jamaican flag because the whole world knows us jamaicans started it all. its kind of like a fraud but at the same time adorable.

Posted by: kinyatta | December 1, 2004 03:36 PM

And another goddamn thing i gotta say. Puerto Ricans?? We aint fucking latinos, we are fucking Caribbeans. Yo no soy latino papa yo soy caribeño, fumando un leño, y desta mierda soy el dueño.
Stoopid ass mexicans thinking they in this shit. FUCK ‘EM!

Posted by: McPaja | January 7, 2005 02:37 PM

and whats good wit all this talk against mexicanos and bein called latino.
what now, not only are ya hatin on me for my opinion but you gonna hate on others that are goin through the same stuff as us.
why wouldnt u want to be called a latino? all that really stands for is for people who speak spanish. the spanish language came from latin. so people now a days that speak spanish are latino. why wouldnt u want to rep that and be proud of that. its beautiful.
and why would you say fuck the mexicans and other spanish nations?
thats foolish.
yeah mexicans are different than us they got there own cultura, same with cubans, domonicans, y todos.
but why would u hate on others for bein different
u know that aint right.
cuz it wasnt too long ago when “negros” and “spics” (talkin bout puerto ricans) werent liked by white american. and they hated on us. and some still do today. and it didnt get them anywhere.
its not gonna get u anywhere either.
u need to recongize before u get yaself in to somethin u aint gonna be able to handle.
u cant win a war against hate with hate.
it never did work , and it aint gonna work now.
u need to grow up and recognize where respect is due to our fellow latinos.
yeah, i said latinos.
squash all that prejustice stuff
it aint sexy playa
one

Posted by: sheena | January 9, 2005 07:00 PM

. . . mcpaja although i agree with you with the mexican issue, i would also like to add that in that same list we should add these fake ass “nuyoricans”. . . .

Posted by: Anonymous | January 12, 2005 08:28 PM

First of all gotta give props to sheena because she is the only one who seems coherent enough to know what she is talking about. Thank you for shedding the light about where spanish reggae really originated from, (Panama). This isn’t a hate on reggae from puerto rico because i grew up listening to it but to be honest, it (reggaeton from puerto rico) wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the influences that came from panama. Reggae en nuestro pais es una cultura y forma de vida. Desde que llegaron jamaiquinos a panama nos han influenciado con su cultura y una consequencia de eso fue la de musica reggae. Y asi se han criado muchos de la juventud en panama, escuchando reggae no solo de panama pero de su pais de crianza, jamaica, y ellos incorporan ese tipo de cultura todos los dias en panama. Like i said this is not a hate on (reggaeton) as it has become now known because i lived in florida in the early 90’s and all I listened to was Playero, The Noise, Baby Rasta y Gringo, Tempo, Mexicano and other good artists but I think credit has to be given where it is deserved. To know where your going you gotta know where you come from. I think that the spanish reggae scene will soon be hearing some very good artists from El Patio(Panama)and also see what talents we’ve got. Let’s support each other in this and other music genres and keep growing as a latin community no matter where we’re from. What’s up to all my panas from Panama and PR. Que dios los bendiga a todos.

Posted by: Panama1 | January 14, 2005 04:39 PM

This boricua shall now take his hat off and recognize the mistakes hes made. I may have seemed a little harsh with some earlier comments about being latino, and i hope that all ive offended can look past my ridicolous comments. I’ve always considered Panama to be one of the closest looking cultures to Puerto Rico, and the comments Panama1 made has made me feel ashamed of what I’ve said.
I now realize that, not only reaggaeton, but also many different types of latin music are being left in the dark because of absence of public light.
We as latinos, should be walking around with our heads held high, being grateful that we have been given this sweet flavor and rythm that the world seems to enjoy. (except that TEX-MEX crap. I find that to be some straight up weak ass SHIT!)
Im not being ironic in any way, and again, all of those who ive offended im very sorry.
Dont hate, Educate.
McPaja . . .

Posted by: McPaja | January 14, 2005 05:50 PM

Clearly, despite being able to represent many things to many people and, increasingly, explicitly positioning itself — and seemingly (statistically?) heard/felt/interpreted — as a mainstream, pan-Latino genre, reggaeton still serves to draw all kinds of lines between social groups, reflecting significant underlying conflicts and incompatible ideologies of self and other. Given what can seem a tumultuous redefinition of social relationships in the wake of new migrations amidst competing projects of national and transnational (not to mention local) unity, it is of little surprise that there is so much heated debate about what reggaeton is and to whom it belongs.

Part of what motivates me to gather both facts and arguments about these big questions is that I suspect, and hope, that a more balanced telling of reggaeton’s story — one that includes the various claims people make on/for it, and why — might have something to offer the ongoing, and growing, conversation. Regardless, I’m gonna keep on reading.

12 Comments

  • 1. rupture  |  June 24th, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Wayne, cuando tengas un momento libre, i would love to hear your breakdown (or any W&W readers’) on another aspect of the reggaeton conversation — how reggaeton is (or isnt) being covered in mainstream US journalism & music criticism. i feel like it surged, peaking about 2 years after Abe’s post, and has receded quite dramatically since that high. that silence or visibility has concrete political implications in the States right now re: immigration legislation.

    the online debates btwn folks who feel entitled to defend/explain reggaeton are great of course — me gusta the bastard chatroom spanglish, nigga!; and the fact that reggaeton is where all these differing viewpoints gather & converse, a kind of pan-Latino space of critical debate whose discussion concerns on some level whether or not such a space exists, or should, via reggaeton — but i’m equally curious (or perhaps more) about how reggaeton’s mainstream media apparition functions in gringolandia, who its shadow falls on and how.

  • 2. wayneandwax  |  June 24th, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Great question, Jace, and I wish I had mas tiempo to engage. Definitely curious to hear what others think, tho. Funny you ask, in a sense, as I’m essentially readying my next piece on reggaeton for the Phoenix — a post-hype defense, essentially, of what is still a rather vibrant and massive phenomenon (if no longer according to MTV).

    Most of the US journalism I see on reggaeton these days seems to be about how it failed to live up to industry expectations. ::yawn:: Only cats like K. Sanneh are good enough to go to Wisin y Yandel concerts and see that the genre’s not running out of steam any time soon.

    & you’re right that the implications are chilling at this moment. ::sigh:: I guess I just rest assured that we’ll all be speaking Spanglish soon enough — bastard chatroom Spanglish if we’re lucky!

  • 3. Nina  |  June 26th, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    Our panamanian DJ almost got booted from the club because HIS idea of Reggaeton and the crowds’ idea of Reggaeton were NOT the same. They did NOT want to hear El General, AT ALL. I was tempted to take my notebook to the club to observe.

    I will say that I think the PR style Reggaeton is what is becoming the Pan-Latino version, with ppl from Ecuador, Mexico, the DR etc listening to it. Even a lot of non salsa dancing Chicanos I know love the Reggaeton.
    I wonder if phenotype plays any part in this or is it purely musical?
    Can one separate the blackness of the Panamanians from their Jamaican roots? Separate music and race? Or is it too entangled?

  • 4. Jose  |  June 28th, 2007 at 1:26 am

    Don’t know if you’ve been to NYC lately, but La Kalle 105.9 recently changed their platform (once again) from all-reggaetón, all-the-time, but now back to some sort of Spanglish-Latino mix of salsa, bachata, reggaetón, and rap. So maybe it seems, in the case of Univisión at least, that the Industry doesn’t think that reggaetón has the mainstream “legs” anymore to keep running. I’m not sure about immigration legislation, but what does it mean when Univisión, and not MTV, are the ones pulling out the carpet?

    p.s. I’m glad you’re writing about reggaetón again. Look forward to your Phoenix piece.

  • 5. Birdseed  |  July 6th, 2007 at 2:57 am

    I can understand the black-caribbean vs latino aspect of the issue and the vague nationalist desire to claim genesis, but one thing I’m wondering about is the very, very heartfelt Puerto Rico vs Panama conflict. Is there any non-reggaeton dimension to this I’m not aware of?

    The same kind of contension can be seen if you look at the editing history of the Wikipedia article, which at least as long as I’ve been part of editing it (since September 2004) has fluctuated wildly on the origin issue, with some versions being palpably unpleasant. The current version has gone back to Panama, I see.

  • 6. wayneandwax  |  July 6th, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Interesting obs re: the Wikipedia article, Birdseed. I hadn’t thought of analyzing the debate in that forum, but it’s certainly an interesting site (!) for the negotiation of public meanings and narratives.

    As for the Pma / PR tensions, I can’t think of any special enmity between them aside from this fraught debate over the origins of reggaeton. I’ve been working on an article for the last year or so (which unfortunately won’t see the light of day until late next year) that attempts to tease out the rather different, and in both cases crucial, contributions each place has made to what is today called reggaeton. Not that that will necessarily resolve the debate, but it may influence the Wiki discussion! (I’ve noticed that my piece for the Phoenix is heavily cited in that article.)

  • 7. Birdseed  |  July 9th, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    One day after I posted my last comment someone changed it to Puerto Rico. :D

    Someone else (let me guess, a Dominican?) added “merengue and bachata” to the list of influences. A lot of people want to take credit for this one.

  • 8. Rene Monreal  |  November 4th, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Me personally love reggaeton ,even though I am from Mexico and raised in USA. I started listening to reggaeton when I was like 12 and at first didn’t like it but I started liking it .Reggaeton influenced me to be an artist or DJ,yet today I still try to make reggaeton…..don’t know how but I try to make the music.

    Young Mexican influenced by reggaeton

  • 9. Jack Da Rippa  |  January 21st, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    As a Latino I can say theres alot of Ignorance amoungst latinos, most young latinos have misconceptions and are too head strong to properly learn the origins of the music,latino Nationalities, roots nor further understanding beyond the little misinformed information they collect. I’m a Colombian, who has lived in Boston,New york..traveled to Los Angeles, The Bay area, Puerto Rico, Colombian (Medellin, Cartagena Baranquilla) and currently reside in Miami. Also my minor is Latino studies.. Latinos are a hybrid of Euro(Spain) Afro and Indo mixtures thru generations. Also Cuba,Puerto Rico,Colombia,Panama, Jamiaca, Dominican republic and etc. Has Afro influence, and spanish to british influence.

    Theres no Puerto Rico vs Cuba vs Dominican, who started what..sorry but if you are not narrow minded and culturally open. Then you could see aside the different accents..we all speak spanish. Salsa like much music has African beats..most slaves came from Angola mixing their religion with Catholic religion (hence Santaria..or even Rastafarian which is more a lifestyle then a religion) Remember even Bob Marley was baptisted in Ethiopian christianity! Cuba has its Salsa version, PR has its salsa version..then Cubans moved to Cali,Colombia,,creating Colombian salsa that is faster tempo..Colombians and Mexicans have cumbia..use the same instruments..yet have distinct sounds! No one is wrong or right..its personal preference and if ur racist or culturalist lol…then you close urself off in ignorance.

    Mexicans are different because they had more of an Indigenious population then Afro..thats why you dont see any black Mexicans. Yes by regions we culturally like different music,but as people we like all types of music. I guess, my issue is I just wish some younger “cats” could get that small mentality out there heads..once you get to college and older..then you can appreciate not just other latino countries,cultures,foods and women!haha but also outside the latino world. Also its not much of a racist issue either…cause if you placed a black afro Cuban in a room with African Americans, or a room full of whiteskin Colombians, Ricans, Cubans…that black Cuban will culturally get along with the latinos..so skintone means nothing in attraction to being welcomed…but then again Haitians, are culturally closer to latinos then African Americans (and Im not talking about 2nd or 3rd generation haitian American) Im speaking like right off the boat! Cause in Miami, if you call a Haitian black he will correct you quickly!

    So to close off. Some people might agree with me, and some individuals might insult and try to downplay my comments as bs, but if your educated enough to know your roots and get the chance to travel all over the US, Carribean, and Central,South America..it will open your eyes! We all mixtures.

  • 10. wayneandwax  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for your comment, Jack. “We all mixtures” indeed. That’s a nice way to put it.

    But, actually, the notion that there are no black Mexicans is a common misconception. Their history has just been somewhat erased by ideologies of mestizaje. For more info, see, for example:
    http://www.afromexico.com/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Mexican
    http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/mexico/black-mexicans.htm

  • 11. wayneandwax.com » P&hellip  |  March 10th, 2009 at 9:25 am

    […] most important: because I care a lot about representations of reggaeton, esp how the genre animates rather heated debates about national/racial/ethnic […]

  • 12. wayneandwax.com » T&hellip  |  October 5th, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    […] Afro-American Address,” by which I mean the ways that reggaeton — despite a certain divisiveness — is best understood as a genre articulating a powerful synthesis of Afrodiasporic style […]

Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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