February 26th, 2007

La Musica Negra (Hispana?)

Having read no small # of reggaeton messageboard debates (esp over ?s of nat’l origin), I’ve developed a decent sense, I’d like to think, of when someone hits a good # of signposts. The following gem is quite solid in that respect — myths, misspellings, elisions and omissions, grammatical and historical slippage notwithstanding. Econowhimsical prose, tĂș sabe? (AND POLITELY S^LF-C&NS0R%D TO B00T!) I especially love how papito0724 slides from English into Spanish and back, sorta like reggaeton itself.

In some sense, I couldn’t say it better myself. But I’ll try.


It came to my attn recently that my shift in focus from reggae to reggaeton has lost me some (one?) readers. Alas. What can I say. I write about what I think about. And I’ll surely continue writing and thinking about reggae too. But if you can’t come along on whatever aesthetic adventures I’m into at the moment, yeah, this blog ain’t for you. (Or, perhaps, may I recommend the tag cloud or search bar?)


But I am glad that people like Nina, aka Salvaje Siempre, are out there and adding their 2 centavos to the discourse. Check her recent post about Ivy Queen for some palabras provocativas. Though, I’d like to point out (as demonstrated below) that Ivy used to represent mad rugged, too (and, yeah, check all those hip-hop samples and tell me that PR didn’t add their own thing to [Spanish] reggae) —

and even with the various modifications she’s made to her image, and her recent dips into bachatera-mode, Ivy still raps about as fiercely as anyone out there (for better or worse — we could use a greater range of female subjectivities offered in reggaeton, and, yeah, in pop culture more generally).


Having more and more critical interlocutors in the reggaetonosphere is a good thing, and I hope we can continue linkthinking through the genre’s key terms, hot-buttons, central issues, hopes and dreams and knameans. I sure appreciate being able to float ideas and theories out here, and I doubly appreciate getting thoughtful, stimulating feedback.

Take, for example, a recent question I’ve been puzzling w/r/t the valences of certain ethno-racial identifications as articulated over the course of reggaeton history (including the days before it was called reggaeton). The question, which I’ve raised before, has to do with whether projections of community in reggaeton have shifted radically over the last ten years — a change that I sometimes like to pose, provocatively, as audible in the shift from “musica negra” (a term of self-description employed in the mid-90s) to today’s “reggaeton latino.”

Or to put it to you more soundly, more directly —

do Blanco’s “esta es la musica negra“* & Maicol y Manuel’s “en la casa, para la raza / Maicol y Manuel que te canta melaza” [from Playero 38]

essentially say the same thing as

boricua, morena, dominicano, colombiano, cubano, mexicano” ??

or do they say something rather different ??

I’m not jus sayin — I’m askin.

I’ve got my theories; I’d like to hear yours.


* I should note — to complicate things a bit — that the jury seems to be out on whether Blanco sings “la musica negra, hispana!” or “la musica negra, is murda!”; it sounds like the latter to me and Raquel, but others have transcribed it otherwise, which is significant in its own right, though it may reflect a more contemporary sensibility / mode of hearing; me, I’m trying to figure (out?) whether something like “raza” in PR in the mid-90s would have signified blackness or simply, a la Kid Frost, (“third race”) Latinidad.


  • 1. wayneandwax  |  March 2nd, 2007 at 10:57 am

    apropos (?) — Tego in the New York Post’s Tempo magazine:

    “There is ignorance and stupidity in Puerto Rico and Latin America when it comes to blackness.”

    hoping to hear some other opinions on this, but perhaps i don’t have too many readers who can speak to connotations of “la raza” in PR in the mid-90s. fair enough. gotta get my game up, i guess.

  • 2. wayneandwax  |  March 2nd, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    found another relevant reference, this time appearing to affirm that “la raza” in mid90s PR indeed referred to “the race,” which is to say, black people:

    If before, “Cocolos” (salsa fans) were the ones looked upon as the biggest delinquents in the community, and the ones to develop the discourse of a “Latino” and “black” identity, now they are the rappers, the ones who, through their songs, create a new identity designated with the epithet of “the race.”

    — Mayra Santos, “Puerto Rican Underground,” Centro 8, no. 1&2 (1996): 229

  • 3. Birdseed  |  March 4th, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    If it’s any comfort, I can tell you that I, at least, read your blog because it deals seriously with a wide array of genres and not just Reggae. I love your writing on the stuff (that’s what brought you to my attention in the first place), but I’ve always listened to a wide array of local urban genres (from dangdut to ghettotech, or whatever). It’s great to come here precisely because you’re open to new types of music, and I especially appreciate that you’re one of the few people to attempt to seriously understand and explain to a wider audience stuff like bubbling.

  • 4. wayneandwax  |  March 4th, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    big up, birdseed. i appreciate the good words. they are comforting indeed. sometimes when a post is met with silence, it’s hard to know why. always nice to be reminded that people are reading and thinking about these things with me. peace —

  • 5. The Incredible Kid  |  March 12th, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I too listen to a wide range of international urban genres and really appreciate your reggaeton posts.



  • 6. bruksi  |  March 14th, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    I have always wonder why reggae wasn’t as popular (or at least so i did think) in Latin America as it is in the rest of the Caribbean especially the English speaking ones and even some other far away
    places. I use to lend the reason to a language barrier.

    What I think dem guys in panama was doing – in doing over reggae songs in Spanish served to be a breaking down
    of those barrier among the wider Latin American population.
    Which in turn evolved into what is called reggaeton, which is really Spanish
    speaking people doing reggae with some hiphop/rap and other music popular in Latin America mixed in here and there.

    I think di shifts in names that wayne mention probably have to
    do with the embracing of what becomes to be called reggaeton
    by the wider Latin American population who might have a deferent identity
    and more dominant, since identity is a very huge issue in Latin America

  • 7. OA  |  March 18th, 2007 at 5:37 am

    The term “raza” in Puerto Rico is generally used to refer to the black race. This isn’t unique to the early 90s “underground” music. The word “raza” in colloquial puertorican spanish is interchangeably used for black race. For example, in PR, they’d say “se te sale la raza” (roughly “the race is coming out of you”) when you do something perceived as being from the black race, such as dancing. Raza may be even used in a derogatory form to refer to nappy hair.

    Many of the precursors of reggaeton were from areas in PR that are predominately black like Carolina. The “underground” music movement has its roots in the crime-ridden public housing projects (Caserios). People associated with underground were called Cacos which is a term that translates to delinquent and has slight racial connotations (but less racially charged than Cocolo IMO).

    Inspired by gangsta-rap, the “unders” exploited their racial and social status to market their music. Their hardcore lyrics expressed their unapologetic views of crime and race. It was a more in-your-face continuation of the, at the time, fading discourse of Cocolos. This new approach had more appeal to the socially marginalized youth in PR and it is one of the reasons that underground/reggae displaced salsa as the music of el pueblo (common people). So it should be no surprise that phrases like “musica negra” and “para la raza” (even “melaza”) are about black identity.

  • 8. wayneandwax  |  March 20th, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Really appreciate your perspective on this, OA. I’ve yet to encounter such a strong and clear opinion on the matter. It’s not surprising to me that these words would be heard as an explicit articulation of racial identity (though I wasn’t really sure whether the Mexican meaning [la raza = la mestiza] would have resonated at all in PR after Kid Frost’s big hit). And I guess it’s not surprising that once reggaeton goes overground, crosses over to the US mainstream (or at least to the greater Spanish-speaking society), that the genre’s main articulations of identity become broader too: basically, moving from black to Latino (even if morenas still get a shout). That doesn’t seem like a completely predictable outcome, though, given how much currency hip-hop still derives from blackness (and reggaeton from hip-hop, if also cocoloismo, etc.).

  • 9. wayneandwax.com » T&hellip  |  January 11th, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    […] I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gleaned lots of what I know ’bout the narratives swirling ’round reggaeton […]


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

Tag Cloud

academic aesthetics af-am africa anthro arab art audio baby babylonia beatresearch blogging bookish boston brazil cambridge caribbean chicago commerce copywrong cumbia dance dubstep ethno europe events funkcarioca gigs global globalghettotech hip-hop humor industry internet interview jamaica jazz juke kwaito latin lifey linkthink mashup media mexico middleeast mixx nation newyork panama politricks pop public puertorico r&b race radio reggae reggaeton remix review riddimmeth0d rock sampling seasonal sexuality soundscape tech techno traxx UK video whirledmusic worldmusic youth



Creative Commons License

chacarron chacarronchaca-riggity-ron