Various Artists

Str8 Up Loco

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It didn't take Latinos very long to discover rap. Back in 1979, the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" sold a lot of copies in Latino neighborhoods, and New York's Mean Machine brought a "Nuyorkican" flavor to hip-hop when they recorded "Disco Dreams" in 1981. The thing that made many Latino MCs interesting in the '80s and '90s was their willingness to put their own spin on rap; instead of trying to sound exactly like African-American rappers, they celebrated their Latino heritage. This was true of Puerto Ricans and Cubans on the East Coast as well as Mexicans on the West Coast. Assembled in 1995, Str8 Up Loco is primarily a compilation of Chicano rap -- the CD doesn't get into a lot of Puerto Rican MCs from New York and Philadelphia or Cuban rappers from Miami. The front cover, in fact, looks like an issue of Low Rider magazine, which is appropriate because many of the young Chicanos who were reading that publication in 1995 were the people Moola Records was going after with selections like Tha Mexakinz' "Phonkie Melodia," Aztlan Nation's "Born 2 Play the Bad Guy," and the Main One's "Learn to Be a Man for Self." Most of the material is hardcore rap, although Str8 Up Loco detours into commercial pop-rap with the Unit's "(La La) Love" (which samples the Delfonics' "La La Means I Love You") and the Latin Alliance's interpretation of War's "Low Rider." The only track that is out of place is MC Breed's 1991 hit "Ain't No Future in Your Frontin'"; although enjoyable, the tune is inappropriate for this CD because Breed is from Michigan and wasn't part of California's Chicano rap scene. Nonetheless, Str8 Up Loco is a rewarding compilation that is highly recommended to anyone who is interested in Mexican-Americans' contributions to hip-hop.

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