The terms hip-hop and rap are often used interchangeably, but hip-hop doesn't necessarily involve rapping. While rapping is certainly part of hip-hop -- a tremendously important part, in fact -- hip-hop can also refer to anything from DJing to clothes. There are hip-hop MCs, hip-hop beats, hip-hop producers, hip-hop fashions, hip-hop clubs, hip-hop dancers, and hip-hop albums that are totally instrumental. A fair amount of instrumental hip-hop albums came out in the '90s and early to mid-2000s, many of them acquired by English-speaking hip-hop heads -- you might get, for example, an album that has been influenced by Dr. Dre or Timbaland musically but doesn't feature any MCs. And if English-speaking audiences can have instrumental hip-hop albums, is there any reason why a compilation like Cantos Urbanos: The Best Beats shouldn't cater to the Spanish-language rap market? Some might think, "Wait a minute. If Cantos Urbanos is an instrumental album, why does it matter if someone speaks Spanish or not? You're dealing with beats, grooves, and tracks, not lyrics." That's true; language is essentially irrelevant on Cantos Urbanos, because there are no lyrics. However, the important thing to understand is that Cantos Urbanos has been influenced by the beats and grooves of Spanish-language rap -- especially the reggaetón phenomenon. Offering grooves by Tazmanian & Eliot, NN, RCG, and DNA, Cantos Urbanos owes a lot to the sound of reggaetón -- not the actual rapping of reggaetón, but the types of beats, tracks, and production techniques that have accompanied the Spanish-language rhymes of MCs like Ivy Queen, Tego Calderón, and Daddy Yankee. How do reggaetón tracks differ from, say, the tracks you're likely to hear on Dirty South, crunk, alt-rap, G-funk, or gangsta rap albums? For one thing, the tropical influence; at times, hip-hop elements will meet up with bachata or salsa elements on Cantos Urbanos -- a decent collection that is worth hearing if one wants to hear what reggaetón and Latino hip-hop sound like without the MCs.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson