Various Artists

Latin Kingz: The Album

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Latinos have been down with hip-hop since rap's old school era of the late '70s and early '80s. So it isn't surprising that a fair amount of Latin rap compilations have come out over the years -- some in the United States, some in Latin America. The term Latin rap can refer to a wide variety of things; it could be anything from a Puerto Rican MC in the Boogie Down Bronx to a Cuban rapper in Miami to a Buenos Aires resident who exclusively raps in Spanish. Assembled by the Los Angeles-based Activate Entertainment in 2003, this compilation has a strong West Coast orientation and makes Chicano MCs a high priority. Not all of the artists are of Mexican descent; for example, Mellow Man Ace (who is heard on "Fakin' da Funk") is a Havana-born Cuban rapper. But Chicanos dominate this 74-minute CD, which has its share of references that are uniquely Mexican -- that is, terms like la raza, mota (a Chicano slang term for marijuana), and ese (a Chicano homeboy). And yet, Latin Kingz: The Album doesn't contain as many Spanish lyrics as other Latin rap compilations that have come from the West Coast; at least 90 percent of the lyrics are in English. Not all of the tracks are gangsta rap; however, many of them are. SKS' "Oh No!" is straight-up G-funk in the Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg/Warren G vein, whereas one hears more of a Cypress Hill influence on Crooked Stilo's "Callete la Boca" and the rock-influenced "Rhyme in tha Chamber" (which unites Cypress Hill's Sen Dog with Mellow Man Ace and Everlast). While Latin Kingz doesn't point Latin rap in any new directions, the beats are generally infectious -- and the disc will easily appeal to die-hard fans of West Coast hip-hop.