Various Artists

Noches de Hip Hop

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Latin hip-hop has been around almost as long as hip-hop itself, and it's now really a part of Latino culture. This compilation focuses on Latin hip-hop in Los Angeles, a hotbed of the sound. But it's music that draws from its heritage, rather than simply copying what's going on in the mainstream. "Porqué Estas Aquí," for example, combines the usual samples and drum tracks with conjunto accordion, while Kemo the Blaxican, with a mixed heritage, brings flute and piano riffs to the party on "Ruido." This music pushes the boundaries of hip-hop as it's usually seen, but really just reflects the culture. That can sometimes be bad, given the macho attitude in "Coast to Coast" and a few other places. But it's refreshing to hear mariachi inflections on Bimbo's "Lento," for example, or the salsa undertones of "Por Amor." There are a number of cuts in Spanglish, and others veer between English and Spanish; again, that's simply mirroring everyday life. There's plenty going on here, and on that basis, it's worth deeper exploration. And when you consider the bonus DVD music videos and interviews, Noches de Hip Hop becomes a fabulous package.

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