Crooked Stilo

Puro Escandalo

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Fonovisa Records has never been known for putting out a lot of hip-hop. Their primary focus has been regional Mexican music, which is a healthy niche to have because banda, Norteño, Tejano, and grupero are huge in Mexico and the southwestern United States. Nonetheless, Fonovisa has dabbled in Spanish-language rap on occasion, and Puro Escandalo is a perfect example. Fonovisa obviously wasn't trying to market this 2004 release to English-only audiences; about 90 percent of the lyrics are in Spanish, which isn't necessarily the commercial kiss of death that some non-Spanish-speaking hip-hoppers might think it is -- from Barcelona to Mexico City to Buenos Aires, plenty of MCs have earned their living by rapping exclusively in Spanish. The two Salvadoran brothers who comprise L.A.'s Crooked Stilo bring a lot of West Coast influences to Puro Escandalo, which is mindful of Cypress Hill and Funkdoobiest, as well as the more pop-friendly Mellow Man Ace. But Cypress, Funkdoobiest, and Ace never recorded an album that was dominated by Spanish lyrics -- and even the Havana-born Ace hasn't used Latin rhythms quite as extensively as Crooked Stilo uses them on this CD, which has a strong tropical influence and frequently incorporates Afro-Cuban salsa as well as Colombian cumbia. In the regional Mexican market that Fonovisa ordinarily caters to, cumbia mexicana (a Mexican interpretation of the Colombian cumbia rhythm) is quite popular; however, Crooked Stilo's use of cumbia is much closer to the Colombian way of doing things. By 2004 standards, Puro Escandalo isn't groundbreaking; the fusion of rap and Latin rhythms has been going on for a long time in the Spanish-speaking world. Nonetheless, this is a pleasing, respectable effort from the West Coast twosome, who remind us that hip-hop doesn't have to be performed in English exclusively to be effective.

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