Various Artists

Rap en Español [Globo]

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Over the years, hip-hoppers have rapped in a variety of languages, including German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Dutch, and even Japanese. But if hip-hop has an unofficial second language, it's Spanish. Many Puerto Ricans were down with the hip-hop culture when it emerged in New York in the late '70s, and the Mean Machine's bilingual 1981 single "Disco Dreams" contains the first recorded example of rapping in Spanish. Since then, many other Latinos have demonstrated that an MC can rap in both English and Spanish -- everyone from Puerto Rican New Yorkers (Mesanjarz of Funk, Hurricane G) to Chicanos in Southern California (Cypress Hill, the Mexakinz, Lighter Shade of Brown, Kid Frost, Proper Dos). Various Latino rap compilations came out in the 1990s; while Latin Hip-Hop Flava on Priority and Latin Lingo: Hip-Hop From the Raza on Rhino went the bilingual route, Rap en Español is dominated by Spanish lyrics. Priority and Rhino didn't want to risk scaring away non-Spanish speaking listeners, but this 1991 release came out on a Latin label (Globo) and was aimed at Latino audiences. Rap en Español spotlights five different Latino hip-hoppers: Vico C, Jelly D, Lisa (who shouldn't be confused with the early-'80s dance-pop singer who gave us "Sex Dance" and "Rocket to Your Heart"), Ruben D.J., and Pablo Diaz. Most of the material is commercial pop-rap, including Lisa's "Trampa" and Ruben D.J.'s "La Escuela." And Diaz's "Mi Ritmo House" is hip-house with Spanish lyrics. But things get more street on some of Vico's offerings, which include "La Recta Final" (a tune that was influenced by Ice-T's "Colors") and "Viernes 13, Part II." Viernes is the Spanish word for Friday, and the latter is based on the Friday the 13th series of horror flicks. Overall, this collection isn't fantastic. But it's generally decent, and it demonstrates that even though English is still hip-hop's primary language, it certainly isn't its only language.