Latino Hip Hop: The Complexity of Challenging the Status Quo
by Mari Castaneda — University of Massachusetts at Amherst
November 12, 2007 – 04:01
Latina/o media and popular culture is in a moment of dynamic transition and flux. With the Latino population growing faster than any other ethnic and racial group, it is no surprise that major conglomerates are increasingly targeting the Latino audience not only in the United States, but also across the Americas. Within this context, there is a growth of Spanish-language and Latino media outlets and opportunities for artistic expression, especially in communities in the US that have historically not had such outlets. Yet as many marketers find their way to the sector, there is increasing pressure towards profits and commercialism, which often limits the potential of politically or culturally provocative and progressive content. Instead, there is a tendency to provide packaged programming that fails to address local community issues, the transnational character of Latino communities, or speak to the globalized social realities (both the challenges and opportunities) that many Latinos face. Kinto Sol, the featured Latino hip hop rappers in this 2006 video, are part of an evolving style of Spanish-language and bilingual hip hop/rap that aims to address the complexity of the Latina/o life on a transnational plane, while reinterpreting what it means to be “Latino” as well as hip hop/rap artists. They aim to challenge the status quo and the ways in which Latinos are imagined by mainstream media producers and society, and their music emphasizes that bilingualism, transnationalism, and immigration are central to Chicano/Latino identity. Kinto Sol is similar to other Latino artists (across media genres) who are responsive to the multiple histories, cultures, political and economic locations and creative talents of Latino communities. Yet despite the Chicano/Latino pride that the group represents in an era when being immigrant and Mexican is demonized, it is still important to question if their work dismantles one form of oppression, racism, while failing to challenge another, patriarchy and sexism, which mainstream hip hop and rap (and now reggaeton) continuously accentuate.
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