From Big Pun & Fat Joe’s Takeover To Miami Bass, The Latino Hip-Hop Legacy Is Examined (Audio)
The great Hip-Hop photographer and documentarian Joe Conzo, Jr. recently told Latino USA, “I’d go toe-to-toe with anybody that says Latinos weren’t there in the beginning.” Joe was dubbed as the photographer of “Hip-Hop’s baby pictures” by The New York Times, which means he was there when it all started in the Bronx, New York. As a part of an NPR podcast, Latino USA presented the second half of exploring “A Latino History of Hip Hop.” While the first part explored the foundation of Hip-Hop, part two focuses on the late 1980s, to artistry in today’s Hip-Hop. Producer Daisy Rosario hosted this hour-long podcast, which focuses on how Latinos helped carry Rap music to the a mainstream arm of the Hip-Hop culture.
The podcast starts off with a talk with iconic DJ, radio personality, and Fondle ‘Em Records head Bobbito Garcia. He states that emergence of the MC was first identified with Black culture. The legendary radio host remembered how the face of Hip-Hop had changed, and stated, “But then the ’90s came and things just took a turn.
Spanglish Rap pioneer Mellow Man Ace became the first Latino Hip-Hop artist to have a hit record. The 1989 single “Mentirosa” peaked at #14 on the Billboard 100, and spent 24 weeks on the chart. Mellow Man said “during the whole time of my career, I was doing it for for Hip-Hop.”As a former member of Cypress Hill (and Sen Dog’s biological brother), the first Latino Hip-Hop group to go platinum, Mellow Man truly set a path for them with his career, and for many other artists to come. From Kid Frost to The Beatnuts, Delinquent Habits to Chingo Bling, it all started somewhere.
The podcast then examines Bobbito The Barber as a force, and how “The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Radio Show“ became a launching pad for the biggest names in Rap at the time. In addition to a platform for Nas, Big L, and MF DOOM, the Bronx’s Fat Joe was a beneficiary. The Diamond D protege and D.I.T.C. member made an early appearance on the show. “Fat Joe’s first live radio appearance was on me and Stretch’s show—and 12 years later Joe had the most played radio Rap record in history,” Bobbito said, referring to Terror Squad’s 2004 #1 “Lean Back.” Another prominent figure of radio, rhyme, and television is Angie Martinez. Aside from her Rap career, Angie’s HOT 97 enjoyed market dominance during her lengthy tenure, and she helped build an empire out of it.
Speaking of HOT 97, another radio personality, DJ, and famed A&R, Cipha Sounds talked about his heritage and it’s relation to Hip-Hop on the podcast. “We didn’t celebrate our Latino Heritage on air, because in the form of Hip-Hop, a lot of that becomes secondary, even tertiary. The most important thing is…who’s nice on the mic?” Cipha stated.
While Fat Joe and others were coming out New York, and Cypress Hill was ruling the California scene, DJ Laz was part of another conquest in Hip-Hop in Miami, Florida. The Latino DJ helped pioneer the Miami Bass sound, which is rooted in some early Electro Hip-Hop records like Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force’s “Planet Rock.” DJ Laz said, “One thing that Miami added was that 808 quad bass that would rattle the trunk. That’s why it was called ‘Booty Music.'” This form of Hip-Hop became the go to sound for groups like 2 Live Crew, Poison Clan, and MC Shy D. Laz happens to be the adopted uncle for “Mr. Worldwide” himself, Miami native Pitbull. Laz said that some of Pitbull’s biggest hits like his 2009 smash “Hotel Room Service” embodied the early Miami Bass sound.
In talking about the Latino hand in mainstream Rap, Big Pun demands obvious inclusion. A master wordsmith, Pun’s alliteration and rhymes schemes places him at one of the all-time great MCs. He became the first solo Latino Hip Hop artist to achieve a platinum record on his debut, Capital Punishment. His legacy in Hip-Hop is notable through his flow and unforgettable voice, but he is considered “an all American figure from the ghetto.” Host Daisy Rosario went to the South Bronx and spoke to two of the painters who made the “Pun Wall.” It is highly regarded in the borough, as it depicts a flattering image of Chris Rios, with a Puerto Rican flag. In the podcast, Rosario talks about the lasting contribution Pun not only has to the Rap game, but from his ability to become an idol and inspiration to people of the Bronx.
The careers of Big Pun and all of the other Latino artists have not only become a staple in their own rights through their heritage, but they have also set paths for anyone who wants to celebrate Hip-Hop. Check out this podcast here, and other Latino USA shows.