Reggaeton Is Dead? The Word In The Barrio.
It’s no secret, this gringa loves “reggaeton.” My reasoning for the “quotations” is that according to some, reggaeton is dead. Well, my initial gringa reaction was: “Ummm, no, it’s not.” But then, I started thinking about the reggaeton that I first heard back in high school:
It was 2005 and I was sitting with some friends on the patio outside our favorite Starbucks, playing cards and sipping a frappuccino (bc that’s what white kids do) and my friend pulled up blaring what I thought was rap. This isn’t the most common occurrence in the suburbs, so when he yells my name to come over to his car, I jump right up to see what is going on. “Listen to this! It’s rap in Spanish!” he says, and turns the music up even louder. Slightly embarrassed by all the eyeballs now staring at us, I listen for a moment…and confused, I respond, “Turn it down! Is this is joke? Why are they singing about gasoline and why does that girl want more of it?!”
I didn’t think about this discovery again for several weeks, until I was watching the MTV VMAs (which used to be a big deal). All of a sudden, there was this dude, in baggy pants, a weird hair cut and sunglasses singing about gasolina on stage and the people were loving it! I learn his name is Daddy Yankee and what he is singing is a real thing called reggaeton. After a few minutes on Limewire (before it was illegal), I’m now the proud owner of an array of reggaeton songs and even though I understand about 5% of what they are saying, I’m hooked.
Now, back to 2011. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see Daddy Yankee live. I was expecting the show to be in a concert hall or stadium, but no, it was held in a tiny club in downtown Miami. estupido. estupido. So, about 100 people enjoyed an up-close, amazing performance by (who I consider) THE reggaetonero of our time. The place was half empty and I was completely confundida. Where have all the Daddy Yankee fans gone?
So, yes, maybe reggaeton, as we knew it in early 2000, is dead. The standards of reggaeton like Don Omar and Ivy Queen have incorporated bachata and more Caribbean beats into their biggest hits. Tego Calderón sticks to only “feat.” gigs. Wisin y Yandel can only seem to make it on the charts when featuring another big name artist (Ex: Sean Kingston, Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin). Can’t forget Calle 13, who cleaned house at the 2011 Latin Grammys where they gave an incredibly moving performance (watch it here), but those guys define their own genre as they go along, which is why they are so amazing. (click here for a pic of me and Rene). Even Daddy Yankee, as La Rubia pointed out in her recent review of “Lovumba“, has converted to a more pop-damce vibe in order to stay relevant.
My conclusion: ¡No te preocupes! We will always have “Gasolina” for moments when we need our “old school” reggaeton beats, but who doesn’t get swept away by the moving lyrics of “Latinoamérica” and nothing can get people dancing like “Danza Kuduro.” Reggaeton in its purest form maybe be gone for good, but not because the genre is dead, but because it’s transforming and renewing itself within the Urban Latino movement. So, this gringa thinks we should stop focusing on the past and sit back and enjoy the rakata-ride.