Initially, I decided to take Aesthetics of Hip- Hop as an English class this semester in an effort to better relate to my father, who grew up in Hunt’s Point in the Bronx and experienced first hand the birth, rise and popularity of Hip- Hop culture. Hip- Hop At the same time, he also was submerged in urban Latino culture- born in Brooklyn, having moved to Puerto Rico until he was 10, and then back to New York, he came to the States and settled into a Bronx community filled with Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans and hispanics of all types. Both of my parents’ parents came here from la isla and settled in public housing, put their kids through school and college, and watched them become lawyers and proper adults. But even so, part of Latino heritage is acknowledging that you leave your country, your family and your friends to pursue the American Dream, and that is up to the subsequent generations of U.S.- born Latinos to manifest the dreams of our ancestors. In this tradition, my parents wanted more for me than what they experienced as New Yorkers from public housing.
The Brooklyn- born daughter of a rough and tumble Bronx guy and a member of the Latino minority, my New Yorican parents left the city and raised me up in primarily white middle- class neighborhoods. This always gave me a very unique taste in music- I got a little bit of everything, from Run DMC to salsa superstar Victor Manuel to Ed Sheeran growing up. Having heard all the old classics when I was younger and also liking Hip- hop music that’s currently on the radio, being at Saint John’s has exposed me to a lot more “underground” or less popular Hip- Hop music than I grew up listening to as a kid. Growing up in a totally different environment from my parents, this cross- over where I was influenced by black, Latino and white culture, sometimes leads to my dad and I having arguments on what real or authentic Hip- Hop is. While he likes the classics, I tend to be drawn to newer artists.
As a young adult Latina, I’m also very conscious of my roots, which influence what I listen to. One of my favorite artists is Pitbull, which through a presentation in this class, I learned is considered to be a Hip- Hop artist. This categorization is one I could agree with, but in addition he is also considered one of the hottest crossover artists in Pop and Latin culture. Everyone loves him, it’s hard not to with those stark white suits, those infectious beats and those hot Spanglish lines he drops. Well, everyone everyone except my dad that is. In our culture, there has been this long- existing stand- off, and maybe even rivalry, between Puerto Ricans and Cubans. From the fact that our flags have inverted colors to our islands ideals and current socio- political statuses, there is a lot of inbred beef between us. As we all know, Mr. 305 comes from the biggest Cuban communities in the nation, Miami. And us Boriquas from the City, apparently we don’t “fuck with that”. So while I’m lovin’ on Pit, daddy dismissively nods his head and gives me the “I remember when Hip- Hop was Hip- Hop” speech. As father and daughter, we specialize in teasing each other and butting heads, so of course I respond in earnest tell him that Pitbull is just as good an example of Hip- Hop as anybody else. Just today, May 9th 2015, I was telling him that Pitbull embodies both the aesthetics both of Hip- Hop and Latino cultures. He scoffed, told me
“What do you know about aesthetics of Hip- Hop girl, you think that just because you’ve taken one class you know? You’re a Puerto Rican girl who’s lived in white neighborhoods almost all your life. You don’t know the struggle- I’ve lived the struggle, seen it on the streets, gotten out of it. Pitbull doesn’t do any of that, he’s one of those bougie rappers. He can’t rap about the struggle, he doesn’t know it.That’s not real Hip- Hop man, I know real Hip- Hop.”
But I disagree completely, as bougie as Pit may seem, that façade is just a part of the way of the successful rap recording artist. Here dad, let me explain, let me spit some straight fire, lay it on you real nice and drop that mic when I’m done. DALE!:
An aesthetic of Hip- Hop that drives the lyrics and tone of a majority of raps and songs is this idea of “the struggle”. In Hip- Hop, the majority of whose manufacturers are of African descent, the “struggle” tends to describe the racial discrimination that the minority faces, as well as the social and economic consequences of this discrimination that complicates the process of rising out of poverty and/ or oppression. As my father puts it, part of “the struggle” seems to be things like “not knowing where your next meal is going to come from, watching the neighborhood heroin addict doped up and dragging themselves along city streets, inches from falling, yet never hitting the ground”, getting beat up on because you were a weak nigga. Dad’s problem with Pitbull is that he didn’t experience these things himself, he wasn’t one of those kinds of guys growing up. If he doesn’t know “the struggle”, how is he supposed to sing about it in authentic Hip- Hop?
Hip- Hop Matters: Young Voices in the Hood acknowledges that “there is no way hip hop can be simply a black or white thing, there are so many other groups”(Craig, 154). This struggle does exist for people of Latin origins, some ways the same and others different. When considering Hip- Hop as a genre, it is easy to forget Afro and Latin influences in music.The International Journal of Criminology and Sociology Theory confirms that “Latinos have been part of hip hop from the beginning, but were left out as the genre unfolded from a communal to a commercial identity”(Persaud, 2). Growing up in under- developed urban settings, and even otherwise, you’re going to run into drugs and vices- for some of these people it is the only way they are able to make their living. Maybe it isn’t their first choice, but for the moment it’s their best. For Hispanics especially who move to the United States, they are very limited in what they can and can’t do if they don’t know English. But regardless of dialect: everybody understands the language of two things: money and violence. You can be absolutely mute and still get into the drug hustling business, provided you can handle money, fight, and run when you have to. This ropes many first and second generation urban Latinos into the “street” life my dad feels is missing so much from Pitbull’s music.
In an interview for dallasnew.com, Pitbull speaks to the opposite as he says
““I feel hip-hop is a facade… A lot of these rappers…no, cause they got guns…no, because they sell drugs, this and that. My whole point of rapping was not to sell drugs, not to be on the streets doing this, not to live with a leash, not to live an illegal lifestyle. That’s the way out”(dallasnews.com).
Many rappers and Hip- Hop artists are known for their involvement in illicit activities, it adds to a part of their thug persona. Pitbull does not want to be that kind of rapper in actuality, but he knows how to perform like one. He says he grew up on the streets moving from one urban neighborhood to another, but he turned to basketball to keep himself out of trouble, but he was still witnessed the street hustler’s lifestyle(dallasnews.com). He says in his interview ““Basketball still kept me in the streets to find out who was doing who and what was doing what, I understood the street already. I already knew how to make money”(dallasnews.com). Another aesthetic of Hip- Hop is the previously mentioned façade created by the successful recording artist. The appeal of the rapper comes from being a gangsta, being able to spin stories about the streets, the drugs, the fights and the hoes. Pitbull sings about those kinds of things and uses his street smarts to fulfill the thug rapper role, without necessarily having to be one. Especially nowadays, the on- stage persona, acting and role play of Hip- Hop artists is what helps them in gaining success. In truth, it is both impossible and unrealistic for every single rapper out there to fulfill all the criteria of what old- school Hip- Hop heads like my dad refer to as the “real rapper”, then there would be no evolution of Hip- Hop music and the social uplift that is part of the Hip- Hop agenda would deteriorate. This social uplift is where Latino culture emerges in Pitbull’s music.
As we’ve discussed, there’s the classic “drugs, streets” life. However, no minority “struggle” exists in our current society without prejudice and discrimination. For those of African descent, it centers around a history of slavery and racism in what has become one’s own country by birth. As all Latin culture has African roots, this is true, yet many of us hispanics experience an additional strike against us, if you will. Many of our parents or grandparents are recent migrants to the United States, which tends to couple with a stigma that portrays hispanic immigrants from all countries as “fence- hopping freeloaders”. As a second generation Latina, I’ve always been conscious about the extra effort I need to make in this country in order to prove myself, my culture, and especially my ancestors who gave up so much for people like me to do things like go to college, as hard- working and well- meaning. This is unfair, as many Latinos recognize what educational or social needs are not being fulfilled at home and come to the States with good intentions to work hard and live well.
When Pitbull says “the way out” in his interview, this “way out” is the way out of poverty and turmoil that Latinos are trying to work towards in positive, as opposed to negative, ways. Hip- Hop Arts beyond Borders states “Hip- Hoppers in Cuba represent a new generation of community- minded artists… their spirit of inventos, pulling something out of nothing, a sense of self- determination that animates local hip- hop scenes around the world”(Chang, 247). This ability to make something out of nothing and bring life to the hip- hop scene can be found in the production and lyricism of this Miami- born Cuban artist’s music. Pitbull gives ode to this spirit of inventos or inventiveness, and immigrant risk takers in “Orgullo”, which translates to “Pride”, a song off of his 2010 album Armando, which I discovered recently during Latino Heritage month(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxUpHIO964g). The beginning of this song starts of with the lyrics
“This is for
En camino para los estados unidos (U-S-A)
Buscando la oportunidad
Y el sueño Americano de verdad (the american dream)”(azlyrics.com).
These first lines translate to “This is for the Latinos making their way to the United States, searching for opportunity and the true American Dream”(cite lyrics). This is the Latino struggle, and Pitbull chooses to pay homage to all the Hispanics who muster up enough courage to go through the turmoil of getting to the U.S., as it is never easy and often dangerous. “Lagrimas, sudor y sangre” he sings, or blood sweat and tears, are what these people give up to immigrate to the United States(azlyrics.com). It’s what my grandparents who came here with nothing gave up, it’s what even my own father gave up before coming back to New York as a kid.
My father likes to claim that because Pitbull is Cuban, he only sings about the “Cuban” struggle or doesn’t really know the struggles of others. But for Latinos, immigration is a universal struggle- I know this for certain, as my mother is an immigration lawyer and the majority of her clients are Latino. Pitbull acknowledges this as he talks about “los Mexicanos crusando El Rio Grande”(Mexicans crossing El Rio Grande), “Dominicanos tirandose al canal de La Mona”(Domicans throwing themselves in the canal de La Mona)” to get to the USA; towards the end he rattles off a long list of Spanish- speaking countries whose people endure the same trials and tribulations, from North America to South America to the Caribbean, Puerto Rico included. The rest of these lyrics(which can be found at the end of this document), speak towards todos los latinos en el mundo, all the world’s Latinos- and this is why we call him Mr. Worldwide. It’s also why I love Pitbull so much- granted, he sings his songs about the ladies shaking their culos at the club, but what popular, money- making Hip- Hop artist doesn’t do that in some way shape or form? He knows it’s all a part of the Hip- Hop game. He says in his interview:
“You have to cater in order to be catered to… The next album will be a different step where I can maybe touch more political views, maybe touch more things in depth and at the same time throwing records out to the public.”(dallasnews.com).
What he does in his music, if you bother to listen to what songs he has out other than what makes it way onto the radio or into clubs, is uplift a socio- cultural demographic in a society that through its structure keeps people of color down. He praises Latinos and talks about what he knows to be important to our culture, my culture, in his music.
Another complaint that my dad has about Pitbull’s “fake” Hip- Hop is that none of it is original, “he does too much sampling, in the beginning, real Hip- Hop was all original” my dad claims. However, as we’ve discussed in class, a lot of early Hip- Hop had influences from and sampled music that nobody even noticed was sampled until afterwards. Seldom- played songs and familiar rhythms run rampant through Hip- Hop music. What makes Hip- Hop Hip- Hop is its ability to take music from all over the world and let in influence this fairly newer genre, it the inventos of Hip- Hop. The aesthetic of sampling in Hip- Hop will only continue to grow, as the genre even uses itself as a source of sampling. Everyone my dad loves definitely did it, whether or not my dad cares to admit it. Pitbull does it as well as he samples classic Latin music and collaborates with artists that are international icons of both Latino and Hip- Hop culture.
The prime example of Pitbull’s strategic sampling can be found in another lesser- known track entitled “Armada Latina”, in which he collaborates with Puerto Rican Salsa superstar Marc Anthony and acclaimed “legit” Hip- Hop artist Cypress Hill. This song, which speaks to the stereotypical Latino lifestyle, Latino struggle and Latino pride, samples the fourth part of the 1969 song Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills & Nash, which is on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Jay- Z’s 500 Greatest Song of all Time (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMbuJXQCIvo, rollingstone.com). In Armada Latina can be heard rhythmic drums, salsa music, brass instruments, romantic bolero singing and rapping(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdi7VoAa8rI).
Hip- Hop’s lyrical roots stem in talking about the everyday experience of what was at the beginning predominantly black culture. Songs about relatable situations and life experiences is what draws Hip- Hop listeners into the genre, being able to listen and say “I know what that’s like, I know what that feels like” makes Hip- Hop heads feel like they know their favorites artists and that their artists know and understand their lives too. It creates this supportive community where everyone bonds over the same lifestyles. Eli Jacobs- Fauntauzzi from Hip- Hop Arts beyond Borders “notes that Hip- Hop simply reflects the values of the society in which it takes root”, so when Hip- Hop takes root in Latino culture, it highlights the ways of the Latino community(Chang, 249). In Armada Latina, Marc Anthony sings an ode to the island life, the “ Caribe el tierra del mi gente hermosa” the Caribbean, the land of my beautiful people, the “Cielo y Sol, me acompanan donde quiera (mi fama hispana)”Sky and Sun, they accompany me everywhere(my Hispanic fam)(azlyrics.com).
Cypress Hill backs him up and raps “Some will get a summer tan, It’s hotter than a summer jam… Live for today, Cause you’re never gettin’ another chance”(azlyrics.com). This is an attitude that the Latino community shares, as we all know and understand that life in the homeland runs at a much more leisurely speed than in the U.S. where it’s go, go, go until you’re either rich or you die trying. Whether you’re from the motherland or visit family there, it’s an easily recognizable difference that is difficult to adjust to once you leave the sand and sun. Being in an environment like that also makes for a very family/ community- oriented atmosphere, which is not always the main focus in U.S. culture. The song also references things like drinking Cuba Libres, loving Scarface, playing Dominoes and wearing guayaberas, which is a traditional type of lightweight cotton men’s clothing popular in hot climates. The music video for “Armada Latina” tells this particular tale of island- infused urban life. These references to Hispanic customs and la familia are to Latin culture what lyrics on life in the hood, in the home or in homage to African ancestry are to the black Hip- Hop demographic. Although each culture has its distinct characteristics, Pitbull’s music relates way closer to classic Hip- Hop than Big Papi Ortiz recognizes.
The Global Warming that has been Chico Pit’s worldwide popularity comes from what is perhaps the most important aesthetic of Hip- Hop: its ability to permeate all cultures and touch the lives of all people. My father tends to mock those who listen to or write Hip- Hop who don’t embody the typical “struggle” or the ideals of the old- school rapper. Yet, even if you don’t know the content of a song, something- its beat, its live performance- something touches you, but only if you let it. Hip- Hop can be found all over the world, and is molded and crafted to fit the needs of its various listeners while taking inspiration and samples from the early greats and world music, is something that is unique strictly to Hip- Hop. If it as a genre stayed in the Bronx and never touched the life of another person, all the people my father’s generation love and view as the “best” Hip- Hop artists wouldn’t be the best, they would just be.
It’s the global popularity of Hip- Hop that lets people like Pitbull bring it to the Latino population and put a Reggaeton, Zumba, Rumba spin on it. You don’t need much to make Hip- Hop happen, some words a beat and a story will do. Pitbull in particular chooses to narrate the Latino story and tell people like myself that yes you can party “till you so fucking drunk” if that’s what you want to do as he puts it in his track “Party Ain’t Over”, but you should have an opinion and a voice on where you want your culture and society to go and you should keep what that Latin culture values close to your heart as to not lose it and let it motivate to to pursue el sueño Americano de verdad(azlyrics.com). My dad is one of those people who let la isla’s desires for improvement take him out of the ghetto.
Everyone always wants to look past Pitbull’s purpose for making his music as he does and instead focus on his flashy Miami Vice style and how many times he can make a graphic sexual innuendo in Spanish and get it to have American radio airplay without censoring. In truth, Pitbull knows what Hip- Hop is, what it entails, how to work it and make it fresh, relevant, catchy and new. Carefully taking those very same aesthetics of Hip- Hop that the greats used and putting a 305 spin on it makes for a prime example of legitimate, good, real Hip- Hop music. It’s all about the inventos. So dad. maybe you and I still don’t necessarily see eye- to- eye after me taking this class, but now I definitely know that one thing we do have in common is that we each have very strong opinions on music that we’ll do whatever we can to support and prove, including me writing a 10 page academic paper on mine. Guess that means the ball’s in your court Dad- whatcha got?
Pitbull — Orgullo lyrics
This is for (this is for)
Los Latinos (los Latinos)
En camino para los estados unidos (U-S-A)
Buscando la oportunidad
Y el sueсo Americano de verdad (the american dream)x2
Lagrimas, sudor y sangre
Esto es para los Mexicanos que estan crusando El Rio Grande
Esto es para los Dominicanos tirandose al canal de La Mona
Esto es para los Cubanos nadando noventa millas para llegar a La Yuma
Dios dale ayuda
This is for
En camino para los estados unidos
Buscando la oportunidad
Y el sueсo Americano de verdadx2
Oye mi gente
Ya vemos que un latino puede ser presidents
Los ilegales que estan fajados tratando de ser residentes
Los que tienen el numero de social security todo inventado
Como dice doctora Ana Maria Polo “caso serado”
This is for
En camino para los estados unidos
Buscando la oportunidad
Y el sueсo Americano de verdad x2
Libertad (we don’t die)
Libertad (we multiply) x4
This is for (Puerto Rico)
Los latinos (Costa Rica)
En camino (Panama) para los Estados Unidos (Nicaragua)
Buscando la oportunidad
(El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil)
Y el sueсo Americano de verdad
(Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay)
This is for (Paraguay, Bolivia)
Los latinos (Ecuador, Venezuela)
En camino para los estados unidos
(Para todos venezolanos entrando por la frontera con los pies mojados)
Buscando la oportunidad (Cuba, La Republican Dominicana)
Y el sueсo Americano de verdad (Mexico)
Esto es para todos los latinos en el mundo
Pa’lante y pa’rriba
Que se preparen y se paren
Que el mundo entero es pa’ nosotros
Pa’que lo sepan haha dale
Pitbull feat. Cypress Hill & Marc Anythony— Armada Latina
Ay Caribe el tierra del mi gente hermosa
Cielo y Sol, me acompanan donde quiera
(mi fama hispana)
Hermanito la lucha recien que impieza
(hermano ponle gana)
Yo naci con sangre Taina, yo naci
Came out the other man
Didn’t have to jump a hand
Never had another plan
I’m different to the mother man
Some will get a summer tan
It’s hotter than a summer jam
Live for today
Cause you’ll never gettin another chance
I ain’t trippin’ off the he say and she say
Cause we say fuck
And pass me a cuba libre
That’s what we want
I could see ya but
You don’t want to see the cold heap up front
How we blow it up
We came to blow it up, hit the spot
So we’re done
Representin’ in, blowin up
That’s how we show the love
That’s how we pass up all this shit that
We know gon’ come
It’s like the soldier’s run is done when the wars won
Latino hasta la muerte
Chicos they working hard
Bout the noise,
Suerte Gracias a Dios, Thank God
The Cubans from Miami coulda took that coke route
Marimberos parseros con clinicas
Santeros con muela
Que dicen que pueden curar abuelas
Ya’ll like scarface,
I’m more like Sosa
Cypress hill pretty flaco
It’s our culture
From cali to the crib, crib
Me in miami
Thank god I’m doin music
If not I’d be tying families
I’m not a asshole(oh no)
About my cash flow
Let me take this shit
and send this letter off to Castro
ha, ha, ha Dale, come mierda.
We way too hot
always comin’ up with something clever
a cosa nostra
cypress hill maca fera
feelin fancy in the hip throne, guayabera
and we just clowning
on what we call some, money-lera
call me sammy
wild child from the isles
I can go forever like an old fashioned country mouse
Stilo be guajiro
Latino is the lingo
I’m straight cubanichi
I bang Pinar del Rio
Lockin up this function
Just like Benny More
Go ahead and play the congas
And I’m gonna rap over it
Ya I’m a fool I’m outta here
Yes sir I gotta go
Get me some Chiva’s Regal
And slap me some dominos
“500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 7 Apr. 2011. Web. 7 May 2015.
Chang, Jeff. “Hip- Hop Arts Beyond Borders.” Total Chaos The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop.
New York: Perseus Book Group, 2006. Print.
“Crosby, Stills & Nash – Suite Judy Blue Eyes.” YouTube. YouTube, 12 Oct. 2011. Web. 10 May<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMbuJXQCIvo>.
Montgomery, James. “Cypress Hill’s ‘Armada Latina’ Video Kicks Off The Summer-Jam
Sweepstakes.” MTV News. Viacom International Inc., 8 Apr. 2010. Web. 8 May 2015.
Perez, Armando Christian. “”Orgullo” Lyrics.” PITBULL LYRICS. AZlyrics.com. Web. 12May
Perez, Armando Christian. “”Armada Latina” Lyrics.” CYPRESS HILL LYRICS. AZlyrics.com.
Web. 9 May 2015. <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/cypresshill/armadalatina.html>.
Perez, Armando Christian. “Pitbull Lyrics: Party Ain’t Over.” AZlyrics.com. AZlyrics.com. Web.
9 May 2015. <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/pitbull/partyaintover.html>.
Persaud, E. Jerry. “The Signature of Hip Hop: A Sociological Perspective.” International
Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory, Vol. 4.No. 1 (2011): 2. Print.
“Pitbull-Orgullo :)).” YouTube. YouTube, 7 Feb. 2012. Web. 7 May 2015.
Tarradell, Mario. “Pitbull: A Look at a Bling-less Rapper That Heeded Mama’s Words and
Forged an “old Money” Image.” Pop Culture Blog. The Dallas Morning News Inc., 17
Watkins, S. Craig. “Young Voices in the Hood.” Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and
the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement. Boston: Beacon, 2005. 154. Print.