The school my seven-year-old lad goes to has started teaching him a foreign language. Unfortunately, it’s French.
While I’m pleased he is being introduced to a foreign language at such a young age, and god knows, us British have, on the whole, been terribly reluctant to even think about speaking in another language, let alone do it, I’m dismayed it’s not Spanish he is learning. Primarily so he could teach me, it has to be said, but more because Spanish, in the new world order that is emerging, is, alongside Cantonese and Mandarin, really the second languages English speaking people need learn.
It is staggering to think that, according to the U.S. Census, by 2030, the majority of Americans will use Spanish as their first language. Just on today’s population, and based on a slim majority of 51%, that makes 160 million Spanish speakers in the USA alone! Add in Spain, Latin America and the Spanish diaspora and you have a huge, powerful group united by a (almost) common language.
With this in mind, it is still a surprise that there hasn’t been a sustained Hispanic or Latina presence in the hip-hop/fusion genre. Of course Cypress Hill were there, Ozomatli are still going strong and there has been the odd intrusion by others. But whereas, say, Southern hip-hop has flourished with its distinctive sounds and furthermore splintered in myriad directions, the same has not happened with Hispanic hip-hop.
It is also strange when you consider how hip-hop has been picked up as a cultural tour de force across the world. The Arab uprising has been soundtracked to hip-hop and companies like Brooklyn based Nomadic Wax have been nurturing African hip-hop for years. Even in Europe, French hip-hop has been evolving since the early days of pioneers such as MC Solaar. What this hip-hop has in common is that the majority of it is sung in native languages, infused with local dialects, sounds and rhythms—making one of the great American cultural art forms of the last 30 years, their own.
In Latin American, hip-hop is thriving in the barrios and slums of Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Peru and other countries, embedded in elements of youth culture, and, as elsewhere, remixed and re-appropriated with indigenous sounds. But it doesn’t travel well, yet. Local independent music infrastructure is in its infancy, yet to develop to maturity as other countries have done. And of course it faces a battle for ears with the insanely popular Reggaeton.
So we need to look to the home of hip hop—America itself—for the Hispanic hip-hop revolution. Into this space come Bang Data. While they cannot be classified as pure hip-hop, the syncopated rhymes and singing style of lead vocal MC Deuce Eclipse certainly lend themselves to such categorisation. Joining Deuce Eclipse is drummer and producer Juan Manuel Caipo. Both have hispanic heritage, Nicaraguan and Peruvian respectively and these influences are clearly at the fore. From San Francisco, Bang Data fuse hip-hop with rock and Latin, Cumbia and Ska are the most obvious although elements of Mariachi poke through, with vocals a bilingual mix of Spanish and English.
La Sopa (The Soup) is so named as to reflect the wide influences and styles drawn on in creating the album. It’s full of life and very danceable tracks, if a tad Fun Loving Criminals at times, but this could just be that Hispanic band to gain serious attention from a global audience.For me the songs sung in Spanish work best. Deuce Eclipse has a way of spitting the words out while retaining a really bouncy, upbeat flow. The Spanish language is just perfect for hip-hop. The syntax of Spanish complements the lyrical dexterity that is found in the very best hip-hop.
Picked by the (brilliant) Breaking Bad tv show, “Bang Data”, the title track, highlights the wide appeal the band should generate rapping in Spanish and English over determinedly Latin beats and instrumentation. Hear those trumpets! Highlights include “Toro Mata” Deuce’s voice offset by the wonderful Eva Ayllón, played against a Santana like guitar line; “Curandero”, with thunderous drums and pan pipes (very Peruvian); and “Don’t Know”, a powerful song about the issues faced by Latin Americans in America.
There is a lot to admire in this album. Strong songwriting, infectious beats and a fusion of lots of different rhythms and styles, a danceable feel and the great bilingual singing.This is definitely a band to keep an eye out for. ¿Podrían ser el gran grupo hispano del mundo está esperando?