Cultural Corner: Reggaeton

Cultural Corner: Reggaeton

Reggaeton is a popular style of Latin urban music that had its origins in Puerto Rico during the early 1990s. It was influenced by dancehall music and American hip-hop as well as Caribbean music. This type of music features both rapping and singing mainly in Spanish. Reggaeton features a special dembow rhythm beat first produced in Jamaica in the 1980s and the name itself is a combination of the word reggae (a type of music from Jamaica) and the suffix –tón which is used in Spanish to show something is bigger or greater.

Reggaeton began in the poorer neighborhoods of San Juan, Puerto Rico and originally featured lyrics about the challenges facing young people in that area in the 1990s. It was an underground music that was often recorded in carports known as marquesinas and then distributed informally in the streets by way of cassette tapes. Many of these carports were located in social housing complexes but the cassettes were still of a good enough quality that within a short time youth of all social classes became fans.

Reggaeton and its associated hip-hop style of baggy clothing was banned in schools in the mid to late 1990s and was often suppressed by the police. However, this new music style began to become more popular as it was used in election campaigns by politicians to appeal to younger voters in the early 2000s. One of the earliest Reggaeton acts named Daddy Yankee even appeared in a 2006 Pepsi commercial. In the same year, Don Omar’s tune King of Kings was the highest ranked Reggaeton album on the US charts.

Reggaeton finally made a huge name for itself in 2017 when Luis Fonsi debuted Despacito featuring Daddy Yankee. The music video for this song reached over 1 billion views in under three months and became one of the best-selling Latin singles in US history. Today many young artists such as J Balvin and Maluma both from Colombia, as well as Ozuna, Farruko and Bad Baddy all from Puerto Rico are continuing to have great success in this genre consistently topping the Latin charts.

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