El Freaky. Photo by David Micolta.


Latin Urban Style Embraces Different Locales and Genres

Diverse sounds cross genres in search of global audiences

The Grammy Awards may have first awarded its Best Latin Urban Album in 2008, but Latino urban music had been in the making long before then. Now, the genres that make up Latin urban are bursting it at the seams.

Since the 1980s, during the heightened popularity of rap and hip-hop, artists in U.S. Spanish-speaking communities and across the border have blended rap and hip-hop with traditional Latino sounds. The results have created a rich variety of genres within the very narrow category.

Today, hip-hop, rap, reggaeton, and R&B fall under the Latin urban umbrella. However, as tends to often happen in music, the list is ever-changing. Some artists who are pushing the limits in their respective genres will give audiences a glimpse of the diversity within Latin urban at this year’s SXSW Music Festival.

Reggaeton, a fusion of Latin rap and dancehall, has topped the Latin urban category for more than a decade. Last year, reggaeton artists dominated the Billboard Latin charts and won fans across the globe with songs like Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” featuring Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber, as well as J. Balvin’s “Mi Gente” featuring Beyoncé.

Groups like the the Colombian global bass crew El Freaky could become the Latin urban genre’s new breakout. With its unique way of blending traditional rhythms and reggaeton’s essential flow, El Freaky creates a fresh new sound that has helped popularize the Mode-Up dancehall scene across their native country and has spread to other parts of the Caribbean. The sound has the makings of a potential worldwide sensation.

Though not as commercially successful as reggaeton, hip-hop continues to be relevant, and some in the Latin music industry predict that the style will have a stronger commercial presence in the coming year.




Artists like C-Kan, a rapper from Mexico, are helping to elevate the Latin rap game to a new level. C-Kan, who has a strong fanbase on social media and YouTube, has quickly become one of the most acclaimed rappers on the international scene. Not only was he one of the first Latinos to be promoted by Jay Z’s TIDAL music service, he was also named Artist of the Year at the 2017 Urban Music Awards in London, England.

Another rapper making big waves is Melymel, one of the most gifted lyricists in Latin rap. Known as “La Mamá del Rap Music,” the Dominican is one of a few female rappers who has proven that she can dominate the mic in any language. A number of music pundits have predicted that she could be the one to lead a Latin rap renaissance.

But this year, it is actually Latin trap artists who have the most buzz. Influenced by the rawness of Southern hip-hop’s take on street life, Latin trap outfits like Bad Bunny, Farruko and Messiah have taken the Latin rap world by storm, even as some controversial song lyrics have been deemed demeaning to women. Colombia’s Karol G, who is making her SXSW debut this year, is one of the few Latin women to venture into the male-dominated trap genre. Unlike her trap colleagues, her lyrics empower women, as she has explained in various interviews.

Latino R&B is also a Latin urban genre regaining popularity. Coastcity, of Puerto Rico, is one group leaving its mark on the genre. A collaboration between long-time Latino music artists Danny Flores and Jean Rodriguez, Coastcity mixes Latin funk, soul and pop to create what they coin “Caribbean soul.”

While it is true that Latin urban’s current darling is reggaeton, other genres under the same category are giving the world beyond core Latin music audiences plenty of reasons to listen.

El Freaky, C-Kan, Melymel, Karol G, and Coastcity are all scheduled to perform at the 2018 SXSW Music Festival. See schedule.sxsw.com or the SXSW GO app for details.

Coastcity. Photo by Victor Prieto.

Coastcity. Photo by Victor Prieto.

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