If you’ve been paying attention to music over the last year or so, you may have noticed a trend. The influence of Latin music has always been in mainstream music, but this last year or so has really put it at the forefront. I remember reading an article a couple of years back that mentioned how hip hop was the most popular genre in music and it also noted that Latin music streams were up by 10% and steadily climbing. Why and how is Latin music getting more popular than it already was? Before we get into the CHH side of things, it would probably be more helpful to examine Latin music’s rise and presence in the mainstream market.
As mentioned earlier, Latin music and Latin influences have been around for years. In years past would be trends that would come and go but as recent as 2017 there seems to have been a shift in the soundscape of music. Arguably one of 2017’s biggest songs was “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee.The song was already a smash hit and then when Justin Bieber hopped on the remix, the song went to another level. That song put everyone’s eyes on Latin music that may have overlooked the genre. There’s a really good article about “The Despacito Effect” here
. In the mainstream markets the two big reasons for the surge of Latin music are streaming and collaborations. Streaming has broadened the range of Latin music’s audience (for instance, “Despacito” was huge over in Japan). Earlier it was mentioned how Justin Bieber hopping on the “Despacito” song took it to another level, but there are other big names like Cardi B who collaborated with Ozna on “A Modelo” and there is a Spanish version of “Bodak Yellow” I believe.
Back in 2015 there were only three predominately Spanish speaking songs on both the top Latin charts and the Top 100. 2016 saw five songs on both charts but 2017 saw a rise to a whopping nineteen
songs. There’s another good article that goes into more detail here
. If we fast forward to 2018 we see Cardi B as the first woman rapper two have two number one singles on the Top 100 charts. One of those was “I Like It” a super saucy song that was predominately Spanish speaking featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin. That is a huge statement as to where we are in terms of music and the shift in paradigm.
Now that’s all and well for the mainstream, but why are we seeing a surge in CHH? The easy answer would be that Christian markets mimic the mainstream. While that may be true, I believe there a few more reasons for this paradigm shift. To be clear: there have been Latinos involved with the Christian Hip Hop sub-genre for the longest time, this is nothing new. From various members of the Tunnel Rats, to Rhema Soul, Alex Medina, GAWVI, and more, their presence has been felt. Matter of fact, the very first Christian Rapper I ever listened to was T-Bone’s ‘The Last Street Preacha’ and he was rapping in Spanish and English back in 2001 and even before that. I won’t try to name each and every Latino involved in the scene as I would probably leave some names off. If they have been here from the beginning why haven’t we heard more music with a Latin flavor to it? Maybe it’s never been said, but I’m sure there has always been that unspoken pressure to assimilate. It is no secret that the Christian market has always catered to the predominately white audience, so all the music has to probably be made with that in mind. Hence that’s why Lecrae has gotten in trouble for speaking on certain subjects. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why up to this year almost every CHH album has at least one CCM record on it?
But it seems like there has been a shift in mindset. Whether folks are following Lecrae who is being true to his faith while also being true to his blackness, maybe it’s freed folks up to do the same. Some people have always been on this wave though, people like Propaganda who’s rapped in Spanish many a time and had Latin influences all throughout his tracks. There have been pockets of Latin influence in CHH like the time when Andy Mineo and Lecrae were rapping in Spanglish on “Uno Uno Seis.” Andy had so many Latin influences I was convinced he was a Latino. Your favorite Christian rapper or group has used the phrase “Living Agua” at least once in their career, and there have been other influences(I’d like to point you to the sunny state of Florida). It also feels like people are realizing you don’t have to assimilate to the status quo to make God honoring music that will sell, you just have to be your authentic self while making good music. Social Club Misfits has rapped a few tracks in Spanish on their latest album and I’m pretty sure F.E.R.N been rapping in his native tongue. This year it feels like we’ve seen more Latin influneced songs than ever all at once. To name a few we have: Andy’s “You Can’t Stop Me” Remix, Steven Malcom’s “Fuego”, WHATUPRG’s “Wesside”, Beacon Light “Catch My Vibe”, to the recently released “Long Live The Champion” by KB. Of course there are plenty of other songs, I was just going off the ones I knew off the top of my head.
The hit maker producer Cardec Drums has been very vocal on Social media about Latinos in CHH not just being Latino when it’s convenient, and he’ll let the music speak for itself. Latin culture in general has a flavor a sauciness that can’t really be explained and it has universal appeal. It’s a new day in music, people are more open to diversity than the media would have us believe, there is a market for it, and it is needed. I implore all my Spanish speaking creative Brothers and Sisters in Christ to make the music that’s been resonating in their souls. Rap or sing in your native tongue for a verse, a hook, heck even the whole song if you feel like it, that’s what Google Translate is for. There have been Latin music surges and crazes in the past and I pray that this wave isn’t that. I pray that this is people accepting themselves and being themselves and expressing themselves for the world and the Lord to see. In the words of Angie Rose, “Esta Lit!”
Note: To my Spanish speaking brethren, if I used the wrong pronouns to describe your ancestry or people group, I apologize. Let me know the proper terms to use in the future. Thank you for understanding that I mean no disrespect, I just want to acknowledge and honor your contributions to the genre and space that is Christian Hip Hop, and to encourage you to add your sauce to the mix to give us the flavor we didn’t know we were missing