Reggaeton (// or UK //, Spanish: reguetón [reɣeˈton]) is a music genre which has its roots in Latin and Caribbean music. Its sound derives from the Reggae en Español from Panama. The genre was birthed in Panama; then, modified and popularized in Puerto Rico. Most of its popular artists are from Puerto Rico. After its mainstream exposure in 2004, it spread to North American, European, Asian and African audiences.
Reggaeton blends musical influences of Jamaican dancehall and Trinidadian soca with those of Latin America, such as salsa, bomba, Latin American hip hop, and electronica. Vocals include rapping and singing, typically in Spanish. Lyrics tend to be derived from hip hop.
While it takes influences from hip hop and Jamaican dancehall, reggaeton is not precisely the Hispanic or Latin American version of either of these genres; reggaeton has its own specific beat and rhythm, whereas Latin hip hop is simply hip hop recorded by artists of Latino descent. The specific "riddim" that characterizes reggaeton is referred to as "Dem Bow". The name "Dem Bow" is taken from the dancehall song by Shabba Ranks that first popularized the beat in the early 1990s, and appears on his album Just Reality.
The origin of the word reggaeton comes from combining the English term reggae with the suffix -ón, used in the Spanish language to describe something big. It may thus be translated as "Big Reggae". The term was coined by Panamanian producer Michael Ellis in the late 1980s.
There is no consensus about the Spanish spelling of reggaeton. Spanish spellings include reggaeton, reggaetón and reguetón. Fundéu BBVA recommends the fully adapted form "reguetón" and states that if the spellings "reggaeton" or "reggaetón" are used in Spanish, they should appear in italics. In 2006, the Puerto Rican Academy of the Spanish Language proposed the form "reguetón" as the normal spelling, in order to simplify the creation of derivative words.
Before the music was called reggaeton, it was known as "Spanish Reggae" or Reggae en Español. Traveling along mass media circuits as well as diasporic networks, popular Jamaican music spread around the world in the 1960s and '70s. Reggae arrived in places like Panama and Puerto Rico as quickly as it reached more traditional centers of migration, such as London and New York. Panama was the first country to introduce Reggae en Español. The music eventually made its way through Central America and continued evolving and coming to prominence in Puerto Rico where it became reggaeton. Reggaeton started as an adaptation of Jamaican reggae to the Spanish language and overall culture in Panama and Puerto Rico.
Since the early 20th century when Jamaican laborers were used to help build the Panama Canal. Afro-Panamanians had been performing and recording Spanish-language reggae since the 1970s. Artists such as El General, Chicho Man, Nando Boom, Renato, and Black Apache are considered the first Spanish reggae DJs from Panama. El General is often considered the father of reggae en español, blending Jamaican reggae into a Latinised version. It was common practice to translate the lyrics of Jamaican reggae song into Spanish and sing them over the original melodies, a form termed "Spanish reggae" or Reggae en Español. Meanwhile, during the 1980s the Puerto Rican rapper and reggaeton artist Vico C released Spanish-language hip hop and reggaeton records in his native island. His production of cassettes throughout the 1980s, mixing reggae and hip hop, also helped spread the early reggaeton sound, and he is widely credited with this achievement. The widespread movement of "Spanish reggae" in the Latin-American communities of the Caribbean and the urban centres of the United States help increase its popularity.
Meanwhile hip hop and reggae in Puerto Rico were on the rise due to the increased popularity of Jamaican ragga imports. Towards the middle of the decade, Puerto Ricans were producing their own "riddims" with clear influences from hip hop and other styles. These are considered the first proper reggaeton tracks, initially called "underground". As Caribbean and African-American music gained this momentum in Puerto Rico, Reggae Rap in Spanish marked the beginning of Boricua underground and served as an expression for millions of young people. This created an entire invisible, yet prominent underground youth culture that sought to express themselves through reggae rap in Spanish. As a youth culture that exists on the fringes of society and criminal illegality, it has often been publicly criticized. The Puerto Rican police launched a raid against underground by confiscating cassette tapes from music stores under penal codes of obscenity, issuing fines, and the demoralization of rappers through radio, television, and newspaper media.
The term "underground", coming out of hip hop discourse, associates underground artists as asserting a self-identification that rejects the commercialization of music. In San Juan "underground", however, it was not just about authenticity or ideology, but was literally about position in the market. "Underground" music was circulated via informal networks, copied from cassette to cassette, until the mid-1990s. DJ Playero was one of the most famous producers of "underground" at the time, releasing several underground cassettes that featured early performances of some soon-to-be-famous artists like Daddy Yankee. The basis for reggaeton was laid in Puerto Rico at this time, with the melding of Spanish reggae, with influences from fast dancehalls, hip hop and various other Latin American musical genres.
The genre morphed through the years, at various points being termed "underground", and "Dem Bow". This last name originated from reggaeton's distinguishing rhythmic feature: the Dem Bow beat, a rhythm with heavy influence of antillian beats like soca relying heavily on the snare drum, which is used in nearly all reggaeton songs today. This beat, or riddim, was produced under the direction of Jamaican record producer Bobby "Digital" Dixon and performed by Steely & Clevie. It first became popular in the song "Dem Bow" performed by Jamaican dancehall artist Shabba Ranks in 1991. The song and beat achieved greater popularity among Spanish-speaking Latin Americans when Panamanian artist El General released the song "Son Bow" in 1991, a Spanish language cover of "Dem Bow" using the same musical track. It should be pointed out that neither Shabba or El General sang reggaeton as neither the genre nor its title were as yet formed. Additionally "Dem Bow" was just a single song in Shabba's catalog, with Ranks not singing another significant song using the "Dem Bow" beat. However, the influence of the original Bobby Digital beat is undeniable, and modern reggaeton often still reflects the original instrumentation, as well as the original rhythmic structure.
Rise to popularityEdit
This new genre was simply called "underground". It contained very explicit lyrics about drugs, violence, poverty, friendship, love, and sex. These common themes, which in many cases depict the troubles of an inner-city life, can still be found in reggaeton today. "Underground" music was recorded in "marquesinas" (or Puerto Rican open garages) and distributed in the streets via cassettes. These marquesinas were crucial to the development of Puerto Rico's underground scene due to the state's "fear of losing the ability to manipulate 'taste'". Marquesinas were often in "housing complexes such as Villa Kennedy and Jurutungo." Despite being recorded in the projects of Puerto Rico, the majority of the recordings made in marquesinas were of high quality, which helped in increasing their popularity to the Puerto Rican youths of not only the projects but those of the middle and upper class as well. The availability and quality of these cassettes led to the genre's popularity, crossing over socio-economic barriers in the Puerto Rican music scene. The most popular cassettes in the early 1990s were DJ Negro's The Noise I and II, and DJ Playero's 37 and 38. Gerardo Cruet who created these recordings spread out the genre from the marginalized residential areas into other sectors of society, particularly into private schools.
By the mid '90s, "underground" cassettes were being sold in commercial music stores. The genre caught up with the middle class youth and inevitably found its way to the media. By this time Puerto Rico had a few clubs dedicated to the underground scene. Club Rappers in Carolina, and club PlayMakers in Puerto Nuevo were the most notable. Bobby "Digital" Dixon's dembow track was exploited in order to appeal in the context of the club. Underground music wasn't intended originally to be club music. In South Florida pioneers like DJ Laz and Hugo Diaz of the Diaz Brothers were pushing the genre to popularity from Palm Beach to Miami.
Underground music in Puerto Rico faced harsh criticism. In February 1995, there was a government-sponsored campaign against underground music and its cultural influences. Puerto Rican police launched six raids at records stores in San Juan, in which hundreds of cassettes were confiscated from record stores and fines were imposed (in accordance with Laws 112 and 117 against obscenity). The Department of Education banned baggy clothing and underground music from the school systems. In the following months after the raids, local media demonized rappers, claiming they were "irresponsible corrupters of the public order."
In 1995, DJ Negro released The Noise 3 with a mock up label that read Non-Explicit Lyrics. The album contained no cursing until the last song. The album was a hit and underground music further crept into the mainstream. Senator Velda González of the Popular Democratic Party and the media continued to view the movement as a social nuisance.
In the mid-1990s, the Puerto Rican police and national guard even went as far as to confiscate reggaeton tapes and CDs in an effort to get the "obscene" lyrics out of the hands of consumers. Schools also banned hip hop style clothing and music in an effort to quell the influence of reggaeton in the educational environment. In 2002, Senator Velda González led public hearings in an attempt to regulate the sexual "slackness" of reggaeton's lyrics. While the effort did not seem to negatively affect the general public's opinion about reggaeton, it did reflect the unease of the government and upper social classes with what the music represented. Due to its often sexually charged content and because of its roots in poor, urban communities, many middle and upper class Puerto Ricans found reggaeton to be threatening, "immoral, as well as artistically deficient, a threat to the social order, apolitical."
Despite earlier controversy, reggaeton slowly began gaining acceptance as an important part of Puerto Rican culture, helped in part by politicians, including Velda González, who used reggaeton in election campaigns to appeal to younger voters, starting in Puerto Rico's 2003 elections. Currently, Puerto Rican mainstream acceptance of reggaeton has grown increasing more visible with reggaeton's appearance in popular culture, including a 2006 Pepsi commercial featuring Daddy Yankee and Ivy Queen being named the musical spokesperson for Mountain Dew by PepsiCo. Other examples of a change in sentiment within the greater population of Puerto Rico can be seen in some religiously and educationally influenced lyrics. Reggae School for example is a rap album produced for the sole purpose of teaching math skills to children, reminiscent of School House Rock. Reggaeton expanded and became known when other producers followed the steps of DJ Playero, like DJ Nelson and DJ Eric. In the early '90s, albums like Ivy Queen's En Mi Imperio in 1996, DJ Playero's Playero 37 (in which Daddy Yankee became known) and The Noise: Underground, The Noise 5 and The Noise 6 were very popular in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Singers like Don Chezina, Tempo, Eddie Dee, Baby Rasta & Gringo, and Lito & Polaco were very popular.
The name reggaeton only gained prominence in the mid-2001 (from the 2001 to 2002 period), with the Dem Bow beat characterizing the genre; this is in contrast to the more reggae, dancehall and hip hop-derived tracks previously created. The name was created in Puerto Rico to signify the unique fusion of Puerto Rican sounds and distinguish it from the previous Spanish reggae, created from the years of mixing the different genres. Today, the music flourishes throughout Latin America. Reggaeton soon increased in popularity with Latino youth in the United States when DJs like DJ Joe and DJ Blass worked with artists such as Plan B and Speedy  in albums such as Reggaeton Sex, Sandunguero and Fatal Fantassy.
2004: the cross-over yearEdit
2004 was the year that reggaeton gained widespread popularity in the United States and Europe. Tego Calderón was already getting some airplay in the U.S. and it was very popular in the youth market. Daddy Yankee's El Cangri.com became popular that year in the U.S. as did Héctor & Tito. Luny Tunes and Noriega's Mas Flow was well received, while Yaga & Mackie with Sonando Diferente, Tego Calderón with El Abayarde, Ivy Queen with Diva, Zion & Lennox with Motivando a la Yal and the compilation Desafío were popular as well. Then in 2004 rapper N.O.R.E. released his hit single "Oye Mi Canto" which seemingly broke cultural and language barriers, which featured the likes of Nina Sky & Daddy Yankee. Soon after Daddy Yankee came out with his album Barrio Fino and his hit single "Gasolina" which spread around the world becoming a mega-hit and with it introducing reggaeton to the rest of the world. Tego Calderón also increased the reggaeton genre with singles like "Pa' Que Retozen" and "Guasa Guasa". Another important artist who contributed to reggaeton's increasing popularity, especially in Europe, is Don Omar, with singles like "Pobre Diabla" and "Dale Don Dale". Other very popular reggaeton artists include Tony Dize, Angel & Khriz, Nina Sky, Dyland & Lenny, RKM & Ken-Y, Julio Voltio, Calle 13, Héctor Delgado, Wisin & Yandel, and Tito El Bambino. In late 2004 and early 2005, Shakira recorded "La Tortura" and "La Tortura – Shaketon Remix" in her album Fijación Oral Vol. 1 (Oral Fixation Vol. 1) popularizing reggaeton in North America, Europe and Asia. After the success of these songs and reggaeton, artist began to incorporate bachata with reggaeton. Artist such as Ivy Queen began releasing singles that featured bachata's signature guitar sound and slower more romantic rhythm as well as bachata's exaggerate emotional singing style. This is reflected in the hits "Te He Querido, Te He Llorado" and "La Mala". Daddy Yankee's "Lo Que Paso, Paso" and Don Omar's "Dile" also reflect this. A further use of bachata occurred in 2005 when producers began remixing existing reggaeton with bachata's characteristic guitar sounds marketing it as bachaton defining it as "bachata, Puerto Rican style".
2006–2009: topping the chartsEdit
In May 2006 Don Omar's album, King of Kings, became the highest ranking reggaeton LP to date in the US charts, with its debut at number 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart and its peak at number 7 on the Billboard's 200 albums. It also gained the number 1 spot on the Billboard Latin Rhythm Radio Chart with the single "Angelito." Don Omar was also able to beat the in-store appearance sales record at Downtown Disney's Virgin music store previously set by pop star Britney Spears, further demonstrating reggaeton's rise to popularity in the United States. 2007 also saw new records set with Daddy Yankee's June release of El Cartel III: The Big Boss setting a new record for highest first week selling reggaeton album with 88,000 copies sold. It peaked at number 1 on both the Top Latin Albums and Top Rap Albums charts being the first reggaeton album to peak at number 1 on the rap charts. It also peaked at number 9 on the Billboard 200 making it the second highest ranking reggaeton album on the mainstream chart. The third highest ranking reggaeton album came later that year in the form of Wisin & Yandel's album Wisin vs. Yandel: Los Extraterrestres debuting at number 14 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart. In 2008 a new 3rd highest ranking album came with the release of Daddy Yankee soundtrack to his movie of the same name Talento de Barrio debuting at number 13 on the Billboard 200 knocking Wisin vs. Yandel: Los Extraterrestres down a spot. It also peaked at number 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart, number 3 on Billboard's Top Soundtracks and number 6 on the Top Rap Albums chart. 2009 saw the release of Wisin & Yandel's album La Revolucion debuting at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 making it equal 1st as the highest charting reggaeton album along with King of Kings. It also debuted at number 1 on the Top Latin Albums and number 3 on the Top Rap Albums, demonstrating a crossover appeal for reggaeton in mainstream "English-speaking" markets.
The Dem Bow riddim itself was first created by Jamaican dancehall producers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The dembow riddim consists of a simple kick drum, kickdown drum, palito, snare drum, timbal, timballroll, and sometimes a high hat, cymbal and such. However, the original idea of Dem Bow's percussion pattern cannot be traced to any individual producer, because it was partly influenced by the dancehall Dem Bow riddim, but also by other West Indian music such as soca, calypso and cadence, which in turn gives the Dem Bow a pan-Caribbean nature. Steely & Clevie, creators of the Poco Man Jam riddim are usually credited with the creation of the original Dem Bow. At the heart of Dem Bow lies the 3+3+2 or tresillo rhythm, complemented by bass drums in 4/4 time.
Three different modern Dem Bow beats.
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The Dem Bow riddim was first highlighted in the song "Dem Bow" by Shabba Ranks, from his 1991 album Just Reality. Dem Bow's drum and percussion pattern is created through a drum machine. The creation of the drum machine in the late 1970s revolutionized dancehall music, and many dancehall producers used these drum machines to create different dancehall riddims. Dem Bow's role in reggaeton is to be the basic building block, and the skeletal sketch in percussion.
The Dem Bow used in reggaeton also incorporates other different riddims such as the Bam Bam riddim, the Hot This Year riddim, the Poco Man Jam riddim, the Fever Pitch riddim, the Red Alert riddim, the Trailer Reloaded riddim, and the Big Up riddim. As a result, different samples are often used to create Dem Bow in reggaeton. As reggaeton continues to evolve, so does the Dem Bow riddim, and many of the newer reggaeton hits incorporate a much lighter and electrified offspring of the riddim. Examples can be heard in songs such as "Pa' Que la Pases Bien" and "Quiero Bailar" which incorporates the Liquid riddim.
Lyrics and themesEdit
Reggaeton lyrical structure resembles hip hop lyrics. Like hip hop, most reggaeton artists recite their lyrics rapping (or vocals resembling rapping) rather than singing; however, many reggaeton artists alternate between rapping and singing. Reggaeton uses the traditional pop structure of verses, choruses and bridges. Like hip hop music, reggaeton songs have hooks that are repeated throughout the song. Latino ethnic identity has been a common theme in reggaeton, articulated musically, lyrically, and visually.
Usually, reggaeton CDs are not labeled "explicit" like many hip hop CDs are. One exception is that Daddy Yankee's Barrio Fino en Directo (Barrio Fino Live) was labeled explicit for objectionable content in the live concerts (and for explicit language by Snoop Dogg in the song "Gangsta Zone"), even though the regular studio version of Barrio Fino was not labeled explicit. Some reggaeton artists, such as Alexis & Fido, are able to circumvent radio and television censorship by using sexual innuendo and lyrics with double meanings in their music. Some songs have also raised concerns about women's depiction on their lyrics.
While reggaeton started as a genre composed of mostly male artists, there has been a slowly increasing number of female artists debuting over the years. Notable female reggaeton artists include the "Queen of Reggaeton" Ivy Queen, Mey Vidal, K-Narias, Adassa, La Sista and Glory.
Sandungueo is a dance associated with reggaeton music that emerged in the early 2000s in Puerto Rico. It is a dance that focuses on grinding, with one partner facing the back of the other (usually male behind female). This is also known as daggering or "grinding" or "twerking" in the United States of America.
Reggaeton is very popular in Latin American countries such as Panama, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica and Venezuela. Reggaeton has become staple music in many parties and events, complementing the common mix of merengue, salsa and electronic music, and has paved a huge fan base.
Spanish reggae developed as a result of Jamaican immigration to Panama as a result of the Panama Canal. Eventually, many of these Jamaicans had intentions to go back to Jamaica, but many of them ended up staying, and eventually assimilated and became part of the culture. Meanwhile, in the 1970s, Panamanians like El General began taking reggae songs and beats and singing over them with Spanish lyrics. They also sped up reggae beats, and added Hispanic and Latino elements to them. The music continued to grow throughout the 1980s, with many stars developing in Panama. El General has been widely regarded as the "Godfather of Reggae en Español" due to many of his songs. El General stepped down in 2004 from the music industry, and since then has been working to help underprivileged Panamanian children.
Arguably but inevitably, reggaeton has become known through Puerto Rico more than any other country; this has given Puerto Rico hegemonic status over reggaeton, even though a process of decentralization has opened ways for many artists in different Caribbean and Latin American countries to produce their own local reggaeton scenes. Despite the growing popularity of reggaeton in Latin America many of the genre's artists and new talents still come from Puerto Rico; much in the same fashion that New York was considered hip hop's Mecca in the 1980s. Reggaeton derives from rhythms related to dancehall, soca and the tresillo clave from son and salsa: the post-salsa music youth generation of the '90s in Puerto Rico. Before reggaeton exploded in the mid-nineties, young street artists, heavily influenced by East Coast hip hop and turntablism, rapped over cassette tracks. Alongside this early hip hop influenced reggae-rap, evolved the Panamanian reggae style which eventually fused into reggaeton.
Despite Puerto Rico's struggling economy, reggaeton stars have been able to achieve success not only as global stars but as local entrepreneurs; this has been evidenced in industry labels such as DJ Nelson's Flow Music, Daddy Yankee's El Cartel Records, and Wisín and Yandel's WY Records. Through production models derived from U.S. hip hop artists and based in grassroots movements, reggaeton has been an artistic vehicle gaining worldwide popularity, a far cry from its previous reputation as an infamous underground product of urban youth.
Cubatón is a term used sometimes to denominate Cuban reggaeton and at other times, a uniquely Cuban fusion of reggaeton with other Cuban musical styles. In Cuba (and some other Latin American countries), where ideas and language are an integral part of the appreciation of music, there is an alleged critical backlash against the increasing popularity of reggaeton. This rift supposedly exists often among members of the Cuban hip hop community. According to British music lecturer Geoff Baker, many critics claim that the music's lyrics do not explore any subjects past "sex, dancing, and the singer himself, in various combinations." Baker also believes that because reggaeton has an allegiance to so many Caribbean and Latin American countries, it overshadows distinctly Cuban forms and variations of music, such as Cuban hip hop, even though hip hop is ultimately a North American musical genre. Popular cubatón artists include Eddy K, Gente de Zona, and Osmani García. In 2011 the Cuban state denounced reggaeton as degenerate, directed reduced "low-profile" airplay of the genre (but did not ban it entirely) and banned the megahit Chupi Chupi by Osmani García, characterizing its description of sex as "the sort which a prostitute would carry out". In December 2012, the Cuban government officially banned sexually explicit reggaeton songs and music videos from radio and television.
With the help of N.O.R.E. (also known as Noreaga), a New York-based rapper, and his producing of Nina Sky's 2004 hit "Oye Mi Canto", which featured prominent reggaeton artists Tego Calderón and Daddy Yankee, reggaeton quickly gained popularity in the US. Soon after, Daddy Yankee caught the attention of many big names in hip hop with his song "Gasolina", propelling the style across the country. Also in 2004, XM Radio launched a channel called Fuego (XM), which played exclusively reggaeton music. However, XM Radio removed the channel in December 2007 from home and car receivers, but can still be streamed off the XM Satellite Radio Website. The genre has also provided the foundation and basis for a modern Latin-American commercial radio phenomenon known as Hurban, a combination of the terms Hispanic and Urban that is used to evoke the musical influences of hip hop and Latin American music. Reggaeton formed from hip hop and reggae, and has helped Latin-Americans contribute to the urban American culture while still keeping many aspects of their Hispanic heritage. The music relates to many of the socio-economic issues happening in America including gender and race which highly connects to hip hop in America today.
Reggaeton has not become as popular in Europe as in Latin America. However, it has a great appeal to Latin American immigrants, especially in Spain. A Spanish concept called "La Canción del Verano" (The Summer Song), under which a particular song or two define the mood for the season and are regarded unofficially as such by Spanish media, served as the basis for the appearance popularity of reggaeton songs such as Panamanian rapper Lorna's "Papi Chulo (Te Traigo el Mmm)" in 2003, "Baila Morena" by Héctor & Tito and Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" in 2005.
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