For bloggers and commenters of the Cocaine Blunts school, it’s become the norm to dismiss New York rap as tired, played out, and far behind other regions (particularly the South) in terms of musical innovation. While I tend to somewhat disagree, it’s definitely true that New Yorkers aren’t setting trends or dominating radio the way they used to, and you’d be hard pressed to find a Queens or Bronx emcee with the same buzz as, say, Gucci Mane or Lil’ Wayne. That said, in the world of hip-hop en español (which, by the way, is pretty massive) New York stays winning. For most American rap heads, Latin hip hop means either Latino emcees rapping in English (Big Pun, Chingo Bling, this dude—in descending order of quality) or Reggaeton, which leaves true Spanish-language rap struggling to find a hold. No problem there, really, because the rest of the world is a pretty huge market.
Enter groups like Tres Coronas, a trio (now a duo, but we’ll get to that later) of two Colombians and a Dominican formed in Corona, Queens. I first heard of these cats from my homegirl from Bogotá. Turns out they’re huge in Colombia, Spain, and pretty much every other Spanish speaking country where rap gets love. That said, their music is really about as New York as it gets; they may rap in Spanish, but their style and beats pay homage to East Coast giants like Nas, Kool G. Rap, and Mobb Deep.
In 2006 the group released Nuestra Cosa, a debut LP five years in the making that arrived on the heels of three incredibly succesful mixtapes. Basically, this is the best Spanish rap album I’ve ever heard. The production falls off a bit toward the end, but the first half is jaw-droppingly good, the beats and rhymes rivaling those of any English-language group, and providing solid evidence for purists in Latin America and Spain of Reggaeton’s inferiority to true no-bullshit hip-hop.
Shit just makes you wanna go fuck somebody up. In Spanish!
Unfortunately Reychesta (the Dominican with the braids) left the group shortly after the album’s release, apparently because groupmembers Rocca and PNO dissaproved of his appearing on a Reggaeton compilation. Big deal, right? But I guess for a lot of Latino rap fans Reggaeton is like the equivalent of Soulja Boy or Ron Browz. Los dos Colombianos are still recording as Tres Coronas; what little I’ve heard of their recent work is decent, even if it does suffer a bit from Reychesta’s absence. For his part, Rey is doing his solo thing, and also sounding as if he could use his former partners in rhyme. Interestingly enough, he seems to have latched on to a movement I’m just starting to learn about via Youtube, which seems to be like a collective of New York-based Latino rappers making music in Spanish. The video below features like ten of them, including Cuban Link, who proves again why he’s one of the game’s most underrated emcees by absolutely ethering Pitbull in Spanish (his verse starts around 1:45.) Fuego.