Rappers Learning Spanish: New Trend?

ludasuga

Aventura ft. Wyclef & Ludacris — “Spanish Fly” (The Last, 2009)

Suga Free — “Sana Sana” (Smell My Finger, 2008)

She had big breasts, honey had me harder than a Spanish test!

One of my favorite Big L lines (from The Big Picture‘s “Who You Slidin’ Wit”) speaks to an unfortunate reality within hip-hop and American society at large. Despite the plethora of minorities and languages present in our country, most red-blooded “Amuricans” seem to have difficulty mastering any language other than their native English, and many have absolutely no interest in even attempting such a task. Until recently, American rap has largely reflected this reality, but the ever-growing Spanish-language market seems to have woken some rappers up to the potential of bilingualism.

On “Spanish Fly,” by the chart-topping bachata group Aventura, Ludacris experiments with some basic Spanish—probably what he remembers from high school—and the result is an endearingly silly Spanglish verse. Luda may not know much, but he tries, and the effort will surely win him new fans among Aventura’s legions of admirers in the U.S., Latin America, and Spain.

With “Sana Sana,” meanwhile, Suga Free is clearly aiming to crack a specific Latino market: that of the many Mexicans and Central Americans in his native Southern California. The title comes from the Mexican saying “Sana sana, colita de rana, si no sanas hoy sanarás mañana,” which roughly translates to “Health, health! Tail of a frog. If you don’t get better today, you will by tomorrow!” Free also throws in some Mexican slang, at one point calling himself “el más padrito” (the coolest.) He even translates his trademark adlib, “wait a minute,” hilariously finishing his verse with an energetic “espérate un momentoooo!” In terms of the effort involved, Pomona’s favorite pimp easily outdoes Luda, given that he kicks an entire verse in Spanish, rather than a few elementary school-level lines. If he indeed wrote the verse itself (and I think he did, given how well it fits his style) Free deserves serious respect, because he’s actually taught himself a good deal of Spanish. I wonder if he picked it up from one of his hoes…

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