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  • Writer's pictureConny Chavez

A Brief History of Reggaeton

Updated: May 18, 2021

Original photo by Jordan McQueen on Unsplash

Reggaeton is not just the sinner’s music that people shake their bottoms to, the music many mothers always warn you about. Reggaeton is Latin Hip-Hop and it is taking over the world, particularly in recent years with hit artists like Bad Bunny and JBalvin.

Puerto Rico is often credited with the creation of reggaeton– a fusion of reggae and hip-hop. As Jamaican workers migrated to Panama and other Latin American countries, they spread reggae’s influence, leading to many artists translating reggae songs into Spanish. Reggaeton includes rapping and singing lyrics in Spanish (or Spanglish) that are shaped from Hip-Hop.

Puerto Rican artist Vico C is titled as the “Father of reggaeton” as he blended the two composing genres of reggaeton in the ‘80s, resulting in Puerto Rico becoming the central point of reggaeton music.

Reggaeton only gained traction in the United States in the early 2000s as artists like Daddy Yankee, the king of reggaeton (though not officially, it will be explained in a later blog), was featured in a Pepsi commercial and introduced to popular culture. Yet, the United States’ market was purely singles and one-hit wonders when it came to the genre, like Daddy Yankee’s “Gosolina” – simply dance music.

With the help of music streaming services, reggaeton rapidly spread throughout the world. This allowed for many foreign artists such as J Balvin and Don Omar to reach a greater audience, ultimately reaching the United States.

Still, the genre truly gained momentum in the previous five years as English speaking or American artists have collaborated with reggaeton artists, allowing reggaeton artist to take over global music charts (think Luis Fonsi’s and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito”).

Today reggaeton is no longer the Latin Hip-Hop genre about sex and love; it has evolved into empowering music and a tool used to advocate for positive messages. Thanks to artists such as Ivy Queen, there is a much heavier female presence in the music industry, especially in reggaeton. Artists such as Bad Bunny and J Balvin incorporate messages within their music emphasizing mental health awareness, feminism and support for the LGBTQ community.

Reggaeton has come a long way from its origin of dance music; it has become a movement for Latin identity and empowerment.

(Originally published in Reggaeton Ambiente.)

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