Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gilles Peterson Presents Havana Cultura (Brownswood Recordings, 2009)

You know that Stuff White People Like blog? They should have a post about "white people" liking Cuban hip-hop.
I've always found it fascinating/frustrating how people from English speaking countries would listen to (and fetishize) Cuban hip-hop but completely ignore Latin hip-hop from other Central and South American countries. Me being an active part for many years of the Argentine hip-hop scene, I used to take this kinda personal. But I do understand that this interest in Cuban hip-hop is mostly based on the sociological paradox of the über-commercial-American-music-style-developed-in-an-anti-commercial-and-anti-American-environment more than the music and lyrics themselves. I've seen at least six documentary movies on Cuban hip-hop that explore this paradox, most of them done by gringos. I haven't seen any other gringo documentaries that explore how hip-hop spread through the other Spanish-speaking countries. So that kinda pisses me off a little bit.
That being said, I do agree that Cuba deserves special attention for having one of the richest hip-hop scenes in Latin America. They produce some damn good rap. But the reason why they produce so much good rap is barely ever explored in the journalistic work of those gringos. And that reason is that compared to any other country in Latin America, Cuba has the highest level of education amongst the poor marginal youth. Better education reflects directly in better use of vocabulary, hence better lyrics writing. You'll find plenty of great Spanish language lyricists in Spain, Chile or Argentina, even Puerto Rico (Residente from Calle 13 being the most notable example) but most of them come from middle class backgrounds. With a few extraordinary exceptions. But that strange combination of poor background and great lyricist in Cuba is more the rule than the exception.
Anyway, British DJ and world-music eminence, Gilles Peterson is one of those gringos fascinated with Cuban hip-hop and recently released this great compilation. It comes in a double disc format where one disc is mostly him and some collaborators exploring Cuban jazz, the other disc is a collection of rap songs by some of the most respected Cuban MC's like Doble Filo, Obsesión and my personal favorites Los Aldeanos.

Available on emusic, itunes, amazon, etc.

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