In praise of Spanish hip hop

Rob Ashby
The Spanish Obsessive

Listening to music is a fantastic way to get Spanish input, and there aren’t many types of music with more “words” than hip hop!

When I started out learning Spanish, I was eager to get into all aspects of its culture. We all associate Spanish with Flamenco and (probably) Salsa, but needless to say there is a rich world of music beyond these stereotypes. It wasn’t long before I discovered Spanish language hip hop, and I haven’t looked back since!

I love Spanish hip hop’s real-world grounding in social issues and equality – it’s refreshing not to hear about gangsters and money.

As a learning tool, it’s really the most helpful type of music to listen to. You’ll hear a lot of language that’s real, meaningful, witty, and poetic.

So, without further ado, here are the artists that we’re listening to and love.

Oh, and it goes without saying that some of the language is extremely, erm, mature… Be warned.

“Mala” Rodriguez

From Seville, Andalucia, “La Mala” rose to prominence in the late 90s in Spain. Her first album “Lujo Ibérico” was released in 1999, and since then she has gone on to produce 5 albums. We like “Bruja” best:

Residente: Calle 13

Residente is one half of Puerto Rican band Calle 13. They surfaced in the mid 2000s, standing out from their gold-clad Reggaeton peers. Their early music is raunchy and foul-mouthed, but still witty. As they went on, they became more political – their latest album (although, produced in 2014 not that recent) features samples of Julian Assange, and the songs focus even more on social issues. There’s a time and place for all their albums, but we’re particular fans of Entren Los Que Quieran. Here’s a song from another, earlier album (no offensive language):

Nach

One of the more intellectual Spanish rappers, Nach hails from Alicante, Spain. His music focuses a lot on social criticism and inequality – not surprising, given he studied Sociology at university. He’s now produced 12 albums, and is well established on the Spanish international rap scene. His latest album, Almanauta, sounds like a retrospective on all of his work. We’re also big fans of Un Día en Suburbia. Here’s his homage to music, in a song called Idioma de los dioses:

Bomba Estereo

OK, we may be a little biased here, but we had to feature Colombian band Bomba Estereo, even though they aren’t strictly speaking a rap act. That being said, lead singer Li Saumet got started as a well-reputed MC in Colombia. Plus, we have a picture of her with Lis:

Bomba Estereo are pretty well-known now, but it’s worth listening to all of their albums. We’re big fans of Elegancia Tropical. Here’s Pa’ Respirar, from that album, performed live from Monserrate, in Bogotá:

What music do you listen to that helps you learn Spanish, hip hop or otherwise? Let us know in the comments below!

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