Also in 1990, "Mentirosa,"a Spanglish, Santana-sampling rap by California Cuban Mellow Man Ace made it to #14 on the Billboard charts and got play on MTV. "'Cuz right now you just a liar / A straight mentirosa (Who me?) / Today you tell me som'n / And tomorrow ejotra cosa." The mini-boom in West Coast Latino rap culminated with the Ecuadorian-born, Glendale, CA-bred rapper Gerardo's easily mocked "Rico Suave," also from 1990-91, which is best described as "so bad it's … bad." After "Rico Suave," which made #7 on the pop charts and #2 on the rap charts, America had had about enough Spanglish rap for the next twenty years or so. (Gerardo Mejía is now a record company executive at Interscope - go figure).
Some Chicano rappers have come up in the 1990s, singing mostly in English. Some, like Cypress Hill, became internationally popular. Others, with a more emphatically Chicano underground aesthetic, kept at it for the local scene - these range from the gangsta-rapper Mr. Criminal, and Mr. Capon-e, whose music references not only classic West Coast G-funk but also the Chicano love for oldies, a holdover from the early Chicano rock of the 1950s.
By the late 1990s, a number of well-respected Nuyorican rappers, again, rapping mostly in English, came up in New York, most famously the Bronx-based Terror Squad, headed by gangsta's gangsta and rapper's rapper Big Pun (RIP), Fat Joe, and Havana-born Cuban Link). Here's Pun and Joe in a 1998 classic.
Hip hop would end up circulating the globe, but with ongoing migration and return migration between the US and Puerto Rico, and people sending mix tapes back and forth, there was already a rap scene in Spanish in the 1980s in Puerto Rico. The pioneering Vico C, whose ghetto philosopher tales of street life made him one of the best known from that place and time. Take, for example his classic "Tony Presidio," about a local boy gone bad, is a great example (although the video now looks laughably low-budget and 1990s-ish).
This will seem like a digression but it isn't:
As Wayne Marshall writes, in the 1990s, New York hip hop, and subsequently Puerto Rican hip hop, was increasingly influenced by Jamaican dancehall reggae. In New York, a significant portion of the black population, especially in Brooklyn, is of Jamaican, Trinidadian, and other West Indian/Caribbean ancestry, including some seminal figures in hip hop: Kool DJ Herc, Notorious BIG, KRS-One, Slick Rick, Busta Rhymes, Li'l Kim, Foxy Brown, and others. By the 1990s, dancehall reggae was, alongside hip hop, an integral part of the soundtrack on the radio, at clubs, and at parties in New York City.
At roughly the same time, dancehall reggae was also popular among people of West Indian descent in Panama, many of whom were bilingual and translated the latest dancehall hits from Jamaica into Spanish. So (for example), Jamaican Little Lenny's English-language anthem to the ladyparts, "Punanny Tegereg" was transformed into "Tu Pum Pum," in Spanish, by Panamanian rapper "El General" in 1989. These Panamanian reggae en español songs were in many cases recorded in New York and became popular among Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans both in New York and on PR itself.
Dancehall/reggae and rap use different beats (as Marshall helpfully shows us). Hip hop is based on the so-called "boom bap," which rendered graphically, would look something like this.
Dancehall reggae has a lot of different rhythm tracks (called "riddims" in Jamaica) that were often recycled for use in multiple songs. The Bam Bam riddim, for example, was popular. However, the most popular of all was the Dem Bow riddim, named after the song "Dem Bow" (1991) by Shabba Ranks (and soon covered by El General in Panama).
By the turn of the millennium, the conversion of underground/melaza into reggaetón begins (although no one knew it yet). Free and easily downloadable beat-making programs became available online, making it possible for this with access to computers and the internet able to make beats. One of the most important was the free program Fruity Loops (now "FL Studio"). By the time of his 1999 mixtape, Playero 41, DJ Playero's beats (as on "Todas las yales" with Daddy Yankee) were almost entirely synthesized rather than sampled (and heavily influenced by techno music), although the music still featured shifts between dembow and hiphop beats. By 2000, the predominant beat was a Puerto Rican version of Dem Bow featuring bass drops and a syncopated synthesized timbal.
The Puerto Rican underground scene also inspired Francisco "Luny" Saldana and Victor "Tunes" Cabrera, two Dominican-born DJs from the unlikely setting of Peabody, Massachusetts, a suburb with a mostly white population, who cooked up beats after work as cook and dishwasher at a Harvard University residence house. The beats made by the two were sleek and pop-friendly, beginning with their 2003 "Quiero saber" track with Ivy Queen.
Calle 13, featuring two white, art-school educated stepbrothers began their career in 2005 with an extremely political track called "Querido FBI" reacting to the FBI's assassination of a well-known activist for Puerto Rican independence, and followed that with the profane goofiness of songs like "Atreve-te-te-te," an international hit in 2006. Their more recent work is also artsy and political, internationalist, and increasingly distant from the classic reggaetón sound. Meanwhile, the dembow-centered, Luny Tunes-derived version of reggaetón has softened since about 2009 (and Hurban radio has declined), in favor of a broader palette of sounds and beats for so-called "música urbana."
Meanwhile, in other countries, reggaetón and its cousins keep morphing in their own terms. Some more modern Panamanian bultrón/plena/reggae(tón) - Kufu Bantón's "Vamos pa' la playa" ("A pasarla bien con los friends"). Notice the use of R. Kelly's "Thoia Thong" track. The roots reggae and dub influence remains strong in Panamanian reggae - for example in El Rookie's "Grave Error" (although Rookie also sings more reggaetón-styled music, in some cases in collaboration with Puerto Rican producers).
Reegaetón has sired mutant offspring all through the world. Its sub-genre in the DR is called, appropriately, dembow.
Here it is in Colombia:
Puerto Rican reggaetón vocalists also regularly appear in salsa there.