«Rap og politikk spessial», uke 9: Hiphop blir ofte sett på som en afrikanskamerikansk kultur, ja enkelte hevder til og med at hiphops røtter er i Afrika. Men da glemmer vi den latinske innflytelsen, ikke minst de mange puertoricanerne som gjorde New York til sitt hjem. Jeg spør, og Popmaster Fabel i Rock Steady Crew svarer (intervjuet er fra 2004).
ØH: What part did Latin music and culture have in the evolution of hip-hop?
PF: «Latin» music and culture consist of various ingredients including the African influence. Within certain «Latin» forms of music such as mambo, rumba and salsa, it is common to find a musical «break» where the rhythm builds to a crescendo and the dancers perform their best moves. Puerto Rican folkloric music and dance such as Bomba y Plena showcase momments where the dancers interact with the drummers and each other. The exchanges can be quite competitive.
Bomba y Plena are also used as the voice of protest in cases of oppression or injustice. Conscious rap and spoken word within the hip-op communities continues to keep this tradition alive.
«Musica Jibara» is recognized as music from the country folk. One particular form is called «controversia». This form is done as a challenge between two vocalists. Battles are usually improvised and include humorous statements in an attempt to ridicule the opponent. Many audio recordings from the 1950’s and 1960’s reflect these forms of expression. Some of the most famous artist include La Calandria, Natalia, Chuito and Ramito. In essence, hip-hop culture reflects the spirit of people from the African Diaspora and their struggle for survival and identity.
In addition, Afro-American and Afro-Carribean people grew up in the same communities in NYC. We shared many social, economic, and political views. Our cultures shared a common thread as well. «Latinos» played a part in the evolution of hip-hop culture by simply being active and adding their flavor to the elements.
ØH: Are these roots forgotten today?
PF: For the most part the youth of today do not concern themselves with history. There are pockets of conscious people who keep these traditions alive and make an effort to pass down the history to the next generation. It is for this reason that I continue to work on a documentary titled, Puerto Ricans in Hip Hop. All though my focus is on Puerto Rican’s, other «Latinos» share similiar experiences as well.
ØH: When did Latin people in USA again realize that hip-hop was a valid forum for expression of their own culture?
PF: Many «Latinos» understood hip-hop as an extension of their deeper roots. Before we had turntables, mixers and speakers we played drums and other instruments. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Afro-American and Latin-American musicians collaborated in the creation of «latin jazz». We also joined to develope «latin soul» in the 1960’s & 1970’s with artists such as Joe Bataan, Ray Barretto, Santana and Tito Puente.
The Last Poets included a Puerto Rican member named Felipe Luciano who was also a leader in The Young Lords Party. The Last Poets are credited as forefathers of rap and The Young Lords Party were fighting for equality and social justice in NYC’s low income communities. Especially among artists, there was always an understanding that hip-hop culture was just as much ours as it was Afro-American.
ØH: What part did artists like Cypress Hill, Kid Frost, Big Punisher and The Beatnuts play? Any other important artists?
PF: Within hip-hop culture your skill speaks for itself. It doesn’t matter what language or ethnicity is being represented, as long as the material is built on the foundations set forth by the pioneers of the culture.
Emccees/Rappers have recorded music with spanish lyrics since 1979. For example, The Mean Machine’s rap titled «Disco Dream». Having role models from ones own ethnic or cultural background can be encourageing for those who may not feel to confident with their identity. Many «Latino» artist have helped in the development of hip-hop culture since the beginning. These pioneers include: D.J. Charlie Chase from the legendary Cold Crush Brothers, Whipper Whip from the Fantastic Romantic Five, B-Boy Salsa, B-Boy Booski, I Spy, Shabadoo and graffiti writers such as Lee, Part one and Coco 144.
ØH: What part does hip-hop play in Latin-American culture today?
PF: Hip-hop is continuously embraced by «Latinos» worldwide. For example, in Cuba it is recognized as a legitimate cultural component. The US and Cuba have been engaging in hip-hop cultural exchanges for the past few years. Puerto Ricans on the island have produced a hybrid form of rap music called «reggaeton». This music fuses dance hall reggae and hip-hop with Spanish lyrics. As in the case with many ethnic communities, hip-hop is finding its way into school curriculums, cultural institutions, the commercial industry and the common language of the streets.
ØH: Why do you think hip-hop is mainly seen as an African-American culture outside of USA? And even in USA?
PF: Hip-hop is seen as an African-American culture because of the major role black peopled played in its creation and development. Technically, the three main figures credited as hip-hop’s forefathers are African-Caribbeans: DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. The media doesn’t clarify the difference between African-Americans and African-Caribbeans. For the most part both shared the same conditions and challenges in mainland America. Through my documentary I intend to reveal more information regarding this topic.
ØH: And please, tell me about the movie you’re making. It is mostly about hip-hop and Puerto Rico if I understood you right?
PF: Puerto Ricans in Hip Hop explores the presence and contributions Puerto Ricans have made to the culture. It reveals past history and the common thread which unites people based on their similiar struggles and achievements. I intend to showcase legendary folk heroes who paved the way for future generations as well as the warriors of the present. In addition, I intend to present the possibilities and potential for hip-hop culture as a tool for upliftment and social change. It will include the information I have shared in this interview and more.