Various Artists
Música Urbana: Lo Mejor de Hip Hop en Español
Fonovisa
2005
B



first of all, let me make this perfectly clear: this is a label comp. It collects hip-hop tracks from twelve different artists on Fonovisa Records. So don’t approach this thinking that you’re going to get a true wide picture of the current state of Spanish-language rap. Fonovisa, which is the Univision channel’s music label, tends to favor a kind of music called “urban regional” when it comes to hip-hop; this music is pretty awesome, as it uses Latin music templates—everything from the tuba-honking sounds of Sinaloaense music from Mexico to Cuban fills and Colombian cumbia—with rapping up on top, and that’s pretty much all you’re getting.

And there is a much wider spectrum of hip-hop en español out there that just isn’t here, because it’s on other labels. There is wacked-out funny Houston spanglish-style from Chingo Bling here, no real Mexican hardcore funk beats like you’ll find in Control Machete, no good old American hip-hop beats from Milwaukee’s Kinto Sol, none of that. And only some perfunctory nods to reggaetón. Which is fine, because I love the urban regional, but I was afraid it’d be underwhelming.

I have heard a lot of urban regional albums in the last year, and they all kind of sag halfway through. But it all sounds much better here, because you’re only getting one or two or three cuts from each artist, and because DJ Daz mixes it all together into one solid hour of nonstop party mix. Bit by bit, it sounds pretty unbeatable and radical.

The clear winners here so far are Akwid. The identical Lopez twins aren’t necessarily the best rappers in the world, but they have the most exciting music; “No Hay Manera” has a soaring trumpet solo and short mariachi brass stabs to go with their unison pinpoint attack, and “Jamas Imagine” is pretty much radio gold. Mexiclan are also big winners, for the same reason: their songs are way out there melodically and experimentally. “Sancho” is a portentous two-step, and “Stupid and Creido” rides some accordion weirdness to become the best song on the record.

Groups like Crooked Stilo and Kalimen are pretty okay, especially in short bursts like this rather than on their albums, where their songs all tend to sound like each other. I liked hearing Locura Terminal’s “Vivo o Muerto” out of the context of their album, and I’m now a lot more interested in Los 3 Mosqueteros, after hearing the reggaetón overtures of “Bailando y Sudando.” Also impressive here are Davíd Rolas, whom I’d already heard, and Azteka, whom I hadn’t.

I strongly suspect that you’d like this record, even if it’s just on the grounds of “hey, this sounds new!” Whether it will stick with you for very long is a different matter, and I don’t really know what to tell you—I’m afraid that the best days of urban regional music are ahead of it. (Plus I’m a little pissed off that they didn’t include my favorite Fonovisa u.r. artist, Yolanda Pérez, whose rapping is quick and effective and silly as hell.). But it’s good cruising music, the mix is really tight, and it’ll introduce you to a lot of artists you’ve never heard of before. That’s the best you can hope for with a comp.


Reviewed by: Matt Cibula
Reviewed on: 2005-05-04
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