Arts Desk

2008: Latin Urban Music Wars, Hip-Hop Renaissance, and Digi-Bongo-A Cappella-Funk-Comedy-Folk

It's been an interesting year in music: Latin urban music wars, an emo-turned-Latin pop star, evolution of an R&B crooner, a hip-hop Renaissance, the continuation of the "outernational" movement, and Kiwis wooing the ladies. One of the most diverse Top 10 list—a little something hopefully most can enjoy. I certainly have...

1.

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Los de Atras Vienen Conmigo, Calle 13 (Sony International)

Calle 13 have the gusto and fortitude to give the world of Latin urban music a shot in the arm, mixing electic beats with cheeky Spanglish lyrics, and dismissing their competition (particularly reggeaton acts) as tourists in their genre.

2.

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MTV Unplugged, Julieta Venegas (Sony International)

An accidental pop-rock star after toiling as an emo rocker in the '90s, Venegas has spent this decade playing the joyful, universally appealing norteño music of her native Mexico.

3.

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Mediocre, Ximena Sariñana (Warner Music Latina)

The Latina Norah Jones? Perhaps not, but Sariñana made a name for herself at the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York last summer with the über-catchy pop guitar-tinged "Vidas Parallelas"—her jazz scat singing may yet spreading the genre to the Latin world.

4.

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Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne (Cash Money)

"Next time you mention Pac, Biggie or Jay-Z/Don't forget Weezy baby," Lil Wayne raps "Mr. Carter." Mission accomplished.

5.

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Evolver, John Legend (G.O.O.D. Music)

Legend got his start singing about love and how it falters, and his evolution continues on this album, adding themes about pursuing an elusive girl, giving up his playboy ways, and finding his one true love, though he'll probably be best remembered for his Obama-inspired call-to action anthem, "If You're Out There."

6.

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Sonidos Gold, Grupo Fantasma (Aire Sol)

This lively orchestra fuses old-school rhythms like cumbia, funk, and salsa with psychedelia, making for an danceable and fresh take on traditional Latin genres.

7.

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The Renaissance, Q-Tip (Universal Motown)

It's taken him nine years to release a follow up to his debut solo CD, but the former A Tribe Called Quest frontman made it worth the wait, going back to his roots of using cerebral rhymes and classic samples fused with live instrumentation.


8.

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Río, Aterciopelados (Nacional)
This veteran Colombian group does well with catchy, upbeat sounds on its latest album, growing increasingly adept at connecting a host of Latin American musics and electronica with serious themes.

9.

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Radio Retaliation, Thievery Corporation (ESL Music)

The "outernational" movement­ a term coined by Jamaican rastas for an appreciation and empathy for all people­has kept Thievery Corporation going strong for the past dozen years, sampling from all sorts of music, both new and decades old. On their latest, the D.C. duo smartly sticks with groovy beats, but with an expanding arsenal of global rhythms.

10.

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Flight of the Conchords, Flight of the Conchords (Sub Pop)

Formerly New Zealand's fourth-most-popular guitar-based digi-bongo-a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo, the Conchords had to leave their homeland since this bizarre genre was apparently too competitive back home. That benefits the American fans who get to hear these parodic songs of wooing the ladies, with lines like "You're so beautiful, like a tree or a high-class prostitute."

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  • curm

    Tell us more about the Latin urban music wars? What do you mean? I know that when Daddy Yankee endorsed McCain he got criticized by some other performers. Is that what you are referring to, or something else?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/blackplasticbag/2008/12/28/2008-latin-urban-music-wars-hip-hop-renaissance-and-digi-bongo-a-cappella-funk-comedy-folk aflores

    Was thinking more in the lines of Calle 13 vs. Ivy Queen (Ivy Queen complaining that Calle 13 won too many awards, and that the Latin Grammy Awards should have been 'shared' better among urban musicians). But did find the DY endorsement interesting...

  • j.nieves

    blah blah I thought you were going to mention something about Billboard. They have no concept of our to chart Latin music, Latin Hip Hop: Toby Love?

    Nothing about the independents who are crushing scene, Immortal Technique or Tempermento touring all over the world this yeah.

    Nothing about the payola lawsuits.... sad

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