Spanish hip hop, also known as Spanish rap, refers to hip hop music produced in Spain. It has its origins in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country. Spanish hip hop is heavily influenced by American hip hop as well as other international hip hop scenes. However, over the decades, Spanish hip hop has developed its own unique style and flavor.
Some quick answers to questions about Spanish hip hop:
– When did it originate? Late 1970s/early 1980s in Madrid, Catalonia and Basque Country.
– What are the main influencers? American hip hop, Latin American hip hop scenes.
– Where is it most popular? Major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia.
– What languages is it performed in? Mainly Spanish, but also Catalan, Basque, Galician, and English.
Hip hop culture arrived in Spain in the late 1970s, imported from New York City by young people who had lived in the city and were fans of the genre. By the early 1980s, hip hop had gained a foothold in Spain through movies like Beat Street and Wild Style. Early Spanish hip hoppers practiced breakdancing, graffiti art, and DJing. Rap music at this time was primarily in English.
Some of the first rap groups in Spain included The Mean Machine in Madrid and 7 Notas 7 Colores in Seville. Their lyrics focused on partying and having fun. Rappers often rapped in Spanish over beats from popular American hip hop tracks.
By the late 1980s, hip hop in Spain had evolved into a unique style. Rappers began using Spanish, Catalan, Euskera, and slang in their lyrics. Subject matter expanded from partying to social issues like unemployment, drug addiction, marginalization, and police brutality. Political rap group Sindicato del Crimen, formed in Madrid in 1987, is credited with pioneering this new socially conscious rap en español.
Other notable Spanish hip hop artists who rose to prominence in the late 80s and 90s include El Meswy, DNI in Madrid, Chacho Brodas in Valencia, 7 Notas 7 Colores in Seville, and Solo Los Solo in Barcelona.
The legendary rap crew Violadores del Verso, formed in Madrid in 1991, helped take Spanish hip hop mainstream. They were one of the first groups to gain commercial and critical success with their distinct Spanish flows and lyrics.
Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Spanish hip hop continued to diversify and thrive, with different regional scenes developing their own styles. Hip hop culture shifted from underground to mainstream, with more support from major record labels. Highlights included the founding of the seminal label Zona Bruta in 1994 and the annual Festival de Hip Hop in Barcelona starting in 1996.
Different Regional Styles
Over the decades, distinct regional hip hop styles have emerged across Spain:
– Influenced by American West Coast gangsta rap.
– Known for aggressive, direct lyrics and deliveries.
– Pioneer groups like CPV, DNI, Sindicato del Crimen.
– Rhymes and flows in Spanish, Catalan, and English.
– Jazz and funk influences.
– Groups like 7 Notas 7 Colores, Solo Los Solo, Chacho Brodas.
– Andalusian flair with witty lyrics.
– Often mixes flamenco sounds and hip hop.
– Artists like Tote King, Shotta.
– Raps in Spanish and Valencian.
– MCs rap over faster electronic and techno-influenced beats.
– Homegrown stars are Rapsusklei, Nach.
– Politically conscious lyrics about Basque identity.
– Rhymes in Spanish and Euskera.
– Groups include Dut, Gata Cattana, Zpu.
Spanish hip hop lyrics cover a wide range of themes and topics:
Rapping about socioeconomic struggles, inequality, institutional racism, police brutality, government corruption.
Lyrics explore the experiences of inner-city youth, street culture, gangs.
Fun, lighthearted songs about dancing, drinking, meeting girls/guys.
Emotional songs about relationships, heartbreak, love, and sex.
Dense lyrics narrating vivid stories and scenes, biographical tales.
Critiquing Spanish politics, rallying around social movements, Basque/Catalan nationalism.
Lyrics focus on achieving goals, overcoming challenges, realizing dreams.
While Spanish hip hop has developed its own identity, the music itself shows diverse influences:
– Aggressive, loops of hard drum breaks.
– Sample-based beats, turntablism.
– Echoes old-school New York hip hop.
– Smooth beats and basslines inspired by West coast.
– Funk samples and synth melodies.
– Percussive beats using salsa, merengue, cumbia, rumba rhythms.
– Traditional Spanish guitar loops.
– Reggaeton/dancehall beats.
– Handclaps, footwork, Spanish guitar samples.
– Melodic vocals with Andalusian style.
– Synthesizers, electronic drums, techno beats.
– Found in rave-influenced tracks.
– Rich live instrumentation with horns, bass, and drums.
– Smooth R&B vocal hooks and harmonies.
Spanish hip hop fashion draws influence from American hip hop trends but adds its own cultural flair:
– Tracksuits, jerseys, varsity jackets, sneakers for athletic street style. Brands like Adidas, Nike, Puma, Reebok.
– Baggy t-shirts, tall tees, loose jeans hang low. Gives nod to 90s fashion.
– Clothing covered in branding, designers, and labels. Luxury fashion and streetwear mix.
– Chains, bracelets, grills. Echoes roots in NYC boom bap era.
– Ink used to display individuality, street flair, rap persona.
– Fitted baseball caps worn backwards or cocked to the side. urban accent.
– Silk scarves around the neck add sophistication.
– Large cross chains reflect Catholic-Muslim history.
Graffiti is core part of Spanish hip hop culture, evolving from simple tags to complex murals:
– Graffiti writers stylize their names into unique scripts with drops, connections, bubbles.
– Interlocking, overlapping letters form dense, cryptic pieces. Only readable by other writers.
– Cartoonish figures bring graffiti to life. Show influence from comics/videogames.
– Creates illusion of letters popping off the wall in 3D space. Renders with highlights/shadows.
– Spraying through cardboard or paper templates to quickly reproduce images. Made famous by Banksy.
– Murals created by gluing printed paper images that have been hand-drawn or designed digitally. Has fine art feel.
– Radical works critiquing society, promoting social movements and activism.
Spanish hip hop dancing mixes American styles like breaking and locking with Latin flavors:
– Acrobatic floor moves like headspins, windmills, backspins. Highly athletic and energetic.
– Quick contraction/relaxation of muscles to create jerking movements. Looks animated and robotic.
– Flowing steps punctuated by “locks” where dancer freezes briefly. Playful and funky.
– Incorporates hip swivels, shimmies, and fancy footwork from Latin dance.
– Dancing in sensual, rhythmic way to reggaeton beats mixed with hip hop music. Includes twerking.
– Flamenco footwork and handclaps. Castanet rhythms. Matador-inspired moves.
– Fast feet shuffling adapted from Chicago house scene. Jumping and jacking steps.
– Groups dancing in sync, moving as a unit. Telling a story.
Notable Spanish Hip Hop Artists
Here’s a rundown of some of the most famous and influential hip hop artists to come out of Spain over the decades:
Violadores del Verso
Formed in Madrid in 1991. Helped elevate Spanish rap with their dynamic flows and smart, socially-conscious rhymes. Consists of MC Kase-O, Lírico, R de Rumba, and DJ Randy. Considered pioneers of the genre.
Solo Los Solo
Hailing from Barcelona, they debuted in 1992. Rapped in Spanish, Catalan, and English. Combined American hip hop sounds with Catalan culture. Members Tone, Eñes, and DJ Crash Funk put out several classic albums in the 90s.
La Mala Rodríguez
Trailblazing female MC from Seville whose debut album in 2000 helped catapult Spanish hip hop into the mainstream. Her empowered lyrics and flow earned comparisons to Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott. Still active today.
Born Ignacio Fornés Olmo in Valencia. One of the most prolific rappers in Spain since the early 2000s. Has balanced commercial success with maintaining his artistic cred through raw, philosophical lyrics on social problems and existential themes.
Madrid-based MC who first gained fame for his dense, rapid-fire flow. Has since diversified into melodic and pop-influenced hip hop. Known for his battle rap skills and horrorcore-leaning dark material.
Long-running group originally from Seville. Combined traditional Spanish guitar samples with hardcore, gritty beats. Members Accion Sánchez and Zatu teamed up in the late 90s and have put out multiple acclaimed albums.
An iconic figure in Seville hip hop, he debuted in 1999. Started out freestyling for fun but grew into virtuosic MC. His intricate rhyme schemes and philosophical yet relatable lyrics have earned him mainstream popularity.
Female rapper from Madrid making waves since the early 2000s. Brings a Punk Rock ethos into her rhymes. Empowering lyrics that tackle feminism, social issues, relationships and mental health struggles.
Hip Hop Record Labels
Several pioneering hip hop labels helped grow Spanish rap:
– Founded in Madrid in 1994. Released major albums from VKR, CPV, 7 Notas 7 Colores, SFDK.
– Barcelona-based. Put out records by Chacho Brodas, Solo Los Solo, El Meswy starting in the 90s.
– Valencia label that launched in 2001. Backed artists like Nach, Rapsusklei, Chuliparty.
– Major label that signed Spanish hip hop acts like Violadores Del Verso and La Mala Rodriguez.
– Independent label started in 2005 focused on woman rappers like Ayax y Prok.
– Founded in the 2000s, known for hardcore hip hop releases. Worked with artists like El Chojin, Portavoz.
– Born in 2006, they focus on pop rap and reggaeton-influenced artists.
– Underground label formed in 2014, working with real hip hop acts like Azteks.
Hip Hop Media/Culture
Beyond the music, Spanish hip hop has spawned wider youth culture:
Launched in the 90s/2000s to cover hip hop. Most popular were RWD, YoRap, Rapsolo Magazine, HH Magazine, Hip Hop Nation. All eventually folded except HH Magazine.
Stations like Radio3 and M80 Radio support hip hop with specialized shows. FM Madrid had first dedicated hip hop program, La Jungla, in the early 90s.
Events like Festival de Hip Hop in Barcelona, Mad Cool Hip Hop Festival, Cultura Urbana Festival, I Love Hip Hop Festival showcase Spanish rappers.
Rap battles and dance battles are outlets for competitive creativity. Major ones include Batalla de Gallos for MCs, Red Bull BC One for breakdancing.
Clothing brands like Original Fucking Brand and No Sleep Gang blend hip hop fashion with Spanish culture. Sneaker boutiques like Limited Editions thrive.
Artist collectives like Tru Skul, Desobediencia Organizada, Costa Underground United help nurture local scenes.
While illegal, graffiti writing permeates cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. Events like Meeting of Styles and Santurce Es Ley Festival celebrate graffiti culture.