by Davey D

The largest purchasers of rap music in the US are Hispanic/Latinos. This revelation was made last Wednesday [Jan 15th] in NY during the Media and Advertising panel at Jesse Jackson's 6th Annual Wall Street Project. This was a well attended panel that featured a number of distinguished guests who are at the top of their field like: former Vibe Magazine CEO Keith Clinkscales of Vanguarde Media, Carol H Williams of Carol H Williams Advertising, Thomas Burrell of Burrell Communications, Samuel Chisholm of the Chisholm Group, James L Winston of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and Daisy Exposito-Ulla of the Bravo Group which is the country's largest marketing and communications group that targets the Hispanic/Latino market.

The main focus of the panel was 'exploring ways in which minority owned business can best leverage advertising dollars earmarked for broadcast media to achieve their bottom line. Within the context of that discussion was a break down of the role and market share held by various subgroups and ethnic minorities. When Ms Exposito-Ulla of the Bravo Group spoke about the growing importance and the purchasing power of Latinos that her revelations about the Latino community purchasing more rap records than both whites and African Americans were made. She noted that her firm had done research and came to that conclusion.

Because this wasn't a Hip Hop panel, Ms Exposito-Ulla's remarks were not met with much fanfare and hoopla, but nevertheless they are significant on many levels. To start, as the word gets out about the purchasing power of Latinos with regards to Hip Hop may lead record companies, radio stations and other media outlets to refocus, redouble or completely rethink their marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, in many circles, large parts of the Latino community have been stereotyped as only being into dance, house and freestyle music and not rap. Even sadder is the fact that far too often folks overlook the pioneering role many Latino's in particular Puerto Ricans played in the evolution of Hip Hop. DJ Charlie Chase, Whipper Whip, Rocksteady Crew, TBB, Tony G are a few people and crews that immediately come to mind.

As the Bravo Group's findings become more widespread, this could mean everything from seeing an increase in street team campaigns to the barrios and other large Latino neighborhoods. It could result in companies placing a greater importance on marketing Hip Hop in large Latino urban centers that we hardly ever associate with rap and Hip Hop like Phoenix Arizona, Modesto California, San Antonio Texas or Albuquerque New Mexico to start. Of course a lot of 'underground Hip Hop artist already know the deal and have been aggressively touching down in such areas for years...As the music industry attempts to resurrect its economic slump, it will be interesting to see if major labels devote extra resources to push to popular Latino Hip Hop artists like Fat Joe who was just nominated for a Grammy, Tony Touch, The Arsonist, Angie Martinez, The Beatnuts, or Frost.

Long time activist and KPFA radio host Miguel Molina of the popular low rider show La Onda Bajita noted that he wasn't surprised by the findings. He explained that there is along history of Latinos embracing and supporting Funk and soul music. He explained that many of the 'old school' acts that fit these genres have known for years that probably their biggest fan base and support has been within the Latino community. He pointed out the music make up of his show and explained how OGs from the barrio have always listened to old school funk and soul. Hence he was not surprised to see the trend continue with Hip Hop. The sad part is that far too often this hasn't been openly spoken about and recognized. He also noted that outside factors in particular the music industry itself has done things in the area of marketing to create the illusion that Latinos and African Americans are somehow separate.

It will also be interesting to see if major labels and commercial radio continue their nasty practice of racial separation. I always remind people that once upon a time Hip Hop was together with all its participants under one umbrella. In the mid 80s you started to see a separation when industry folks started labeling uptempo Hip Hop as 'Latin Freestyle' even though most of it would've come under the umbrella of what Afrika Bambaataa originally called Electro-Funk. Suddenly this music genre along with popular groundbreaking deejays like the Latin Rascals weren't seen as being part of Hip Hop.

Because of this industry inspired separation many of us have forgotten that in many parts of the country 'Latin Freestyle' music was listened to and enjoyed by both African American and Latino audiences. Joyce Sims, Shannon, Hashim, Debbie Deb, Freestyle, Lisette Melindez, Lisa Lisa, TKA, K-7 are some of the artist I routinely heard in both Black and Latino niteclubs as well as urban radio stations that reached both communities. We even forget that many of these artists and their records were staple items in the crates of all Hip Hop deejays. A quick listen to some old New Music Seminar tapes from the mid 80s during the Deejay Battles for World Supremacy easily bear this out.

This separation trend continued in the late '80s and early 90s, when rap music was broken down further and we started to see a new categorizing of music where you suddenly had 'Latino rap' and 'regular' rap. Soon you rarely saw popular Latino artists at the time like Lighter Shade of Brown, The Mexicanz, Cypress Hill and even Kid Frost performing on the same stage or played on the same radio station as their African American rap brethren.

In many cases Latino Hip Hop artists were used as caveats on radio stations as a way to attract the Latino audience and separate competing radio stations that are now owned by the same company in the age of consolidation. I recall vividly seeing marching orders handed down by corporate big wigs that forbade us at KMEL from playing certain Latin Hip Hop artist that were being embraced our competing sister station KYLD whose mission was to target the Latino community. Suddenly groups like Lighter Shade of Brown, Kid Frost, Funky Aztecs, Aztlan Nation, The Mexicanz and others could no longer be heard on our airwaves because we were supposed be targeting an African American audience. I recall how much drama was caused when we started to play groups like Cypress Hill and how things really became a sore point when they actually began hosting a show. If that not enough there was even an issue made when some of our Latino deejays like [Chuy Gomez] would speak Spanglish on the air. The corporate edict was very clear. One station for Blacks the other for Latinos.

I also remember having numerous conversations with some of these Latino Hip Hoppers and hearing how frustrated they were with radio station politics. Many of them saw themselves as emcees and Hip Hoppers first and the music they made was for everyone. They resented being segregated on the airwaves especially since many of them had strong ties in the African American community. For example The Funky Aztecs did a song with 2Pac [Slipping Into Darkness]. Kid Frost has done songs with artist like Daz and was no stranger to African Americans during LA's early Hip Hop scene. In fact he primarily rapped in English and was encouraged to flip rhymes in Spanish by another Latino pioneering emcee-Whipper Whip of NY's famed Fantastic Romantic Five.

Frost in turn was produced by Tony G who was pioneering deejay who was part of the Mixmasters from LA's legendary rap radio station KDAY which was a fixture in the African American community. Also on board was another talented Latino deejay named Julio G. Old KDAY listeners will recall that it was a Latino named MC O [Orlando] was the host of that show. After KDAY died out one of the more popular Hip Hop shows that emerged on LA's Power 106 was hosted by some Latino Brothers known as the Baka Boyz who kicked up dust and made noise with their show Friday Nite Flavas.

In spite all that interaction, in many places there was still music segregation. You had Latino Hip Hop and regular Hip Hop. It was artist like Big Pun who helped close that gap. In fact I recall speaking with Pun and him telling me that he was very much aware of the Black-Latino separation in Hip Hop music. That was one of the reasons he chanted 'Boriqua-Morena' [Puero Rican-Black] in his hit song 'Still A Player' He wanted to create a sense of unity and remind people that Blacks and Latinos have always been down with one another. His partner Fat Joe has also been a strong advocate of keeping everyone together. He has supported that commitment with his actions like showing up at Minister's Farrakhan's Hip Hop Peace Summit in '96 after the Notorious BIG was killed and addressing that issue. He later followed suit at Russell Simmons Hip Hop summit in 2001 and voiced similar concerns. Unfortunately racial politics and segregation are still a reality in the marketing schemes of radio stations and the music industry. Perhaps it will one day be completely eliminated.

In the meantime because this has now been so ingrained it will also be interesting to see if African American and white Hip Hop fans reach out and seek out underground Latino rap artist who's names don't appear on MTV or BET or will they continue to see the music as separate from the rest of Hip Hop. It will also be interesting to see how this all plays out now that the new Census studies have come out and announced that Latino's are officially the nation's second largest minority population. As was mentioned earlier, we see this in commercial radio, where it is freely admitted and widely known that obtaining a large Latino audience is desirable and economically advantageous. Ms Exposito-Ulla explained that the Latino audience is now seen as a 'mainstream' market where all the stops are pulled out by companies to reach and cultivate that audience.

Also of interest to note that there has been a lot of research, articles and forums being held all over the country as of late where folks are researching and chronicling the unique contributions and history of Latino's in Hip Hop. For example, Popmaster Fabel of the Rocksteady Crew is busy finishing up a documentary that focuses on fashion the pioneering days of Hip Hop. He has paid special attention to the years and activities leading up to Hip Hop emerging in his Spanish Harlem neighborhood. The rough cuts that I've seen are absolutely incredible and will undoubtly turn heads and spark interest. Crazy Legs who is the president of Rocksteady noted that next year he will be taking the annual Rocksteady Crew celebration on the road. There's no doubt that with these new findings that he will have to at least consider touching down in those cities and places where there are large Latino populations. We'll keep you posted. Hopefully the new census count and these new findings about Latinos and Hip Hop doesn't wind up being a short lived trend that major labels and corporations try to exploit.

by Davey D

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