Reggaetón (also spelled Reggaeton, and known as Reguetón and Reggaetón in Spanish) is a form of urban music which became popular with Latin American youth during the early 1990s and spread over the course of 10 years to North American, European, Asian, and Australian audiences. Originating in Panama, Reggaeton blends Jamaican music influences of reggae and dancehall with those of Latin America, such as bomba, plena, merengue, and bachata as well as that of hip hop and Electronica. The music is also combined with rapping or singing in Spanish, English or 'Spanglish'. Reggaeton has given the Hispanic youth, starting with those from Panama, a musical genre that they can consider their own. The influence of this genre has spread to the wider Latino communities in the United States, as well as the Latin American audience. While it takes influences from hip hop and Jamaican dancehall, it would be wrong to define reggaeton as the Hispanic or Latino version of either of these genres; Reggaeton has its own specific beat and rhythm, whereas Latino hip hop is simply hip hop recorded by artists of Latino descent. The specific rhythm that characterizes reggaeton is referred to as “Dem Bow.” The name is a reference to the title of the dancehall song by Shabba Ranks that first popularized the beat in the early 1990s. Reggaeton's origins represents a hybrid of many different musical genres and influences from various countries in the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States. The genre of reggaeton however is most closely associated with Puerto Rico, as this is where the musical style later popularized and became most famous, and where the vast majority of its current stars originate from.
Reggaeton lyrics tend to be more derived from hip hop than dancehall. Like hip hop, reggaeton has caused some controversy, albeit less, due to alleged exploitation of women, and to a lesser extent, explicit and violent lyrics. Further controversy surrounds perreo, a dance with explicit sexual overtones which is sometimes, but not always, associated with reggaeton music.
Reggaeton's roots are from Panama, with the music evolving and coming to prominence in Puerto Rico. Reggaeton started as an adaptation of Jamaican reggae (and later Jamaican dancehall) to the Spanish-language culture in Panama. The origins of reggaeton begin with the first reggae recordings being made in Panama during the 1970s. Reportedly, the Jamaican reggae influence on Panamanian music has been strong since the early 20th century, when Jamaican laborers were used to help build the Panama Canal. Afro-Panamanians had been performing and recording Spanish-language reggae since at least the 1970s. Artists such as El General, Chicho Man, Nando Boom, Renato, and Black Apache are considered the first raggamuffin DJs from Panama. El General has been identified as one of the fathers of reggaeton, blending Jamaican reggae into a Latin-ised version. It was common practice to translate the lyrics of Jamaican reggae song into Spanish and sing them over the original melodies, a form termed “Spanish reggae” or “Reggae en español.” Meanwhile, during the 1980s the Puerto Rican rapper Vico C released Spanish-language hip hop records in his native island. His production of cassettes throughout the 1980s, mixing reggae and hip hop, also helped spread the early reggaeton sound, and he is widely credited with this achievement. The widespread movement of “Spanish reggae” in the Latin-American communities of the Caribbean and the urban centres of the United States help increase its popularity
During the 1990s reggae production took off seriously in Panama; this also occurred separately in Puerto Rico due to the increased popularity of Jamaican ragga imports. Towards the middle of the decade, Puerto Ricans were producing their own "riddims" with clear influences from hip hop and other styles. These are considered the first proper reggaeton tracks, initially called “under,” a short form of “Underground.” As Caribbean and African-American music gained this momentum in Puerto Rico, Reggae Rap in Spanish marked the beginning of Boricua underground rap and served as an expression for millions of young people. This created an entire invisible, yet prominent underground youth culture that sought to express themselves through Reggae Rap in Spanish. As a youth culture that exists on the fringes of society and criminal illegality, it has often been publicly criticized. The Puerto Rican police launched a raid against underground rap by confiscating cassette tapes from music stores under Penal codes of obscenity, issuing fines, and the demoralization of rappers through radio, television, and newspaper media.
The name reggaeton only gained prominence in the mid-1990s (from the 1994 to 1995 period), with the Dem Bow beat characterizing the genre; this is in contrast to the more reggae, dancehall and hip hop-derived tracks previously created. The name was created in Puerto Rico to signify the hybrid sound, and distinguish it from the previous Spanish reggae, created from the years of mixing the different genres. Today, the music flourishes throughout Latin America.
Reggaeton soon increased in popularity with Latino youth in the United States when DJ Blass worked with artists such as Plan B and Speedy in albums such as Reggaeton Sex.
Reggaeton expanded and became known when other producers followed the steps of DJ Playero, like DJ Nelson and DJ Eric. In the early 90s albums like DJ Playero's Playero 37 (in which Daddy Yankee became known) and The Noise: Underground, The Noise 5 and The Noise 6 were very popular in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Singers like Don Chezina, O.G. Black & Master Joe, Baby Rasta & Gringo, and Lito Y Polaco among others were very popular.
Many now popular producers, such as Luny Tunes, Noriega and Eliel, first appeared in the reggaetón scene in 2003. Albums such as Mas Flow, The Last Don, and Las Gargolas 4 expanded reggaeton's popularity among Latinos in the United States.
2004 was the year that reggaeton gained widespread popularity in the United States, eventually gaining attention in many “Western” countries. This was due to N.O.R.E. introducing the genre to mainstream America with the song “Oye Mi Canto,” followed by Daddy Yankee who came out with his album “Barrio Fino” and his mega hit single “Gasolina.” Another important artist who contributed to reggaeton's increasing popularity, especially in Europe, is Don Omar, with singles like “Pobre Diabla” and “Dale Don Dale.” Other very popular reggaetón artists include Alexis Y Fido, Angel & Khriz, Nina Sky, Nicky Jam, Zion y Lennox, Rakim & Ken-Y, Voltio, Calle 13, Héctor El Father, Ivy Queen, Wisin & Yandel, Tito El Bambino and Tego Calderon.
Don Omar’s May 2006 album, King of Kings, became history’s highest ranking reggaeton LP in the top 10 US charts, with its debut at #1 on the Latin sales charts and the #1 spot on the Billboard Latin Rhythm Radio Chart with the single “Angelito.” King of Kings also peaked at #7 in the Billboards top 200 albums. Don Omar was also able to beat the in-store appearance sales record at Downtown Disney's Virgin music store previously set by pop star Britney Spears, further demonstrating reggaeton's massive rise to popularity in the United States.
Reggaeton bears many resemblances to hip-hop. The most notable resemblance to hip-hop is that reggaeton, in most cases, is rapped instead of being sung. Reggaeton also has hooks throughout a song that may include a chorus of singers. Reggaeton artists also adopt pseudonyms comparable to those of hip-hop artists. Overall, reggaeton and hip-hop are both thought of as street-styled music popular among urban youth. Reggaeton also features "beef"-like rivalries similar to those found in hip-hop called "tiraera" ("throwing" in Puerto Rican Spanish slang).
Despite the similarities, reggaeton only roughly fits into the Latin hip-hop category but is not synonymous with hip-hop. True Latin hip-hop has beats that almost exactly resemble mainstream hip-hop beats. These “hardcore” Latin hip-hop artists include Big Pun, Fat Joe, Akwid, and Jae-P. Reggaeton, though, has rap-styled lyrics but has a very different beat that is influenced not by hip-hop, but by reggae, dancehall, merengue and techno. Although reggaeton has been influenced by hip-hop, it has also borrowed features from many other genres as well and is not considered to be Latin hip-hop.
Reggaeton and hip-hop are often remixed together, and reggaeton songs and live concerts may feature hip-hop artists such as Lil Jon, 50 Cent, and Eminem. Hip-hop songs such as Usher's Yeah and Snoop Dogg's Drop It Like It's Hot have been remixed by replacing the original beat with a reggaeton beat. In other remixes, reggaeton DJs may rap out an English song in Spanish.
As Reggaeton has gained popularity, there is a new trend of Hip-Hop and Reggaeton artists collaborating on songs. Snoop Dogg was featured on Daddy Yankee's Gangsta Zone in his album Barrio Fino En Directo ; as was Paul Wall on remix to Yankee’s earlier hit song entitled “Machete.” The remix of Daddy Yankee’s song Rompe featured Lloyd Banks and Young Buck of G-Unit. And Yankee’s first U.S. hit Gasolina was remixed, adding Miami rapper Pitbull, and Crunk music producer Lil Jon to the track. Sean Paul collaborated with him on the song ‘Oh Man’ on his most recent album, The Trinity. Hip hop producer Pharrell Williams produced and sang on the track ‘Mamacita’ with Daddy Yankee as well. American rapper Juelz Santana was featured on Don Omar's song Conteo on Omar’s album King of Kings which was featured in the movie The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Luny Tunes produced the R.Kelly song ‘Burn It Up’ with Wisin Y Yandel on his album TP3 Reloaded as well as producing the remix to Paris Hilton’s song Stars are Blind again featuring Wisin y Yandel, which has sold over 300,000 songs on iTunes. Popular Reggaeton producer Héctor El Father produced the hit song ‘Here We Go Yo’ with Jay-Z, whom he collaborated with to produce his most recent album “Los Rompe Discotekas” (The Club Bangers) which came out in early summer 2006. Reggaeton artist Voltio raps alongside with R&B group Jagged Edge on the song ‘So Amazing'. The song ‘Wanna Ride’ was recited and sung by distinguished Reggaeton artists Wisin y Yandel together with veteran rap group Bone Thugs N'Harmony, and which was featured in the movie Take the Lead starring Antonio Banderas. A remix of the song 'Rakata' by Wisin y Yandel features rapper Ja-Rule. The remix to 'Hello Mama' features rapper Jim Jones. Both genres are accepting influences from each other today, and these musical blends also signify a cultural blending pot in today’s urban scene.
With the help of N.O.R.E, a New York-based rapper, and his producing of Nina Sky's 2004 hit [[Oye Mi Canto]], which featured prominent reggaeton artists Tego Calderon and Daddy Yankee, reggaeton quickly gained popularity in the US. Soon after, Daddy Yankee caught the attention of many big names in hip hop with his song Gasolina, propelling the style across the country. Also in 2004, XM Radio launched a channel called Fuego (XM), which played exclusively Reggaeton music. The genre has also provided the foundation and basis for a modern Latin-American commercial radio phenomenon known as Hurban, a combination of the terms Hispanic and Urban that is used to evoke the musical influences of hip-hop and Latin-American music. Reggaeton forming from hip-hop and reggae has helped Latin-Americans contribute to the urban American culture while still keeping many aspects of their Hispanic heritage. The music relates to many of the socio-economic issues happening in America including gender and race which highly connects to hip-hop in America today.
Underground clubs, youths in the inner-city ghettos, and huge hip-hop moguls all participated in pushing the genre to the top of the charts.