Yesterday I asked who among today’s crop of Latin singers might be able to lead a Latin soul revival and carry La Lupe’s torch into 2013. Unsurprisingly, you guys came through with some very viable options.
But before we get into it, here’s some La Lupe for the uninitiated:
I’m awestruck by these guys. I’ve been a fan since 2011’s “Pan Con Queso,” their clever take on “Black and Yellow.” It’s easy to write Juan Bago & O’s work off as spoofy farce or satire. But digger a little deeper and their music is connected to several (NYC) Latin(o) American traditions e.g., urban hybridity, covered music, slice-of-life narratives, and even a little social commentary albeit with ‘a mal tiempo buena cara’ (a good face to bad times) kind of coloring.
I’m fascinated by the expressions of bicultural and binational identity and territoriality in this latest track “Dominican Problems.” Here they are rapping in Spanglish throughout Inwood and Washington Heights, Dominican New York’s northern Manhattan strongholds, over what was once an English-language song by an artist who grew up a few miles south (in Harlem), about Dominican culture in New York City, the Dominican Republic, and the Dominican internet.
And given all that fluidity in identity and territory, it’s especially interesting that the video’s conflict is centered around a Dominican(-American?) who shed his accent, went prep/yuppie, lives in Long Island City, Queens, and forgot (or unlearned) his Dominicanness. It suggests that there are defined cultural boundaries or standards even for these deeply protean biculturals. If bicultural New York Dominicans are ni de aquí, ni de allá (not from here nor from there), then what the two bicultural Dominicans are tacitly conveying tothe pocho (as Mexican would say) in “Dominican Problems” is “you can be de aquí and you can be de allá, but you can’t be de aquí without being de allá.”
“I don’t think that the answer to all our problems is gonna be one book. But I do think the answers to all our problems are gonna be found in the creative.
Because the creative…when we create, we’re basically sending a little map, and sending it forward into the future. 95% of the maps disappear, vanish, get destroyed. But some of them are gonna make it through. Some of them are gonna make it through. And it’s remarkable what they might do.It’s remarkable who they might affect, who they might help.
I mean look, we’re humans, man. We’ve got a long history of screwing everything up, and of victimizing each other. But we also have a long history of continuity, of resistance, and of creative survival. And that’s always been helped tremendously by our art, by our songs, by the cultural stuff that we pass on from the past into the future.
And that’s not a bad thing to be a part of. In a world of many vocations, this seems like…not a bad one.”