Spanish-Language Hip Hop

Hip Hop turned 50 in August of this year! The iconic music form originated in New York City, specifically the Bronx in predominantly Black and Brown communities. Puerto Rican New Yorkers, fondly known as Nuyoricans, were and still are immensely influential in the development of Hip Hop. Although the majority of old school and newer Hip Hop is a largely AAVE and English-based genre, Spanish language Hip Hop has been around for almost as long as the mother genre and has often included Spanglish influence. Via cassettes and bootlegs of songs recorded in NYC and other places around the US, the genre spread to Spain and Latin America throughout the 80s and 90s. 

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Kali Uchis Could Help You Learn Spanish!

Kali Uchis is a Colombian-American singer and songwriter with four albums and various EPs and singles in her discography. Uchi’s two earliest albums, Por Vida and Isolation, are primarily in English but are heavily influenced by Latin R&B, soul, psychedelic soul, and Latin American Boleros. For anyone learning Spanish, these earlier albums might improve your cultural fluency with modern Latin music and musicians. Likewise, for someone at a 200-400 level in Spanish, Uchis’ two most recent albums Sin Miedo (del amor y otros demonios) and Red Moon in Venus, are a great way to immerse yourself in gooey eclectic bilingual love-stricken bops that tease with verses flowing between Spanish, English, and Spanglish. If you’re struggling to understand the fast-paced lyrics of musicians such as Bad Bunny or even Rosalia, Kali Uchis might be the girl for you. Her slow hooks and unique take on reggaeton make you want to play her discography on repeat. Rumor has it that Uchis will be releasing her fourth studio album very soon so get ahead of the trend while you’re at it! Feel free to check out her socials if you need some more convincing 😉
Gracias y buena suerte!

La Naissance du Hip Hop – MC Solaar’s Revolutionary Legacy

When most people think of Hip Hop as a genre or as a cultural movement, they (rightly) think of New York City. This subculture was born in the Black community of the South Bronx, and quickly spread to other parts of the city, then the country, and within a few years, Hip Hop was iterated in some form almost everywhere in the world.

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five are often credited as the among the first artists whose music was recognised as “Hip Hop”
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France’s Dua Lipa? C’est Vrai!

French pop sensation, Angèle, poses in a bold red top (red is her color). Photograph by Manuel Obadia-Wills.

Angèle, a Belgian pop singer, and absolute sensation in France, has been releasing boppy Francophone music since 2016. After a number of hit singles, she’s become a frequent player on France’s top charts. A recent collab even featured Dua Lipa (famous worldwide). Angèle’s music has a distinct sound and clearly enunciated songs, making them great for students learning French.

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El espíritu revolucionario a través de la música

Artist Reccomendation: Silvio Rodríguez

60s/70s Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez was a household name while I was growing up. My parents used to tell me stories about the one time they went to his concert, and one of their friends kept requesting “Ojalá!” (one of his most popular songs) by yelling the title constantly from the audience. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I actually listened to his music and fell in love with it. 

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Throwback: Mandopop Song Recs

Growing up, my parents would always play music on long roadtrips. It’s been almost a decade, but we still have the many of the same CDs, and the CD player in the car works just the same. The CD I have the most vivid memories of was the one with a strange medley of miscellaneous songs and artists: Michael Jackson, Jay Chou, Spice Girls, some opera, unknown voices, and 99 piano pieces. One artist that especially caught my ear was a Taiwanese singer-songwriter named Qi Qin (齊秦). Apparently, my parents had listened to his songs in their youth in the 80s, and can still sing along to some of the lyrics. 

Songs and music that can be enjoyed by different generations at a different point in time are always special— I was surprised by how much I enjoyed listening to Qi Qin’s songs. His songs have a timeless quality, and I think, are perfect for karaoke. Here are a few of my favorites from the CD:

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Recommendation: Luis Miguel

Today’s blog post brings a music and television recommendation all in one. 

Luis Miguel: La Serie is a Netflix drama series that follows the life of legendary Mexican singer Luis Miguel throughout his early life and rise to superstardom. This show intimately explores Luis Miguel’s private life, focusing on the challenges he went through to balance his public image with his relationships with friends and family. With beautiful camerawork, fun 80s aesthetics, and a heavy dose of LuisMi’s most popular songs, this series keeps you hooked from beginning to end. It’s no surprise that it has become a favorite in the Spanish-speaking world.

Luis Miguel is currently available on Netflix. Keep an eye out for the third season, coming out today (October 28th)!

Or, if you’re just looking for something to listen to, here are some of my favorite Luis Miguel songs:

  1. Soy Como Quiero Ser
  2. Ahora te Puedes Marchar
  3. Cuando Calienta el Sol
  4. La Incondicional
  5. Tengo Todo Excepto a Tí

Non-Russian Russian Music for Your Consideration

One thing I’ve learned in my year learning Russian is that the Russian-speaking world is very much massive. With speakers of the language spanning across the entirety of the Post-Soviet Union and its allies, it’s almost impossible to find Russian language books, shows, movies, and music without finding some that are decidedly not of Russian origin. So for your consideration, dear reader, I have compiled a list of some singers and bands from outside of Russia that you can add to your Russian language playlist. Keep in mind that while none of these songs are obscene by any means, you may want to find translated lyrics before playing them in public. 

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Feminism in China: “Cell Block Tango” Reinterpreted

cw: violence, abuse, misogyny

“天朝渣男图鉴” or “The Scumbags of China” is a parodic rendition of “Cell Block Tango” posted on Weibo in November, 2018.

There is a good chance that you’ve heard of the infamous “Cell Block Tango” song from the 1975 musical Chicago. In the scene, six women in jail recount the vengeful murders they committed, describing their mistreatment at the hands of their former partners. Loosely translated as “The Scumbags of China,” “天朝渣男图鉴” is a parodic rendition of “Cell Block Tango” by Tú Yǒuqín (徒有琴), a student at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. In the video Tú Yǒuqín plays six different women from six different cities in China, Beijing, Shanghai, Sichuan, Hunan, Guangdong, and Shandong. For each character, she slips into different dialects and recounts their acts of revenge against their abusive and misogynistic partners. While one woman recalls stumbling upon her husband’s notebook detailing his sexual exploits, another recalls being beaten by her husband.

“Cell Block Tango” from the 1975 musical Chicago

Posted on the Chinese social media platform, Weibo, in November 2018, the video roused conversation and debate about women’s rights and sexual and domestic abuse in China, contributing to a movement that has been gaining momentum in the past few years. The video was blocked and removed from the site not long after it was posted, speaking to how censorship has worked to silence and minimize the visibility of feminism in China. Nevertheless, the cultural and political impact of the music video cannot be undervalued.

I have been thinking about the significance of language, translation, and reinterpretation to the cultural and political impact of the music video. Representing six different regions of China, the six different dialects Tú Yǒuqín uses include Dongbei, Shanghai, Chonqing, Changsha, Shandong, and Cantonese. In re-appropriating an English song from an American musical, Tú Yǒuqín highlights the global phenomena of misogyny and barriers confronted by women everywhere. At the same time, her translation and reinterpretation of the song in multiple Chinese dialects serves to illuminate the distinctive lived experiences, oppression, and positioning of Chinese women in different regions of China. In this way, the “Chinese Cell Block Tango” is a testament and glimpse into the manifold languages of resistance and feminism across the world.

Full transcription and English translation for the song can be found here:

Media Recommendation: German Music (part II)

So, you listened to everything I recommended in my last post, and you’re looking for a bit more (or you hated it all). Here are a few more suggestions, ranging from hip-hop to Indie social commentary. Follow along with the lyrics, or just sit back and catch up on some contemporary German culture!

Fiva – “Das Beste ist noch nicht vorbei” 

One of Germany’s only female rappers, Fiva speaks very clearly, so it’s a great song for beginners. Lyrics are here.


Bausa: “Was du Liebe nennst” 

This song was huge last year, and it’s catchy enough that you’ll see why. Bausa has become Germany’s Drake…meaning that all of his songs sound the same. Check out the lyrics here.


Von Wegen Lisbeth – “Meine Kneipe”

Catchy Indie music, reminiscent of OK Go. What more is there to say? Find the lyrics here.


Seeed – “Augenbling”

Seeed is one of Germany’s best-known bands. A mixture of hip-hop, reggae, and dancehall beats, their music is definitely one-of-a-kind. Check out the lyrics here, and watch out for the English section.


OK Kid – “Gute Menschen”

Another soft-rock/Indie group, but this time with social commentary about bourgeois German desire to be “good people.” Check out the lyrics here.