Back in the mid-to-late ‘90s, I was fully immersed in Buenos Aires’ underground hip-hop scene and I was very familiar with all its players. They weren’t that many anyway; it was a minuscule, micro-scene that didn’t even register in the radar of the then-rock-dominated mainstream, so everybody knew everybody.
I left Argentina in early 2001. Since then, the scene has expanded exponentially and a whole new generation of kids had taken over and imposed their values and aesthetics, which, paradoxically, are more aligned to what we consider the golden age of American hip-hop than the genre’s subsequent incarnations. This is not, of course, an isolated phenomenon, it can be witnessed throughout Latin America: while rappers in the US embraced synths and auto-tune singing along with a more blatantly commercial attitude, their Latin American counterparts opted to keep it real by sticking to their boom-bap beats crafted with soulful vinyl samples, spitting freestyle rhymes in corner-street cyphers and wearing Timbos.
Last week I introduced you to Koxmoz who are, no doubt about it, my favorite hip-hop artists in current Argentina’s burgeoning scene. Today I wanted to explore a little deeper and show you who else is out there. Many of these artists appeared on the scene in the mid ‘00s and, unlike their predecessors, I don’t necessarily know them personally. Others I knew in the ‘90s as kids who were around tagging trashcans and spinning on their heads and today are legit ghetto super stars.
Of course this is not, nor it tries to be, an encompassing account of the whole scene, and there are plenty more talented artists to follow up the research on your own. This is just an introduction to the real dirty south, were boom-bap thrives.
Mustafa Yoda is, hands down, the most hard-working and influential player in the current Argentine hip-hop scene. He built himself a reputation killing it on the corner cyphers as a pioneer freestyle rapper in the late ‘90s and recording a never-officially-released, paradigm-shifting, bootleg album with La Organización, a mythological crew where he shared the mic with the cats that would eventually become Koxmoz.
The Moreno native later became a hip-hop mogul leading Sudamétrica, a collective and indie record label where many of today’s greatest MC’s in Argentina (including Sandoval, Armamentales and many others) got their first steps. He also conducts workshops for young aspiring rappers, organizes national freestyle summits, and even produced a documentary movie.
The highest-profile player amongst the younger generation with the most mainstream projection, Emanero drops introspective and playful rhymes with a flow that owes a lot to SFDK’s Zatu, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unlike many of his contemporaries who seem to be exclusively focused on crafting contrived, tongue-twisting verses, Emanero managed to master the art of the catchy, sing-song chorus as well, giving him a crossover appeal that most in Argentina’s hip-hop scene lack. Plus, he simultaneously pursues a career as an actor on a TV miniseries.
Coming up as a freestyle rapper in the late ‘90s (after years of killing it as a b-boy), Frescolate became a hip-hop juggernaut in the mid ‘00s when he won the first edition of the first Spanish-language, international freestyle competition. He’s currently the Argentine rapper with the most mainstream exposure, appearing in countless prime-time TV shows (he’s also a stand-up comedian) and going viral with his Youtube channel antics.
His crazy sense of humor and unapologetic embrace of pop culture (he’s obsessed with Michael Jackson and cartoons) distance him a bit of the rappers with a more “serious” profile (many see him as Mustafa Yoda’s nemesis), but Frescolate can also be crude and expose his vulnerability through emotional, heartwarming rhymes when he wants to.
Yes, that’s Dante Spinetta, of the world-famous, Argentine rap pioneers Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas, in the background of Jesús Vázquez’ drug-traffic-themed first video. Even though as a solo artist Vázquez is barely now making a name for himself, he’s been involved in the scene since the mid-to-late ‘90s when he used to run with Geo Ramma, the group of Dante’s younger brother, Leeva, so his alliance to the Spinetta clan goes way back.
From Ana Tijoux to La Mala to Danay Suarez, the rule seems to be that only the Spanish-speaking female rappers get to jump into international notoriety. Amongst the many femcees competing in Argentina’s new generation, I’m putting all my bets on these two. Doble Fea is still a very new duo based in Buenos Aires (although one of the two girls hails from the other side of the Andes) and they have all the right ingredients (lyrics, flow and beats on point) without any of the vices of commercial, twerk-centric rap. If the rest of their material is consistent with this track, I think I’ve found a new favorite.
Former gangsta rapper from the infamous ADS crew from the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires, Marciano is now a one-man crew with an irreverent style that defies simplistic labeling. His verses had flowed over classic boom-bap beats, as well as dancehall and ñu-cumbia beats. Of all the rappers from the ‘90s generation that remain active in the new millennium, he’s one of the most unorthodox, eclectic, and prolific, which helped him become accepted by the younger crowd while other contemporaries got trapped in the “old school” department.
His 2014 album, Tierra Del Fuego (a solemn ode to the island-province in the cold-ass extreme south of Argentina, where he was born), set the bar really high for the new generation. With top notch beat production and excellent lyrics with lots of science being dropped, Frane and his crew (La Conección Real) are the legit leaders of the new school in the real dirty south.
To say that the Wu-Tang brand of hip-hop had enormous influence in Argentina is an understatement. Florencio Varela’s T&K pay homage to the Shaolin masters and their classic “C.R.E.A.M.” with the Argentine “C.R.E.M.A.” a raw joint that only true heads can fully appreciate. It might throw you a bit off that they took this dark, claustrophobic, inherently urban sound to the Pampas landscape for the video, but to me, somehow makes sense; it balances out the off-putting English slang and the imported beer they brag about drinking by giving it a kinda authentic Argentine flavor.
There’s no room for gangsta attitudes, imported fashion trends or foreign mannerism in Juanito Flow’s world. This is as real as it gets, representing Argentina to the core. Just a normal dude, who enjoys cultivating his own ganja and drinking Coca-Cola while spitting unpretentious verses about every-day life in the working-class Western outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Remezcla readers are already familiar with Gas-Lab, a recurrent feature on our site. The go-to guy when it comes to quality beat production, known for his jazzy, organic, soulful beats, Gas-Lab produced an album for Mustafa Yoda, created beats for some of the best Spanish-speaking MCs of the continent (including Mexico’s Bocafloja and Dominican Republic’s Hache ST), and some underground Anglo artists as well. He’s currently preparing yet another collection of all-instrumental tracks.