10 Tracks That Define Nuyorican Culture

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla.
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla.
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Throughout history, New York City has been a melting pot of cultures, and no community embodies this dynamic fusion better than Nuyoricans – Puerto Ricans born or raised in the city. The pulse of the streets syncs up with who we are as people and translates into different aspects of who we are, like our firmly held beliefs and generations of traditions. Music, specifically, has always been an important part of the Nuyorican identity, reflecting our unique cultural group’s vibrancy, struggles, and triumphs. 

As a Nuyorican who grew up in downtown Manhattan, I can attest to how our heritage has deeply influenced the hustle of the city. One significant influence that resonates with many of us is our profound love for music. I look back at my childhood and recall hearing the entertaining stories from my parents’ youth. They spent their days exploring the city, hailing from Bushwick, Brooklyn, with friends, beepers on their hips, and good music to keep the vibes going. It’s something I found myself doing as a spirited teenager, exploring different areas of the city, from El Barrio to Loisaida. There are so many corners in this city that define who we are.

From the lively beats of salsa to the raw lyrical poetry of hip-hop, our music serves as a powerful soundtrack to our daily lives, weaving rich elements from our beloved Puerto Rico into the pulse of our city’s likeliness. In this piece, we’ll explore a few iconic artists who embody the Nuyorican experience. These 10 songs have shaped past and current generations to come. From Tito Puente to Nina Sky, these songs define what it means to be Nuyorican.

Marc Anthony - “Vivir Mi Vida” 

This 2013 classic is about wholeheartedly celebrating all moments in life. “Vivir Mi Vida” is the perfect snapshot of Nuyorican culture. The music video portrays a lively block party in Marc Anthony’s birthplace, East Harlem, or as the locals call it, El Barrio. It has been over 10 years since this song was released, but every time it plays, it’s just as inspiring.

Nina Sky - “Move Ya Body (feat. Jabba)”

This track from the early 2000s is infused with elements of reggae and dancehall, easily becoming a staple at summer backyard parties. Nina Sky showcases the fusion of Caribbean cultures into one, turning this into a classic dance song that makes you want to move, literally.

Nice & Wild - “Diamond Girl”

This freestyle gem was released in 1987 but still lives on through our parents’ playlist at every family event. “Diamond Girl” captures the youthful essence of New York culture, where groups of friends would circle around a boombox to hear the uptempo dance music. The catchy beats and heartfelt lyrics made it a favorite at block parties and summer gatherings.

El Gran Combo - “Un Verano en New York”

This salsa hit paints a colorful picture of a lively summertime in New York City. The song celebrates the city’s diversity and pulsating rhythm. El Gran Combo’s ode to the Big Apple became an anthem for Nuyoricans embracing their dual heritage.

Wisin y Yandel - “Rakata”

As one of the most successful reggaeton duos coming out of Puerto Rico, Wisin y Yandel are responsible for the rise in popularity of reggaeton in New York City. “Rakata” was one of the tracks that broke through to the Nuyorican youth. With its vibrating beat and catchy hook, it became a club and sala anthem.

Big Pun - “100% (feat. Tony Sunshine)”

Coming from the Bronx, Big Pun is recognized as one of the pioneers in Latine hip-hop in New York City. “100%” is an ode to unapologetically being Puerto Rican. His straightforward delivery and lyricism make him one of the best Nuyorican rappers in history.

N.O.R.E. - “Oye Mi Canto” 

This early 2000s track is a perfect example of how a bilingual song could impact the Latine youth in New York. It reflected the reality of many Nuyoricans, bridging their culture and language. N.O.R.E. channels his Afro-Latine heritage to create a hit that became a summer anthem for so many.

Fat Joe -  “What’s Luv? (feat. Ashanti)”

Rapper Fat Joe delivered this timeless hip-hop hit with such a smooth delivery. His Nuyorican flair mixed with Ashanti’s sultry vocals made this track one of the top rap songs of the 2000s, which I honestly still listen to regularly.

Tito Puente - “Oye Como Va”

Tito Puente’s iconic hit truly solidified his status as a Nuyorican mambo legend. His combination of Afro-Caribbean rhythms with jazz sounds paved the way for the Latine jazz genre as we know it. The song’s rhythm and melody continue to resonate with music lovers over 60 years later.

Willie Colon & Ruben Blades  - “Pedro Navaja”

Willie Colon and Ruben Blades painted a salsa masterpiece that explores life in New York City. They sing about the ups and downs, the reality of death, and sprinkle in a bit of dark humor. This track is a perfect example of the storytelling prowess of Latine artists, specifically Colon, who hailed from the Bronx.



Remezcla will bring the Boricua representation to the 2024 Red Bull Culture Clash on June 1 at 1 Noble St in Brooklyn, NY. Nina Sky, Tony Touch, J.I, the Prince of N.Y., Christian Martir with Capicu!, and other surprise guests, will embody the spirit of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Tickets are free with RSVP via the Dice app