Editorial Note: Remezcla Will No Longer Use the Terms ‘Urbano’ & ‘Música Urbana’

Lead Photo: Art by Alan López for Remezcla
Art by Alan López for Remezcla
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Effective immediately, Remezcla will abandon the terms urbano and música urbana when referring to reggaetón, Latin trap, dembow and other genres generally classified under the same umbrella, as these are terms that are inextricably linked to a history of exclusion and segregation within the music industry.

The term “urban” or “urban contemporary” was coined in the U.S. in the 1970s as a radio station format, and was used synonymously as an umbrella term for Black music—despite encapsulating various genres such as funk, R&B, soul and later hip-hop. Within the recording industry and in award shows, the word has been used as a way to separate Black artists, while hypocritically allowing many white artists to freely navigate in and out of numerous categories—including urban.

Within Latin music, urbano serves as a catch-all term for a diverse melange of Caribbean genres including Latin trap and reggaetón, but the term comes with a fraught and problematic history reeking of exclusion and othering, defining the beloved genres many artists fought for.

From the diablo rojo buses of Panama, to the caseríos of Carolina and San Juan, the Black artists who paved the way for what is now nothing short of a global pop phenomenon had to fight their way through discrimination, major award show exclusion and even police brutality, while being largely erased from its historical narrative and its current iteration.

And though reggaetón, Latin trap, Latin R&B and dembow exist as genres independently of one another, we realize there are instances in which finding a way to refer to this Latin movement as one collective is needed—particularly given the fact that many artists work within more than one of these genres—often within the same album.

That’s why moving forward, when writing about more than one of these genres, we will refer to it as  “el movimiento,” or simply “movimiento” for short. This is a term we believe captures the essence of what this global movement has accomplished, while giving it an uplifting connotation, free of the nefarious implications bestowed on it by industry gatekeepers. And it’s a term that is not too far from El movimiento urbano—which many in the industry, like Alofoke already use.

This is a moment in history in which the masses are finally beginning to listen, and by shedding outdated systems and terms, we can collectively move the needle towards the equitable future many of us have dreamed about. This is also a term which was discussed with various other figures in urbano journalism, including Jennifer Mota Valdez, Katelina Eccleston aka Reggaetón con La Gata, and Guru of Rapeton among others.

We realize there may be some hesitation, but we encourage our friends, fellow journalists, colleagues, and other publications who cover this music to join us in making a lasting impact on the way we write about, market, consume and tell the history of this wonderful music. And we challenge the powers that be at record labels, streaming services and awards shows to go beyond their statements of inclusivity, and affect real change through action.

We also hope that this moment will open up a larger dialogue within our music community about the erasure and exclusion of the Black artists who created the sounds, and will inspire the masses to not only seek out the foundational figures within el movimiento, but to also spotlight and make room for Black artists who are largely ignored by labels, publications and music fans alike.

As one of the key figures responsible for sowing the seeds of reggaetón, Panamanian plena artist Renato, once told Remezcla,”The stations didn’t wanna play our songs ‘cause they were like, ‘No this is Black music… Nadie invirtió en nosotros. We were black from Panama City. People were like, ‘This image looks beautiful, and this image looks mas o menos; let me go with the white guys,’ and that’s what happened.”

Ya basta.

Editorial note: 

We have removed the word ‘Latino’ from our first suggestion, as it is not inclusive nor does it best represent this movement.