Spanish rap veteran La Mala Rodriguez has released a string of collabs recently (she had a verse on Ibeyi’s “Me Voy” and teamed up with Spanish musician Juan Magan for “Usted”), but it’s been five years since she’s dropped a solo single of her own. Her long-anticipated return is “Gitanas,” a declaration of women’s strength that turns the 39-year-old artist’s lens on Spain’s gypsy communities. Falling smack dab in the middle of the #MeToo movement, the track doubles down on the themes of machismo, empowerment, and feminism that have charged La Mala’s music over the last two decades.
Flamenco rhythms, which are wildly attributed to gitanos, flourish between a sparse beat as Rodriguez snarls out her message of defiance in the face of chauvinism. “Todas valientes, si vas a venir con todo, traemelo de frente,” she raps before calling on women of gitana culture to join the battle cry: “¿Donde estan mis gitanas? Solo ellas saben lo que se cuece aquí.” The video puts the lyrics into action, as gitana women dance alongside La Mala, like an army that won’t retreat.
The use of gitano imagery and artistry sparks questions around attribution, especially as this marginalized community has struggled with both negative portrayals and invisibility in Spanish culture. Rodriguez is half-gitana and shares in an interview with Valenciaplaza that her childhood in Andalusia was marked by a close relationship to gitana culture. Her aim, she says, was to uplift a community that she feels hasn’t received its due in Spain and to represent the women whose own power may go unnoticed.
“The first feminists I ever saw around me were gitanas; you see them working outside of the home, raising their kids….They’re an example and it’s time to give them the place and respect they deserve. This country owes gitana pueblos, and Andalusia knows it,” she said.
Rodriguez added that she had a profound love, appreciation, and respect for gitano culture, and said that the song’s broader question of “¿Quién me protege?” comes at a time when more women have spoken out against injustice. La Mala’s past work feels almost prescient given the cultural moment, and it offers her space to continue to unfurl the discussions she’s been having for a long time.