I’m old school (read: broke): I have a five-year-old iPod mini which holds only 4G worth of music and each day it holds less and less. My struggle to fit new music means old jams head out the door and I am happily deleting TONS of songs to make way for the equal amount of Los Rakas‘ songs they’ve made available for free. Originally from Panama, the boys call Oakland home and combine reggae, dancehall, hip hop and reggeton into one big ass bowl of ceviche.
Speaking of old school, these boys remind me of the 1990s summers in the Bronx and Washington Heights, the neighborhoods where I’m from. Reggae was blasting from some neighbors window (Read: dancehall. Jamaicans in the Bronx don’t dance to Bob Marley); reggeton was in its infancy but had cats like Panamanian El General at the forefront, not to mention the Playero mixtapes. These were the summers of Jerry Rivera salsa tunes and Lambadas playing on someone’s boombox in front of their apartment building, while the men were playing dominos and the women were seated atop of parked cars, gossiping and trying to keep their rowdy kids in check.
There is a sophistication in Los Rakas’ music that has not been since those very days I’ve described; today’s reggeton is lackluster at best and has embraced grittier electro hip hop melodies and imagery. The “island-ness” of the rapping and the music have been replaced by a more North American sound. Let’s not forget, reggeton’s recognizable beat is the result of the “dembow” rhythm of Jamaican dancehall reggae. Los Rakas are the dembow; they are the beat, they are the sound, and the samples they use only complement their talent, not pose as talent.
You need not an emotional attachment to Latin and Caribbean music of the 90s to appreciate these jams. They have a little something for everyone.
For free downloads by Los Rakas, click HERE.
Here’s “No dicen na” by Los Rakas: