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Is freestyle, one of the most original Latino music genres, on its deathbed?

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The Latino landscape has great pop artists, but most of the world only turns our way when they’re on the lookout for tropical-sounding music (salsa, bachata, bossa nova, cumbia, reggaeton, etc). Why? The short answer: Stereotypes.

Air and Daft Punk are not usually considered French music, and they’re never shelved in the “World” section of record store. Latin music doesn’t always get that kind of treatment because, when they’re not being reduced to American or British clones (remember when Gloria Trevi was the “Mexican Madonna”?), our pop stars are relegated to their own invisible ghetto.

It’s also our own fault because we also discriminate among our own. The genius of Esquivel, a composer who came up with his own genre a music (space-age pop), is still only appreciated by a few nerds, and they’re mostly non-Latino.

The lack of a general appreciation can happen to entire genres, such as freestyle, aka Latin freestyle or Latin hip-hop, as it used to be called in the ’80s. It’s a genre that’s been left to collect dust in old vinyl crates and broken websites.

Back when it was conceived, freestyle was highly innovative, and driven almost exclusively by Latinos. Born in New York around 1982, the genre shared similarities with its relatives, namely new wave and old-school hip-hop.

But thanks its unconventional use of drum machines, vocoders, synthesizers and heavily processed vocal effects, its urban sound stood proudly on its own:

“Notable performers in the freestyle genre include Stevie B, Corina, Lil Suzy, Timmy T, George Lamond, TKA, Noel, Company B, Exposé, Debbie Deb, Brenda K. Starr, the Cover Girls, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Information Society, Pretty Poison, Sa-Fire, Shannon, Coro, Lisette Melendez, Judy Torres, Rockell, and many others.

The music was largely made popular on radio stations such as WKTU and ‘pre-hip hop’ Hot 97 in New York City, and it became especially popular among Puerto Rican Americans and Italian Americans in the New York metro area, as well as Hispanic and Latino Americans in Los Angeles County.”

Currently the reggaeton frenzy is sweeping the entire world, and that’s fine. It’s been earned.

But before record executives went on a contact signing frenzy with late ’80s rappers, freestyle was poised to become the Latino-fortified musical obsession of the US.

“Big Pun, Fat Joe and Co. would resurrect hip-hop’s Latino profile,” says Village Voice columnist Cristina Verán, but by the time they came around, in the mid to late ’90s, the kids were hooked on hard rap and rock, not break-dancing music with robot voices and atypical drum patterns.

There’s no point in lamenting what could have been since, even during the beginning of its decline, freestyle producers quickly adapted to more prevalent forms of dance music, such as house and techno. But it’s important to remember these cultural contributions by other Latinos because they’re wildly different, and not regressive, self-serving, or stereotypical.

Curiously, freestyle fans — most of them Nuyoricans, Floridians and Mexican west coast cholos — kept the genre semi-alive during the ’90s and early aughts. The ocasional revival concert would throw lifelines to the best performers, and certain songs, such as Connie’s “Funky little beat,” became radio staples in major metropolitan radio stations.

Now freestyle seems to be on its deathbed. It’s a shame because it’s such a fun, creative, and authentic style of music. The genre broke the musical mold and Latinos can always use the inspiration — especially in these sad, graceless, and Latino-pandering times.

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María Rubio was so good as Catalina Creel, an iconic telenovela villain, the role ruined her career

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According to sources on Twitter, and also TvNotas, the holy bible of Mexican gossip, María Rubio, the legendary actress best known for her role as Catalina Creel de Larios in Cuna de lobos, has passed away. She was 83 years old.

Thanks to her role as Soraya Montenegro in María la del Barrio, Itati Cantoral has been dominating the internet with an insane amount of memes, gifs, and even a House of Cards promo special. Itati blew up in the mid ’90s, when older millennials were still teens, and she’s that generation’s go-to character when it comes to Mexican telenovela villains.

Yes, Cantoral was great as Soraya, but the top dog in the telenovela villain game was — and has always been — María Rubio. The Tijuana-born actress was so good in Cuna de lobos that, according to an interview she did with Cristina Saralegui, the role ruined her career:

“[Catalina Creel] was a difficult, beloved character. I enjoyed playing her, but she also hurt me a lot. People completely forgot about María Rubio and now it seems that, after 40 years of being an actress, I’ve only done Catalina Creel.”

Catalina, a murderous matriarch, was known for having some of the best one-liners in telenovela history. But in the same interview with Saralegui, which was filmed over 20 years ago, María proved to be just as cunning and smart as her infamous character, but also incredibly funny:

“[Although I played a villain], I’ve received nothing but compliments, love, and admiration. Never aggression. I think viewers do attack the bad ones — bad actresses, that is.”

If you understand Spanish, check out the hilarious interview below. Watch María viciously own everyone in a panel of full of young telenovela villains:

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Traumatic advice from aunt Rosa: “Don’t torture your Care Bear, Mijo. Or else.”

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I was 6 years old when I yelled at Tugs, my Care Bear. I put him in time-out for not agreeing to the rules of an imaginary game I had just created.

I built a little time-out fortress for him to stay in while I played with my other toys. Coincidentally my tía Rosa was visiting that day. I urged her to see all my toys when she came into the house. I also explained to her that Tugs was in time-out, to which she replied in shock, “Mijo, mira, You have to be nice to your toys.”

I replied, “Tía, I am nice to my toys, but I’m teaching him a lesson.”

She contested nervously, “No, Mijo, you have to be nice to your toys or they might not be nice to you.”

I wasn’t following her logic.

Mijo, if you’re not nice to your toys, then at night time they might wake up and crawl into your bed to cut your toes with tiny razors,” she said slowly while staring at my imprisoned Care Bear.

“What?!” I whispered to her while looking at Tugs from the corner of my eye.

“Yes, your toys might do very bad things to you if you don’t treat them good.”

I stared at her in disbelief.

She stood up and walked towards the doorway.

Mijo, I brought you some tortillas. Come in the kitchen and let’s warm them up,” Rosa said casually.

From then on, Tugs sat on a tufted pillow on my dresser while I slept in velcro shoes for the next year. Growing up in my Mexican-American family meant that everything was possibly alive and watching you.


Felix III – Journeys the cosmos via Holy Hands Vol. 2. Rents a one-bedroom on Neptune. IG: @Futurefelix / Twitter: @thefuturefelix


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