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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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It’s a thankless job, but would you like to rant for Rictus?

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Are you Latino, Latina, or Latinx? If you’re not, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you lived in Latin America, or know Latino culture well. More importantly, do you have a funny, witty, dumb, eye-opening, or virgen María-blessed insight about something? A personal story, a political view, groundbreaking analysis, or dissenting review about a movie, record, city, art show, or something nobody cares about?

Maybe nobody cares about whatever you’re interested in because you haven’t written about it. Share your thoughts with strangers! You may get even some virtual likes on social media, and that’s how people count happiness in 2018, right?

José and I have a lot of fun here at Rictus, but it’s fun to publish contrasting voices. We don’t make any money, so neither will you. This is really just about you loving the written word, as we do.

Some shit to consider:

  • Can be as short as 300 words, or as long as you think you can hold people’s attention with your awesome wordsmithery.
  • It’s a lot more important — to us, anyway — that you’re funny, insightful, or engaging about whateverthefuckyouwriteabout than a being a super professional writer, so don’t be shy.
  • In English, please. We may add a Spanish section later, but, yeah, English werds, for now.
  • You can use a pen name. Maybe you work at some conservative think tank and and don’t want to be found out. That’s fine. Use your superhero name.
  • You should already have a good pitch. What do you know, or have strong opinions about, that others don’t? Are you mad about something you recently saw in the news? Does your aunt drive you crazy? Have you noticed an interesting pattern in penis owners? Are you a media geek? Do you love celebrities, but hate their dumb looks?

Shoot us an email with ideas: rictus.co (@) gmail dot com, or use the contact form, or reach out privately is you follow us on social media.

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Broke, youthful & repressed: Things you’re too dumb to appreciate in your 20s

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Are you trying to get through your 20s gracefully? Then you’ve come to the wrong place — and I don’t mean this website, I mean this planet. But this website too, maybe.

Listen, you will make horrible mistakes during your existence because #youth. But pay attention because, even if you don’t get past your 20s with some grace, you may be able to get by with some dignity.

1) You poor, endearing bastard

Ah, to be young, dumb, and full of cumulative social issues. As a broke twentysomething, you’re usually too self-conscious to realize that your youth, in a strange way, sanctions your destitution. You realize you’re poor — that’s obviously not the issue — but instead of making it your warcry, and finding strength in a nothing-to-lose attitude, you burden yourself attempting to portray the opposite.

Maybe you’re still trying to prove to society — and your parents, most of all — that you’re an independent, responsible, adult-ass person. You really want that vindication, especially if you spent tons of money on getting edumacated. Yet, you’re between a precious little window of time when society is still willing to forgive your poverty, access to influence, and lack of experience.

Ah, but once you reach your 30s? Let’s just say the Eye of Sauron has nothing on people’s judgemental gaze.

There are exceptions, of course, and if you come from money, none of what I just wrote will make sense to you. But in short, youngsters tend to misuse the grace period their youth affords them.

2) Foooreeever young. You’re gonna be, foooreeever dumb.

So you’re a young blood under the impression that your physical and mental machinations will go on forever because you can, like, totally wake up in the middle of the night with tons of ideas and inspiration, even if you got wasted at a party the day before.

And, whatever — you still have a baggie full of coke in your coat, even if it’s 60% baby formula. You can snort it at any point to get an extra kick, but why not save it for the next party? Because your work ethic is just unstoppable, and the thought of physical deterioration seems incredibly foreign.

Little do you know that nature is maniacally cackling behind a crystal ball in a deep lair within your body. It’s waiting to play a cruel joke on your dumbass, and when it’s time — in your 30s — it will begin by sabotaging your stamina.

That’s only the first part of nature’s cruel plan. The second phase is a lot more sinister because, although you’re left with a portion of the physical energy you used to have, a psychological hangup will turn all of your unfinished, half-realized ideas into regrets.

Suddenly, when you’re in the middle of a Netflix ‘n chill session, half-watching the 25th episode of some stupid show you don’t even like, nature will bitingly turn to your formally unstoppable will to say: “Where’s your messiah now?”

Its grim, I know. The point is, if you come to terms with the fact that age will physically slow you down, and you do so when you’re still young, it may push you focus on whatever you think is truly important.

3) Unlike complicated emotional bonds, sex stupid, but fun.

Sex is fun, but incredibly stupid. Stripped of all of the symbolism polite society instills on copulation, either through romcoms, music, books, or coming of age parties (see quinceañeras), the physical act of rubbing genitals with another person is messy and mundane. Conceptually, cooking chilaquiles is a lot more complicated than getting your gross body to secrete fluids.

I hate to go all Sex at Dawn on you, but modern culture has done a number on everybody. Current social taboos still conflate sex with all emotional sensations. A person can be sexually attracted to another while not being intellectually stimulated by them, and that’s fine. But most people still expect every sexual partner to be a perfectly-matched significant other, and that’s dumb.

Very few youngsters internalize a sexually-positive outlook. Their hormones are out of control, just like their clouded, repressed judgement, and too much emotional stock is placed on what could be a fun, pleasing, but ultimately near-meaningless experience — just like cooking chilaquiles.

Deep, rewarding, emotional, or enlightening bonds can be had with just about anyone — your aunt, a garbage man, or even a piece of clothing. You probably can’t have rewarding sex with any of those three — maybe the garbage man, if he’s hot — but you can have good sex with a dumb stranger.

Do it, and don’t feel guilty about it.


 

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