Let’s face it: reggaeton is one of the catchiest music genres, even if some of us hate to admit it. It has become an important part of Latinx culture, in the homeland and in the diaspora.
Like hip-hop, from where it is partly rooted, reggaeton can and has served as a channel for the emotions of a people who are oppressed and downtrodden in a society dominated by a savage economic system. By studying the lyrics of a reggaeton song, we are effectively studying the realities of Latinx peoples. It is a reasonable and justifiable release valve for millions of young people.
However, reggaeton can also be oppressive and reactionary. The obvious and most longstanding criticism is its misogynist lyrics and the objectification of women, a reflection of a wider problem prevalent in Latin American culture and society.
Reggaeton artists have now also become important mouthpieces for capitalist elites and their interests. This comes as no surprise when some singles are reaching billions of views and plays.
One of the genre’s biggest stars, Arcangel, for example, has allowed himself to be used to by right-wing elites to attack socialist Venezuela. In 2014, the Dominican-American artist called President Nicolas Maduro a “son of a bitch” at a concert and urged Venezuelans to overthrow him so that he could go and play a concert there.
As if that was not bad enough, earlier this year Arcangel took out a song with popular Puerto Rican trap star Bad Bunny where he says, “I don’t get along much with the workers, for the simple reason that I was raised with the owners.” If he did not have a history of siding with right-wing elites and actively attacking leftist and progressive governments in Latin America, then one could possibly let it pass as ignorance.
He’s not the only one either. Reggaeton’s top artists all seem to be unashamed lapdogs of their corporate masters. Maluma, the Colombian artist who has risen to fame in recent years and has clocked up hundreds of billions of views on YouTube, recently posted a picture with an Israeli border patrol officer, captioning that it was his “new security.”
Again, this could perhaps be forgiven due to ignorance if it were not for consistent behavior that demonstrates he has aligned himself with oppressive forces on the continent. Last year, he was to be awarded a gold statuette in Panama. When his team found out that it would be a Black presenter giving him the award, they said he would not accept it. Moreover, his lyrics, videos and his treatment of women at his concerts are known to be severely misogynist, outdoing many other artists who have been accused of the same.
If there was one artist who would take the crown for the most reactionary, however, it would be Daddy Yankee. As his name suggests, his loyalty is with the Yankee empire more than with his own people. At least he’s always been open about that, right?
During the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Daddy Yankee not only supported anti-immigrant, imperialist and white supremacist John McCain. He also went out of his way to endorse him at public events and rallies, earning him criticisms from other artists who called him a “sellout.”
In regards to Venezuela, he went even further than Arcangel, putting out a song against Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, saying the late leftist leader was “killing us with so much suffering.”
Earlier this year, Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi, the stars of the annoyingly-catchy song “Despacito” went on a social media rant to say they did not give Maduro permission to use their song for “propaganda.”
They falsely claimed Venezuelan people are living under a dictatorship and that Maduro was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of protesters. Daddy Yankee added that he would not be going to Venezuela until Maduro is no longer in power.
It seems like poor Daddy Yankee will not be able to visit Venezuela anytime soon as the latest elections showed the leftist ruling party has the support of the majority of voters. What a dictatorship!
There is not enough space to call out all of the elitist and reactionary shenanigans of mainstream reggaeton artists and their corporate and political masters. As a diaspora, we must not only call out these individual artists who attack socialist progress. We must make sure we are not helping to sustain them economically.
Let’s support our people’s culture, making sure that it represents the causes and ideals of the majority, not the racist, misogynist and elitist fantasies of a few.