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“Trilligan’s Island”: Puerto Rican Hip-Hop’s New Styles

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Juicy 8o8s and raw rhymes fill “Trilligan’s Island,” a video from our friends at Remezcla featuring Puerto Rican hip-hop crews Fuete Billete, Jazz Bandana, Young Kingz and LV CIVDVD. This brief exploration of the reinvention of hip-hop in San Juan cuts a mean scope of the roiling Puerto Rican hip-hop revival. Bong-ripping, booty-slapping rap ninjas speak bluntly for themselves about their musical and cultural aspirations. In a local industry full to the brim with reggaeton, these artists represent a dissolution of the boundaries between underground rap and electronic pop, and express their urgent need for taboo-dissolving sound on the scene.

Where previously reggaeton paved one of the only avenues for musical success in San Juan’s industry, fresh hip-hop crews confront these barriers headfirst. In the video, defiant shots of middle fingers in the air, a rapper performing live as he gets inked, and slow-motion images of live trap performances tearing up the club paint a picture of a self-consciously grimy vibe, explosive energy and unassailable artistic drive. Sidestepping the “big money promoter” label and club circuit, these rappers view the Internet as their primary platform for reaching fans.

The heaviness of their music stems from southern trill and the dirty sonic aesthetic of artists like A$AP Mob, Curren$y and Three Six Mafia. The DIY nature of the scene’s  production is reflected in the work of these emerging crews, many of whom create everything from their own fashion to their own videos. They lose the scrappiness of these old-school role models in favor of a cleaner, more polished production styles. Their music occupies a somewhat uneasy middle ground as a result.

Although the stories that these rappers tell expose a new category of Puerto Rican hip-hop youth to rap en Español, Remezcla’s video also reflects part of the misogynistic tale of the male-dominated scene in Puerto Rico. One rapper is filmed posing for a photo shoot staring directly at the camera with the butt cheeks of a random model pressed to his face. In videos produced by Fuete Billete, we see the crew being fanned and puffing blunts propped up for them by gorgeous women. A masked woman dons a Puerto Rican flag-printed bikini as the rappers attempt to defy the “colonial” mindset that decrees that Puerto Ricans can’t, and won’t, break into the international market. In the words of Fuete’s Peper Kilo, “it is absolutely politically incorrect.” Unfortunately, there seems to be no distinction in their aesthetic between political incorrectness and the sexual objectification of women. Either way, these rappers are reviving hip-hop through a combination of slick flows, grinding, nationalistic pride, blatant sexism and basic transgressions. Shout out to Remezcla for their insight into this fresh scene. Check it out here:

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