Saturday, August 12, 2023

Puerto Ricans Co-Creators of Hip Hop

Puerto Ricans are co-creators of Hip Hop. Here is the proof.

Hip hop is a global phenomenon that has influenced and inspired millions of people around the world. But do you know where it all started? And do you know who were some of the key players in its early development? In this blog post, we will explore the history and contributions of Puerto Ricans in hip hop, and show you why they deserve to be recognized as co-creators of this culture.

It all started at a birthday party in the Bronx. On August 11, 1973, a party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue became the birth of hip hop as DJ Kool Herc put two turntables together and created the break beat. That was the day hip hop was born . For 50+ years this revolution has taken over our music, our entertainment, and our culture.

For years, Puerto Ricans have been involved in the middle of the hip hop revolution throughout its history whether it was through breakdancing, djing, and eventually the MC’s. One of the first DJ’s to have come into prominence is DJ Charlie Chase of the Cold Crush Brothers. As a Puerto Rican, he had to fight to be accepted in a culture that was primarily African-American at the time. He made his mark by often infusing Latin music inside of break beats to combine a brand new sound with music from the Caribbean. As part of the Cold Crush Brothers he was part of the first rap group to be signed to CBS Records and co-starred in the classic film Wild Style .

Speaking of firsts, back in 1982, The Fearless Four out of Harlem became the first hip hop crew to be signed to a major label. Devastating Tito along with his signature bucket hat was part of the group and a big part of hip hop history . DJ Disco Wiz from the Bronx was also a pioneer in hip hop as a part of one of the first DJ crews, Mighty Force. He is credited for creating mixed plate alongside another legendary DJ Grandmaster Caz . In the early 1990’s, Puerto Rican Kool Bob Love aka Bobbito linked up with Stretch Armstrong to create their legendary “Stretch & Bobbito Show.” The classic show stretched from 1990-1998 and was the place where unsigned artists went to be heard. They’ve had Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, Nas, Cam’ron, DMX, and much much more with hours before their fame. On February 11, 1996, the duo brought their show to Hot 97 where they included guests such as Eminem in his first introduction to New York City, Common, Xzibit, and many more. Some of hip hop’s classic moments and freestyles live in hip hop history through this historic show .

DJ’s continued their influence into the early-to-mid 1990’s as the hip hop began to change, and the prominence mixtapes began to rise. In the early 1990’s a Brooklyn DJ by the name of DJ Enuff was rising as one of the hottest DJ’s in New York. Learning from the likes of DJ Red Alert, he ended up spinning at legendary KISS FM, before being asked to DJ for The Notorious B.I.G. as he toured on the road. Enuff has continued his career founding the Heavy Hitters DJ crew, and continuing to break new music on the New at 2 on Hot 97 . Other DJ’s made their impact in different ways. Tony Touch made his impact with his mixtape series Power Cypha: 50’s MCs, and working with some of the biggest names in hip hop . Frankie Cutlass still has one of the most famous Puerto Rico anthems to be recorded on a record, as until this day you can still hear the chant of “Puerto Rico, oooooh!” .

But Puerto Ricans were not only behind the turntables, they were also behind the mic. The pioneers of Puerto Ricans in Hip Hop began with the first Boricua DJ, Disco Wiz and the first Boricua MC, Prince Whipper Whip . Soon after, Boricuas were in Hip Hop to stay. The second Puerto Rican DJ was Charlie Chase and other MCs also emerged with Rubie Dee and Charlie Rock .  

Recently, rapper Busta Rhymes said that Puerto Ricans and Blacks created Hip Hop. This brought some in the Black community to attack him claiming that he was "erasing" Black people from the genre. This is far from the truth. We cannot deny that Puerto Ricans were heavily involved in the creation of Hip Hop. What Busta Rhymes said is correct in regard to Puerto Ricans and African Americans in The Bronx.  Those of us who grew up in the Bronx can attest to this fact including the pioneers of Hip Hop.  This does not take away from African Americans. 

Puerto Ricans are mixed with Africans and it is safe to say that most African Americans are also mixed and not purely "black" due to slavery and the horrors of it and other factors.  In fact, Puerto Ricans are part of the Black/African diaspora. So no Black person should feel erased or disrespected.  Puerto Ricans and Blacks have always been ONE force fighting against oppression and racism.  This will never change. Before Hip Hop, Puerto Ricans on the island since the time of colonization engaged in "battle rhymes" to acoustic drumbeats (African/Taino) and guitars called "Controversias" or "controversies" in English.  They "dissed" each other using these African-Taino beats and guitars as background repetitive music.  It was all in good fun though.

In my old neighborhood in Belmont, there was the Rocksteady Crew. They were a group of Hip Hop break dancers, artists, and rappers who were Puerto Rican and contributed to Hip Hop in its early days. They were even involved in "Westside Story" type altercations with the local Italians who often frowned upon the presence of Puerto Rican in the neighborhood. 

At times, there were fights on the streets with dozens of youths, both Italian and Puerto Ricans beating each other up into a pulp in the area of Crotona Avenue, 182nd and 183 Street. Most lived at 692, where my family lived at the time. 

We cannot ignore the many pioneers who help create Hip Hop who were Puerto Rican. I am sure some younger Hip Hop fans probably never heard of them.  DJ Charlie Chase, Tracy 168 whose graffiti has been documented on subway cars, Errol Eduardo Bedward known as "Pumpkin" who produce jams and beats in the 1970s, The Rocksteady Crew, The Mean Machine, The Real Roxanne, Shabba-Doo is known for his break dancing, Ruby Dee, Dj Disco Wiz, and many others. Hip Hop was not just created by African Americans. In reality, no one owns it. It belongs to all people. This is why it has branched out throughout the whole world. The genre is heard and has been adapted around the world to different languages, beats, and cultures.

Those people out there trying to erase Puerto Ricans from Hip Hop have no idea about the history of Hip Hop. They are outsiders and never lived in the Bronx nor were around during the birth of this popular genre. Their cames are shot down the history, witnesses and the receipts Puerto Ricans have and non-Puerto Rican pioneers of Hip Hop can attest to.  We were there, like DJ Charlie Chase posted on his Instagram account. 





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Sources/References:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/852787

Book: "From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity"by Professor Juan Flores who taught Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center.  

Book: New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone First Edition by R. Rivera (Author)

The actual contributions Puerto Ricans gave to hip hop! @JoeyCrackTS was right! (youtube.com)

HIP HOP IS FROM THE BRONX: A Documentary of NYC's Street Culture #thebronx #hiphophistory (youtube.com)

(1) HIP HOP IS FROM THE BRONX: A Documentary of NYC's Street Culture #thebronx #hiphophistory - YouTube

https://www.chelseanewsny.com/news/the-story-of-puerto-rican-hiphop-LWNP1420030415304159985

https://macaulay.cuny.edu/seminars/henken08/articles/h/i/p/Hip-Hop%E2%80%99s_African-American_New_York_Origins_%26_its_West_Indian_and_Puerto_Rican_influences_f647.html

http://websites.umich.edu/~ac213/student_projects06/student_projects/lhh/images/puertoricans.html

https://www.hot97.com/hot-news/a-history-of-puerto-ricans-in-hip-hop

https://puertoricoarte.com/busta-rhymes-credits-blacks-puerto-ricans-with-being-hip-hop-originators/

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=325854284971608

https://www.lipstickalley.com/threads/video-busta-rhymes-rants-black-puerto-rican-people-created-hip-hop.1495142/

https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/

https://library.hunter.cuny.edu/tags/databases

https://hunter-undergraduate.catalog.cuny.edu/departments/AFR-HTR/overview

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