The Long Legacy Of Latin Music Influencing Hip-Hop

Sep 26, 2018
Originally published on September 29, 2018 12:12 pm

Cardi B's Billboard No. 1 song "I Like It" samples Pete Rodriguez's 1967 boogaloo hit "I Like It Like That." Just as the song's chart-topping success is emblematic of hip-hop's current absorption of reggaeton, the 1967 hit capitalized on a moment in New York history created by Latin voices.

"That was a great moment in New York, particularly in Nuyorican history, whereby rhythm and blues of the African American community was bridged with ... Latin roots," DJ Bobbito Garcia says when recalling the birth of the short-lived boogaloo movement that would eventually lend itself to Cardi's smash hit more than 50 years later.

DJ Stretch Armstrong remembers when he started to incorporate "I Like It Like That" into his DJ sets, which he notes, at the time, were "99 percent not Latin music," how instantly magnetic the song became.

Armstrong and Garcia, who host NPR's What's Good podcast, say there have been a number of hip-hop artists who have sourced Latin music over the years. Armstrong remembers Boogie Down Productions' 1988 remix of "I'm Still No. 1," which samples the horns from the Tito Puente record "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid," as an early example of Latin music sampled in rap. Garcia credits BDP's Nuyorican producer and engineer Ivan 'Doc' Rodriguez with fitting the Puente sample in with KRS-One's lyrics.

And as hip-hop music and culture evolved, '90s rap innovators with Hispanic heritage like Cypress Hill and Big Pun incorporated their culture into their raps. "The beautiful thing about hip-hop has always been how it references old music," Armstrong says. "And if you're curious, you discover this world of music that you ordinarily, perhaps not have gotten into."

Stretch and Bob say it's certainly not just a trend for Latin influence to be part of hip-hop. "Cardi B is just part of a long legacy of Latinos drawing from their own experiences and infusing them into current rap," Garcia says.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Newsflash - Drake has been dethroned.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN MY FEELINGS")

DRAKE: (Singing) Kiki, do you love me? Are you riding? Say you'll never ever leave from beside me.

CORNISH: His inescapable song "In My Feelings" has dropped to No. 2, replaced on Billboard's top songs chart by Maroon 5 and Cardi B's "Girls Like You." DJs Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia are hosts of the NPR podcast What's Good with Stretch & Bobbito. We knew they would have thoughts. Hey, guys, what's good?

STRETCH ARMSTRONG, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

BOBBITO GARCIA, BYLINE: What's happening?

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: That's your response to Drake, "In My Feelings." That's where you are. So I guess there's no viral video of you doing the dance, the Kiki dance.

GARCIA: No, we're not in our feelings about the song.

CORNISH: Oh, no.

ARMSTRONG: That is a record I wish I could break.

CORNISH: So clearly they did not want to talk about Drake or his song, so, you know, bye-bye, Drake. Instead, Cardi B was on their minds and her other song that's been in the top 10 for some time now, "I Like It."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE IT")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) I like it like that.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: You got to believe me when I tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) I said I like it like that.

CARDI B: (Rapping) Now, I like dollars. I like diamonds. I like stunting. I like shining.

CORNISH: All right, let's talk about this sample because it's a great song, but the sample does a lot of work for this song.

GARCIA: Sure. She's interpreting the Pete Rodriguez anthem for boogaloo music from the '60s called "I Like It Like That."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE IT LIKE THAT")

PETE RODRIGUEZ: (Singing) Yeah, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: (Singing) I like it like that.

GARCIA: That was a great moment in New York, particularly Nuyorican history, whereby rhythm and blues of the African-American community was bridged with the Latin roots of the boricua, the Afro-Dominican community and kind of birthed this movement called boogaloo which only lasted maybe six, seven years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE IT LIKE THAT")

RODRIGUEZ: (Singing) Baby, look at me.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: (Singing) I like it like that.

RODRIGUEZ: (Singing) Yeah.

ARMSTRONG: That's a song that was probably one of the first boogaloo records I had ever heard. I immediately needed to know what that record was. And I started playing it in my sets, which were 99 percent not Latin music.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Until he met me.

ARMSTRONG: But...

(LAUGHTER)

ARMSTRONG: But the song is instantly magnetic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE IT LIKE THAT")

RODRIGUEZ: (Singing) Before I go, I want to say...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: (Singing) I like it like that.

ARMSTRONG: There have been a number of hip-hop artists that have sourced Latin music over the years. But I think the first ever would be Boogie Down Productions' use of a Tito Puente record for the remix of the massive, anthemic "I'm Still #1."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M STILL #1")

BOOGIE DOWN PRODUCTIONS: (Rapping) B-Boy records you just can't crush. Making funky music is a must. I'm number one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

ARMSTRONG: That was pretty revolutionary at the time.

CORNISH: It feels revolutionary right now.

GARCIA: One of the producers on that BDP record was Ivan Doc Rodriguez, who was Nuyorican - you know, parents born in Puerto Rico and raised here in the city. DJ Doc had a huge influence on BDP, was their tour DJ. He helped out with production as well.

ARMSTRONG: Engineer as well...

GARCIA: Right.

ARMSTRONG: ...Shaping the sonic quality of Boogie Down Productions on their records...

GARCIA: Well, and then...

ARMSTRONG: ...And many others.

GARCIA: Right. And BDP wound up becoming a template for production style and engineering and mastering. Even so, huge record. And Tito Puente, if you don't know, is the Latin artist of all time. I mean, he recorded over a hundred albums. And Tito became a global hero way beyond Latin music, way beyond on Afro-Cuban music, way beyond mambo music.

ARMSTRONG: Did you say over a hundred albums?

GARCIA: Tito Puente recorded over a hundred albums.

ARMSTRONG: You know what you call that?

GARCIA: What?

ARMSTRONG: Trabajo.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: It's nice setup. I like the setup on that.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: So does this - is this something thing that moves in phases, kind of hip-hop reaching to this, you know, section of albums for samples?

ARMSTRONG: Hip-hop is always moving in sort of trendy directions, right? I mean, if you listen to the Billboard top 10 pop - you know, I haven't done a detailed analysis, but the BPMs...

GARCIA: Beats per minute.

ARMSTRONG: ...The tempo - most of these songs on the top 10 are in a pretty narrow range of tempo. They kind of all either are trap records or are related somehow to trap music, which of course is a version of Southern hip-hop which has very slow beats. The Cardi record is trapish. Her producer was able to take this boogaloo record and make it fit into a trap beat because the original song, "I Like It Like That" by Pete Rodriguez, is something like 180 beats per minute. If you cut that in half, that would be - what? - 90 beats per minute. I'm not sure exactly what the tempo of the Cardi B record is, but it fits into that time structure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE IT")

CARDI B: (Rapping) Oh, he's so handsome. What's his name?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) I said I like it.

CARDI B: (Singing) Oh, I...

ARMSTRONG: This is a little bit music nerdy, but...

CORNISH: It is - I'm so into it. First of all, you've just identified everything from Maroon 5 to Cardi B as roughly in the same beat range. But two, also fascinating hearing how something like boogaloo music could, like, come back in this way - right? - and just kind of fit right into this moment.

ARMSTRONG: Well, I think the beautiful thing about hip-hop has always been how it references old music. And if you're curious, you discover this world of music that you would ordinarily perhaps not have gotten into.

GARCIA: Let me also add that it's certainly not a trendy thing for Latin influence to be part of hip-hop music, hip-hop culture. Cypress Hill...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE")

CYPRESS HILL: Don't you know I'm loco?

GARCIA: ...Big Pun...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "100%")

BIG PUN: (Rapping) I'm the Don Juan beside the Don. Live long.

GARCIA: ...And Cardi B is just part of a long legacy of Latinos drawing from their own experiences and infusing them into current rap.

CORNISH: That's Bobbito Garcia - thank you so much...

GARCIA: Oh, (speaking Spanish).

CORNISH: ...And Stretch Armstrong. Check out their podcast. It's called What's Good with Stretch & Bobbito. Thanks, guys.

ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "100%")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #3: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.