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How to Work Culture Into Your Music Like the Afro Latin Artists Currently Running the Game

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This year, we’re heading into melting pot of racial ambiguity, but we still have a while to go before we start seeing all types of representation in our music industry and media.

Cardi B is arguably the new queen of hip hop, and is unabashedly proud of her Dominican and Trinidadian roots. As a fellow New Yorker, I have to give her props for representing her people and her background. Not only has she made equal moves in the U.S market, but in collaborations with Latino artists such as Bad Bunny and J. Balvin, she’s paid homage to her roots as well as opening up another massive market. She’s currently running American music with multiple singles on the chart with a serious rags to riches story under her belt.

This one comes from a little more authenticity than “Despacito”, and her climbing ranks in the charts from her fusion track “I Like It” proves that. The song itself is representative of Cardi’s background - the beat is ultimate Latin pride, while she raps over it, letting the Afro seep into Afro Latina a little more.

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More independent artists like Princess Nokia and Nitty Scott don’t just show their love and support for both sides of their culture through subtle ways; it’s actually the subject matter most of the time. Nokia, Cardi and Scott all hail from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic - both places with displaced populations or “diaspora”, which Afro identity ties into as well.

The artists confront this history in their work, as well a discussing their own complicated relationship with their various cultural histories. In the male dominated hip hop scene, these women aren’t only owning their culture - they’re owning their identity as powerful females through the lens of their culture as well.

In track like “Brujas” for Nokia and ”Diaspora” for Scott, the artists don’t only make outsiders more woke, they explore it through musical aspects like precision, and include other fragments of their culture, like magical realism, hence Scott’s “Diaspora” video and the concept behind Nokia’s “Brujas” track.

Not only do these women raise awareness for their culture, but it’s a tactical business move as well. By expanding their art into two cultures (the Afro and the Latina one) they open themselves up to two huge markets. Not only is the Latin music market about to explore this year, but they also have the sheer numbers behind it. That market might not be mainstream yet, but its huge.

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We’re also in an age where even the mainstream music is starting to sound more Latin and take on a “world” vibe, opening up the cross-over genre production possibilities. Now that Cardi put on big Latin artists to a U.S. market, their numbers will increase and she’ll be part of their upward journey since she put them on and supported in the first place. They’ll pay her the favour back when the Latin market finally crosses over and becomes more mainstream. She’s also a part of their culture, giving her the credibility that she’s not just trying to capitalize on diversity.

It’s also a solid way to stay true to yourself as an artist and feel like you’re doing something for your community through your art. The age of diversity and the acceptance of mixed beauties is finally approaching in the music industry. It’s time for women of colour to start taking advantage of that and speaking their truth. These cultural conversations also open up opportunity for feminist content which Nokia has definitely taken advantage of. In the wake up #timesup and #metoo, we don’t think that subject matter is going away anytime soon.

Plus, who’s going to turn down a lyrical goldmine? Everyone has something to say about their history and their identity. The world is just waiting for you to tell it in an innovative way.