Societal rhythm of hip-hop discussed

By Kiran Sood

Jillian Baez, doctoral student at the University Institute of Communications Research, will discuss issues of gender and nationalism in Puerto Rican hip-hop music in a presentation today at noon in Room 101 of the International Studies Building, 910 S. Fifth St.

The lecture, titled “El Ritmo de Reggaeton: Discourses of Gender and Nationalism in Puerto Rican Hip-Hop,” is part of the spring brown bag series for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS).

In the lecture, Baez said she would provide a discourse analysis of the lyrics, music, performances and reception of female reggaeton artist Ivy Queen, otherwise known as the “Queen of Reggaeton.”

Hip-hop is often dominated by males, but females are also allowed to make their presence, Baez said.

“While hip-hop has generally been understood in terms of African-American masculinity in the United States, I propose to examine hip-hop in Puerto Rico as a transnational process and as a site of female agency within the structure of a male-dominated sphere,” Baez said.

Devin Chambers, freshman in LAS, said hip-hop serves a vital purpose for many people in society.

“It allows marginalized African-Americans to express themselves when they would not in normal white-dominated society, through a very innovative art form,” Chambers said.

Vanessa Martinez, freshman in LAS, said she is a huge fan of hip-hop music and is looking forward to attending the event.

“I personally love hip-hop because you can really dance to it, and the beats are forever changing and becoming even hotter,” Martinez said. “Hip-hop combines rap and dance, and I think that’s real cool.”

Martinez also said that to her, hip-hop is more than a beat to dance to: it’s also a form of expression, perhaps even poetry.

“Hip-hop has been used as many things other than being just music,” she said.

Baez said this topic is of relevance and importance to many people right now.

“This work provides a new way to think about hip-hop that is not so U.S.- and male-centered,” she said. “It is also important because this music, it is the voice of the youth of this generation of both Puerto Ricans on the island and Latinos in the U.S.”

Swati Acharya, freshman in engineering, said although hip-hop may not be her favorite type of music, even she couldn’t resist it at times.

“I have to admit that it is very catchy and just gets into you whenever you’re in a large group in a party atmosphere,” Acharya said. “The beat makes the music insatiable.”

Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, a youth hip-hop culture in Puerto Rico has been growing as a hybrid of Caribbean and African-American music.

“I especially consider reggaeton – a more recent genre of Puerto Rican music that mixes reggae, salsa, meringue and rap – as a site of hybridity fostering an exchange of music between Puerto Ricans on the island, Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland, other Latinos, African Americans and other peoples of the Caribbean,” Baez said.

Baez has earned various awards, including the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, a Puerto Rican Studies Grant from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies and a University Graduate College Fellowship. She received her bachelor of arts in media studies and Puerto Rican/Latino studies from Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Her research was funded by the CLACS’s Tinker Field Research Grant for Graduate Student Research in Latin America and Iberia.