Today in Cuba rap music is, without question, a very powerful vector of freedom of expression, allowed by the state and now promoted by it. The Castro regime, although very much questioned in the news by those paying attention to the expression of opinions on the island, has enabled about 600 rap music bands to flourish. This is their story.
Compared to its North American neighbors, and despite their domination, Cuban rap is a good means of observation of the open direction in which Cuban society is heading. VIEW SHORT INTRO CLIP BELOW:
Initially hip-hop was viewed with suspicion, not just by the government, but by many in the community as well. With raperos emulating US rappers' aggressive posturing and lyrical content, hip-hop was seen as just another cultural invasion from the US, bringing with it a sense of violence and related problems. That's changed.
JayZ and Beyonce recently attended Hip Hop events in Havana.
The importation and the birth of Cuban rap could be debatable, but many argue that the importation of U.S rap and its influence was brought from Miami. Rap hit Cuba approximately a quarter century ago but it was not imported to Cuba until 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union. However it existed among young moneros, who had a tremendous oral ability and linguistic creativity. At the beginning of establishing Rap in Cuba, rap was perceived as a foreign import, and while it was never forbidden, neither was it promoted or encouraged. The Cuban government changed its perceptions about hip-hop in 1999 when it declared it as an authentic expression of Cuban Culture.
In addition the government has formed the Agencia Cubana de Rap (The Cuban Rap Agency) that provides state-run record label and hip-hop magazine, and began supporting the annual Cuban Hip Hop festival. Cuban rappers injected a renovating energy into Cuban music that was taken from hip hop culture. Rap in Cuba began to emerge precisely during the gangsta rap period in the United States which included artists like 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G, Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and many influential gangster rappers.
Purchase Havana Hip Hop Underground DVD $250 (includes classroom screening and closed campus streaming rights) Length: 72 minutes.