Rivera-Rideau’s central argument in this chapter is that- reggaeton was a vehicle for the evolution of culture, behaviours, and the identity of Latin American artists and the portrayal of Latin American culture in the media since the Latin Boom of the 1990s until today. He argues that the racialisation of reggaeton led to the creation of a Latin American racial class between black and white on the racial spectrum with association common to both groups, but especially to black communities and hip hop.
Rivera explores Daddy Yankee’s original smash hit brought reggaeton to the United States despite his singing being in Spanish, he appealed widely to English audiences as well. Gasolina was about historic sound, self identity, otherness, race, and place. The US. media at the time ignored this history and the complex themes that reggaeton explored, increasingly labelling it as Puerto Rican, and then Latino. This emphasis on portraying Daddy Yankee as new, and only sparingly mentioning his already illustrious career in reggaeton in Puerto Rico fit well into the tendency of the US. record labels to present their Latino artists as “new discoveries.” These artists, Enrique Iglesias. Shakira, were presented in the Latin boom in stereotypical ways; hypersexual, “hot tamales” The media also emphasized these artist’s whiteness- a racialization of performers of Latino descent. This phenomenon created a racial niche in which Latinidad artists occupied between white and black- the Puerto Rican being closer to black than white, and other artists like Shakira and Ricky Martin, nearer to white on the racial spectrum and capable of being assimilated into whiteness, fit. In this way, music was used to create racial classes and divisions which it in turn reinforced. The artists that followed would try to fit into these stereotypical moulds. The media also reinforced distinctions between Latin American artists and African American artists and therefore widened the already existing divisions between Latin American communities and black Latin Americans whose authenticity of identity then became suspect.
The influence that the media and record labels had in the development of Latin American music, its racialization and therefore the racialization of its performers is undeniable and Rivera Rideu makes this clear when he describes the creation of the Hurbans largely through the development of Latinadad culture and music. He describes the impact companies seeking to segment their markets to more easily market their music to groups as a driver of the divisions between black and Latinadad groups.
In the formation of a Hurban group- Rivera notes the importance of music and commercial companies and record labels in developing our identities. The new Hurban group also references the importance of place in forming our identities. In this way, reggaeton shares linkages with black American identity in its roots in urban life. In both Puerto Rico, and the United States of America, the term urban carries with it implications of blackness. Scholars such as Robin D. Kelley and Murray Forema reference urban areas as being predominantly black spaces. This is especially evident in terms like “inner city,” which references urban black neighbourhoods. In this way, concepts of place and race play into each other inseparably. These generalizations simplify the complexity of black and Latinadad culture, perhaps again in a bid to simplify a single market for music record labels and corporate entities.
Rivera then links the association of place- “urbanness,” with gender-” masculinity,” by noting the relationship between perceptions of urbanness, with masculine black “thugs.” These traits make black and Latino groups counterculture to the white middle class majority. Scholars like Linda Chavez, then propose hypotheses that African Americans and Puerto Ricans are viewed as experiencing cultural poverty, and therefore beyond and without true need of intervention or assistance. Rivera notes how these observations ignore the racial, colonial, and exploitative roots of these problems now explained away as being cultural. Rivera describes a shift in the cultural ownership of Hip Hop from being seen singularly black, to being both Latinadad and black-owned around the 1990s
Common links between Hip hop and reggaeton are further explored as describing their places of origin, describing the violence of urban centers, the partying, drug use, and emphasized sexuality. The media portrayed the inner cities this way, and the music produced describing them this way and all of this worked together to reinforce the already dominant narrative that hip hop and reggaeton were counterculture.
Gender hierarchies shaped the evolution of reggaeton in that reggaeton described the day to day life of Latinadad staying in urban centers where gender hierarchies were a part of everyday life, and the differences between gender were start and clear. Similarly, class hierarchies, and race influenced its evolution because as artists composed their music, they sought to tell the authentic story of the lives they lived and singing about race, gender and class all served to make these issues more public and mainstream. This all served to make reggaeton viewed as being contrary to general culture which was viewed as being more conservative and restrained.
Reggaeton is useful as a way to understand cultural exchanges in that it is a genre of music which has influenced and been influenced by a plethora of other music genres and the observation of how it has evolved and continues to evolve over time exhibits the same way in which cultures interact and creolize.
Rivera argues that reggaeton’s history has been influenced significantly by U.S. interpretations of it and the media and record companies have often portrayed it in ways, whether incidentally or intentionally, that polarized the groups that produced it and made them seem separate and distinct despite their common origins in many cases. He ends the chapter by exploring the possible futures that reggaeton and hip hop may have and their continued rise in popularity on global platforms like Youtube.