Why hasn’t Mexico City embraced hip-hop?

Our view from the Goodie Mobb Reunion Show in Atlanta, on Sept. 19, 2009

Our view from the Goodie Mobb Reunion Show in Atlanta, on Sept. 19, 2009

We saw Goodie Mobb in Atlanta last week, and as we stood outside in the rain, listening to everyone around us yell out the lyrics, I wondered again why hip-hop hasn't caught on in Mexico City. The D.F. is a gritty place. It's urban. There are plenty of people living in poverty, and there's political corruption and drug violence. It's gold-mine material for a hip-hop song, and that's not even counting the fact that the U.S. is our closest neighbor, and you'd expect some of its mainstream hip-hop culture to seep in here. It hasn't. Lil' Wayne may be blowing up U.S. urban radio, but I can't find a single bar that plays him in Mexico City. (Or a single bar that plays any hip-hop, save for an ultra lounge in Polanco. But that doesn't count because it's an ultra lounge, and you have to wear heels and makeup to get in.) Live rap shows aren't too common here, either. A friend of mine who follows the tiny Mexico City scene says most of the hip-hop shows he knows of are in far-flung suburbs. It's sad, because I really miss hearing the music. I grew up in Southern California with my ear glued to the radio, listening to Tupac, Dr. Dre, DJ Quick, Lighter Shade of Brown. And then there was the R&B: Guy, Blackstreet, SWV, Xscape, R. Kelly. Actually, I didn't realize how much I missed R&B until we got to Atlanta last week, and I turned on the radio in our rental car and heard Johnny Gill's "My My My" blaring. We were eating gyros in our laps, trying to make good time to Huntsville. I turned it up and sang along, my mouth stuffed with beef and lamb: "Put on your red dress… and slip on your high heels… and some of that sweet perfume…" No one could sing like Johnny. I haven't read a whole lot about why hip-hop isn't big here, but I wonder if it has to do with the fact that in Mexico, there seems to be a culture of quiet acceptance when things go wrong. Politicians stealing again? Sigh, shake of the head. Yep, that's what they always do. No water? Yeah, but that's just the way it is. The general notion seems to be to keep your head down, and make sure your family is fed. Not strike back at The Man through politically aware lyrics. That still doesn't answer the question about why American hip-hop culture hasn't seeped in more. Mexicans have embraced plenty of other aspects of American culture -- fast food, sneaker boutiques, Wal-Mart. In any case, I am not the only lonely, hip-hop depraved American here who misses her music. A few friends and I have groused about it together, and we've talked about renting out a bar and combining our various iPod powers. We'll see if that ever pans out. With that, I will leave you with one song we fell in love with in Atlanta: Soulja Boy Tell 'Em's "Turn My Swag On," which upon first listen is eye-rollingly simple, but then you realize that's what makes it so good.
40 Responses to “Why hasn’t Mexico City embraced hip-hop?”
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