During the 1990s emerged a fun, energetic and super danceable genre of music, known as merenhouse/merenrap. Originating in New York by artists from the Dominican Republic, it is a mix that includes merengue, hip-hop, house, dancehall, and reggae. Major acts in this genre include Proyecto Uno (credited with starting the genre), Fulanito, Sandy Y Papo, and Los Illegales. At the same time, DLG, or Dark Latin Groove (Dominican and Puerto Rican), were remixing the salsa sound with reggae, house, hip hop, and more.
This was the music that made you run to the dance floor at quinceneras and weddings, and turn up in the club. I literally couldn’t not dance to it while writing this article. So, for this week’s #TBT, let’s take a walk down memory lane with nine merenhouse/merenrap/salsa fusion songs from the ’90s (click the link below for our Spotify playlist!).
“El Cepillo,” Fulanito
Dominican-American group Fulanito was puro fire in the ’90s. The group was founded in 1996 by Rafael Vargas and Winston Rosa, in New York. “El Cepilla” was a unique blend of Domincan perico ripiao and hip-hop. The minute you heard the lyrics, “que comience la fiesta,” at a party, you knew it was time to run to the dance floor.
“La Quiero a Morir,” DLG
DLG, or Dark Latin Groove was the cool salsa group that infused their sound with reggae and hip-hop. The Afro-Latino band, whose original lineup was Huey Dunbar, James “Da Barba” Jesus, and Sergio George, had a hit with the song “La Quiero Morir.” The jam was a Spanish-language cover of the French song by Francis Cabrel, “Je l’aime à mourir” (written as a poem for Maria Felix!).
“La Morena,” Los Ilegales
Los Ilegales (aka Ilegales) are a big name in the merenhouse genre. Their hit,”La Morena,” reached #8 on the Billboard Tropical Songs chart in 1996. The group has gone through member changes, but is still in the music game, and recording 12 albums. In 2000, their Live album was nominated for a Best Merengue Album Latin Grammy; in 2003, Marca Registrada was nominated for Best Pop Album by a Duo/Group with Vocals (Latin Grammys).
“La Hora de Bailar,” Sandy & Papo
This song, by Sandy Y Papo, literally let you know it was time to dance. “La Hora de Bailar” was released in 1995, and was a blend of merengue, hip-hop, and house. The world lost Luis Ernesto Deschamps, better known as Papo MC, in 1999, but his music lives on forever.
“Esta Pega’o,” Proyecto Uno
Proyecto Uno is credited with starting the merenhouse genre, and their 1993 song, “Esta Pega’o” is the jam. The group won an Emmy in 1999, for Outstanding Musical Composition, as well as two Premios Lo Nuestro (1994 and 2003), and two Billboard Latin Music Awards (1997 and 1998).
“Fiesta Caliente,” Los Ilegales
Another great Ilegales song is “Fiesta Caliente,” in which the group shouts out El Caribe. It was released in 1995, and peaked at #13 on the Billboard Tropical Songs chart the following year. This was another danceable cancion played at every quince and wedding.
“Juliana” was another fire song by DLG. The cover of the 1980 tune by Cuco Valoy y Los Virtuosos speaks about heartbreak at the hands of a woman. Although the tema is sad, this song is perfection to dance to.
“Guallando,” released in 1997, was Fulanito’s first big hit. It introduced the band to the world, and in 1998, reached #34 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. The group went on to garner two Grammy nominations: in 2000 for Best Merengue Album (for El Padrino), and 2007 for Best Latin Urban Album (for Vacaneria!)
“Tiburon,” Proyecto Uno
In the ’90s, you know you were dancing to “No pares, sigue sigue! No pares, sigue sigue!” Rolling Stone ranked Proyecto Uno’s “El Tiburon” #24 on its 50 most influential Latin songs of all time. Cool fact that made this song relatable from the first notes? It uses a sample from Cheryl Lynn’s classic disco hit, “Got To Be Real.”