Watching reggaeton must be a lot like what the original djs, b-boys, and MC’s experienced watching hip hop go mainstream. The genre has come a long long way. Bad Bunny recently released his video for “200 MPH” featuring Diplo, and quickly racked up a cool 6 million views. Still, a comment made by Puerto Rican reggaetonera La Zista really stood out, “Hacía falta una Negrita ahí en ese group. Anyways dura cancion, duro el video.” [This group is missing a Black girl. Anyways dope song, dope video.] While it’s unclear if she’s talking about wanting to be in the video herself or the literal lack of Black women in the video, either option raises the question: When and how did reggaeton get so white?
Far from the working class neighborhoods of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba — reggeaton is now consumed by an entirely new audience and is made by an entirely new school of artists, most of whom represent a very specific image of Latinidad. It’s the same image used in all Latin media: light skinned Latinxs and white Latinxs — which, to be fair, is the norm in mainstream media of all types. But we can’t ignore its prevalence in Latinx media and how that has been used to erase the Afro-Caribbean culture reggaeton was born from. It’s important to remember that before artists like Maluma, Becky G, and J Balvin hopped on the reggaeton train it was considered “ghetto music.” Like hip hop, it discussed the harsh realities of the urban and lower class — drugs, violence, sex, machismo, and everything that happens in the streets — and like hip hop, it wasn’t taken seriously. In fact, it was disparaged. It was not long ago Mexican superstar Aleks Syntek said “Reggaeton music comes from apes.”
But perhaps this is more of a commentary on colonized Latino ideals. Lots of Latin media tends to situate everything in proximity to whiteness and acceptability. It’s not likely that we’ll get a handle on that anytime soon but hopefully, these new school pop and trap Reggeaton artists will acknowledge the Afro-Latinx trailblazers that made their success possible and at the very least, include negritas in their music videos.