By: Juan Zarate
This is not a “best rapper” list. Not the most lyrical or most records sold. The most INFLUENTIAL. Who changed the game. Impact. Trend setters. These people are the reason a magazine like us even exists.
This was originally intended to be a top ten list. Impossible. We had a hell of a time even cutting it to 25. There are more people that deserve to be on the list. Many more. The damage is done. The names are written in stone. With that said, WATCHA! Presents the 25 most influential Latino hip hop artists of all time.
(contributions by: Pablo Torres, Eric Lopez, Alondra Acuña, Sick Klyde, Javier Cervantez, Angelica Morales, Chris Zarate, Macario Ordonez, Jerry Garcia, Marlen Rosas, Brian Trueba)
25. Dyablo (Mexico/San Diego)-
Jesus el Dyablo aka El Profeta burst out of hell’s gates in the early 2000’s with a rapid fire flow that left jaws dropped everywhere. His hard beats and thug rhymes captivated his fans and created flocks of Dyablo clones. His diss records against rival rappers have been legendary.
24. Akwid (Mexico/California)-
“como te puedo pagar!” With that famous Juan Gabriel lyric as a hook with a hip hop beat made from traditional Mexican Banda instruments, the two brothers exploded on the scene. Spanish labels didn’t know what to call this new sound that people loved. They settled on Urbano Regional. A million records sold and it was still hip hop. And rappers everywhere copied the sound. There was only one Akwid though.
23. Arianna Puello (Spain/Dominican Republic)-
Many female MC’s have made their mark in Latino Hip Hop. From Hurricane G to Mala Rodriguez to La Nina Dioz. None has been as vicious with her rhymes as Ari. The author of the classic album “El Gancho Perfecto” has become legendary all over South and Central America with her no holds barred flow.
22. Pitbull (Cuba/Miami)-
This was highly debated on the Watcha! round table. “he’s more pop than anything now!” To keep it all the way real, Pitbull could be the most influential Latino hip hop artist ever. You have to remember that a song like Mellow Man Ace’s classic “Mentirosa” was rare before. A spanglish song on the radio? That was a breakthrough. Well Pitbull does that everyday. You can hate the house beats or the subject matter. But appreciate the changing of the game. Plus your girl loves it!!
21. Tres Coronas (Colombia/Dominican Republic/New York)-
The Corona, Queens natives are what Spanish hip hop is supposed to sound like. Grimey. Raw beats. Ill flows. Street slang. Rocco, PNO and Reychester are all individually dope. The group was gun powder. After a fallout Reychester went solo. Tree Coronas, along with Los Nandez, Calle Cardona and Gab Gotcha, continue to drop potent albums to keep Colombian hip hop at the forefront.
20. Cartel De Santa (Mexico/Monterrey)-
Mexican thug rap. The trio came equipped with straight to the point street tales of struggle, crime, drugs and women. The Mexican streets loved it. It’s been 11 years since Vol. 1 dropped…and in the mist of newer street rappers like C Kan, Cartel is as dominant as ever.
19. Tony Touch (Puerto Rico/New York)-
There is no one more hip hop than Tony Touch. One of the greatest DJ’s of all time, Toca is a dope MC, and a well respected BBoy and graff artist. He’s mostly known for his slew of classic mixtapes and compilation albums. His “50 MC’s” series is legendary. He got exclusive freestyles from every rapper you can think of. Tone is that respected.
18. Sinful (Mexico/Long Beach)-
“soy el pecador y voy hacer un desmadre, y al que no le guste que chinge a su madre!” That was it. With that un censored hook on “La Plaga” the rapper that formed half of “The Mexakinz” changed the game. Years after NWA, Too Short and others did it for Rap in general, Sinful created the “I don’t give a fuck” genre for Spanish rap. No biting of the tongue. No sugar coating. He also introduced “punch lines” at a high level for the first time in Spanish hip hop. His flow and punches were so ahead of it’s time, they are still impressive to this day.
17. The Beatnuts (Colombia/Republica Dominicana/New York)-
The dynamic duo out of Queens exploded at the height of the New York dominance. Psycho Les and Juju became individual stars too. The production team put out an array of hits and great albums. The hit song “off the books” featured a young Big Pun and took over the hood. They established westcoast connects with Tribal Gear and to this day still put on great shows. They’ve gone back and forward with some Spanish rhyming in recent years and their sound never lost its niche.
16. Bocafloja (Mexico/D.F./New York)-
El Quilombo has long been a favorite in Mexico. Labeled as the conscious MC. The Mexican Common. After you’re done labeling, just call him dope. One of the most international of Spanish MCs, Boca has an extended catalog of raw albums. He has taken his ventures into activism, created foundations, books, signed artists and compilations throughout Latin America…all while remaining true to lyricism and a dope live show. Boca is def one of the greats.
15. Delinquent Habits (Mexico/Los Angeles)-
When the horns came in on that Chevy commercial… a big smile flashed across our collective faces. Those horn samples were the Intro to one of the great hip hop songs of the 90’s. Delinquent habits were one of the originators of the Spanglish style. From “Tres Delincuentes” to “return of the tres” and “here comes the horns”….the group put out greatness.
14. Immortal Technique (Peru/New York)-
We’ve seen political MC’s before. We’ve seen passionate MC’s before. We’ve never seen the combination of the two mixed in with a former battle rapper that’s lethal as hell with the pen. Immortal Tech is a monster. He’s not only a rapper but a philosopher, teacher, great speaker, activist…and a funny ass dude. The quintessential independent MC has gained worldwide fame…with absolutely no radio play. When it’s real…you don’t have to mention it.
13. Tempo (Puerto Rico)-
Tempo is considered the Tupac of Puerto Rican hip hop. The prophet. The one. The other side of the Vico C’s. Tempo was hood. His flow. His delivery. His beats. He was the real deal. His crew was the truth. With truth comes reality. Locked up doing a bid now. Some scream conspiracy. Some say he had it coming. They all scream greatness.
12. Vico C (Puerto Rico)-
El Filosofo. One of the first stars and pioneers of this genre, Vico came out the gate rhyming his ass off. Always good with concepts, Vico was stellar with his early hits. He moved with the times and traded verses with the newer talent over hard beats, acoustic or reggaeton. He became Christian…but never lost his edge. He was already great. His longevity added to his legend.
11. Chino XL (Puerto Rico/New Jersey)-
Bar for bar, rhyme for rhyme…Chino XL can arguably be the greatest lyricist rap has ever seen. I didn’t say Latin rap. I said RAP. I watch a lot of rap battles. I hear people go crazy now over a punchline that Chino XL said 10 years ago. His wordplay and disses were unmatched. As dope as he was, unfortunately a lot of his fame came from a “beef” with Tupac. Still, his albums are always dope, and His Wake Up Show freestyles are still getting hits on YouTube.
10. Kinto Sol (Mexico/Milwaukee)-
The three brothers from Guanajuato have one of the most loyal fan bases in all of hip hop. They are beloved for their music of struggle, nationalism, immigrant rights and hope. Don’t get it twisted though…they can bar with the best of them. Songs like “hecho en Mexico” and “Ella se fue” have become anthems for Mexicans. With one of the greatest DJ’s on the turntables, DJ Payback Garcia, Kinto Sol has caught Billboard awards without any radio play. They were one of the first acts in the United States to release all Spanish hip hop albums, and do it with great success. They are set to release their 8th album this August and KintoSoldados and Adelitas everywhere are waiting in anticipation.
9. Daddy Yankee (Puerto Rico)-
Another entry highly debated on Watcha! “yo, dude is reggaeton!” Let’s go back. Daddy Yankee was once Winchester Yankee. Straight hip hop. Bars. Check his collabo with Nasty Nas for proof. Hip hop fans are weird. They seem to be the only fans who love you…until everyone loves you. Daddy Yankee had all Spanish songs on English radio stations. English clubs. Respect that. And check his albums. He sprinkled some hip hop tracks in between that are better than many of the “straight up hip hop” tracks from your favorite artists.
8. Calle 13 (Puerto Rico)-
Calle 13 came in and put the clamp on the whole reggaeton movement. A self described “rockero” that rapped better than the rappers. Came out swinging at that whole movement. Outside the box. Rebel. Didn’t follow your hip hop structure rules. Collabos with Cafe Tacuba and Mercedes Sosa. Ska beats. Rock songs. Cumbia tracks. Anything but traditional hip hop. And all of it is dope. Backed by a live band and amazing videos…Calle 13 is everywhere. He “turned Havana to Atlanta” before Jay-Z did. Political. Smart. Funny. He cares so much that he doesn’t give a fuck. And we Fuck with it.
7. SPM (Mexico/Houston)-
The drug dealer tale. Rags to riches to prison rags. SPM is polarizing to us. He’s the modern Mexican American. Grew up in the hood. Hustled…until music became his hustle. Exploded with his music mixing hood stories, women and an uncanny ability to be funny but taken serious. Carlos Coy was the Mexican American dream. The fall is always harder when you’re on top. Prison blues. Depending on who tells you the story, you either hate him or you’re screaming FREE SPM! He’s still blessing us with music even from jail. The belly of the beast. Can’t stop the hustle.
6. Zack de la Rocha (Mexico/Los Angeles)-
The lead singer of Rage Against The Machine doesn’t want to be on this list. He doesn’t give a fuck about this list. This lead singer doesn’t even sing. And this is exactly why he’s on this list. Rage Against The Machine exploded in the 90’s. A hardcore political rock band with a long haired Mexican screaming his raps on stage. Think Chuck D meets an angry Alex Lora. A 90’s rock version of Immortal Tech and Rebel Diaz. Now think platinum. He made the least commercial of things sell. You up and coming artists should keep that in mind next time you think that you HAVE to sell out.
5. Psycho Realm (Mexico/Los Angeles)-
Sick Jacken. Big Duke. The Drug Lab. The Gas Mask. Pico Union brought us one of the greatest groups of all time. With some of the grimiest beats and grittiest rhymes, The Psycho Realm has dropped classic after classic. After their second album Big Duke was shot and became paralyzed. Sick Jack, with the help of Cynic, kept the crown in tact and continued blessing us with masterpieces. Music that smells like alcohol, women and drugs. The heartbeat of the streets. Revolution. Rebellion. That is The Psycho Realm.
4. Frost (Mexico/Los Angeles)-
The Godfather of Chicano Rap. The Spanglish tales. The gang banging slang. Dickie suits and cortez. You think Frost, you think Lowriders cruising on a Sunday in Los Angeles. You think La Raza. Kid Frost dropped one of the biggest smashes in Latino Hip Hop history. Big albums on major labels. Frost put in work and is still repping with the Old West. The westcoast movement has gotten a lot bigger since. But before Lil Rob, before King Lil G, before Mr. Shadow and many others…there was Frost.
3. Control Machete (Mexico/Monterrey)-
To a hip hop kid living in the United States, Control Machete was Mexico. I popped in a Machete tape and I could hear el metro. I could hear venders at El Mercado speaking fast trying to sell me two pairs of everything. You could smell the little tacos cooking at the corner. Taxis beeping. Stores closing their gates for lunch time. Little kids playing soccer in the street with a partially inflated ball. People protesting. Bad luck, bad government and good tequila. Albures y refranes. Before Control Machete I only knew traditional Mexican music. Nothing urban. Nothing Grimey. Nothing street. Control Machete planted something between cracked pavements throughout Mexico. With that, we were able to have Elote el Barbaro, La Banda Baston, MC Luka, El Manotas, T Killa, Caballeros del Plan G….and so many other great rappers in Mexico. Si Señor.
2. Cypress Hill (Cuba/Los Angeles)-
Maybe it was the cholo slang over hard ass Muggs beats. Maybe it was the mixture of Sen Dogg’s deep chants and B Real’s high pitched street narratives. Maybe cause they looked like us. Dressed like us. Spoke in Spanglish and colloquialisms. The fistful of blunts. Maybe cause we finally had a voice. There were other Latin hip hop artists before Cypress Hill. They didn’t only change the game. They broke down the doors and let us play the game. They let the masses know there was a market for us. Entrepreneurs. Music. Clothing. Now everyone has a t shirt line. Soul Assassins was the crew. Cypress Hill. Funkdoobiest. House of Pain. Psycho Realm. Nothing but dopeness. It gave life to future Latino crews like Buddah Family, La Vieja Guardia, Mexa Mafia and Never Die. And they did it all with a “Latin lingo baby”.
1. Big Pun (Puerto Rico/New York)-
“Dead in the middle of little Italy, little did we know that we riddled some middle men that didn’t do diddly”. Game over. Christopher Rios is the greatest Latino rapper ever. First to go platinum. So good and so hood. Larger than life…literally. Pun did tracks with and outshined some of the greatest. Legends like Nas, KRS1, B Real, Kool G Rap and more all had trouble keeping up with Pun on a track. His bars got the fellas. His charisma got the ladies. Pun did all of this in such a short time. It was only a few years from the time Fat Joe (who deserves to be on this list too) introduced Pun to the hip hop world until his untimely death. Big Pana is remembered from the Bronx to the rest of the hip hop world. The greatest of all time twin. Yeeeaahhh baaaaabyyyyy!!