Cuban Rap Scene May Be In As Much Trouble As American Rap Scene

Today’s New York Times has a fascinating piece on the state of rap music in Cuba: Four years ago, the government launched the Cuban Rap Agency, which set out to sponsor musicians and oversee an annual hip-hop festival. But there’s a catch: Only rappers who tone down their lyrics are given access to the agency’s resources:

“We don’t have songs on a record that speak badly of the revolution,” [CRA leader Susana García Amaros] said on a recent day. “That doesn’t make sense.”

Not surprisingly, most rappers, who are by definition a rebellious lot [Ed. note: Groannnnn], are averse to joining forces with the government, even as they struggle to spread their rhymes on their own. Only nine groups are working with the agency. Of the remaining 500 or more across the island, some voice discontent with Cuban society in language that is as blunt as the accompanying beat is loud.

“We are not in agreement with any political system, the one here or the one you have,” said Aldo Rodríguez Baquero, 23, who teams up with his friend Bian Rodríguez Gala in a popular group called Los Aldeanos, or The Villagers. “We want liberty and freedom.”

Those who refuse to align themselves with the agency are sometimes blacklisted by clubs, and often have trouble getting their music distributed. But they may be up against a bigger problem: According to the Times piece, the under-30 crowd is moving away from hip-hop and toward reggaetón. Is there no place in the world safe from “Gasolina”?

Cuba’s Rap Vanguard Reaches Beyond the Party Line [NYTimes]