Reggaeton, at times mistakenly referred to as reggae or reggae in Spanish, is a younger genre that originated in Puerto Rico in the 1990s. The preferred spelling on the island is “regueton,” following the Puerto Rican custom of adding the suffix “ton” to a word for emphasis. Thus, “regueton” means “super reggae,” reggae Puerto Rican style. The new genre synthesized spanish reggae from Panama and hip-hop with Latin American and Caribbean rhythms such as Salsa. Over the past decade, it has become one of the most popular genres in Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries such as Puerto Rico, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia and Venezuela. It has extended throughout Latin America and within mainstream Western music.
It emerged from youth culture seeking to express itself, and existed on the fringes of society and the law. It depicted the troubles of inner-city life with sexually-charged content and explicit lyrics about drugs, violence, poverty, friendship and love. It was found threatening and deemed immoral and artistically-deficient. The Puerto Rican Police launched a campaign against it, confiscating cassette tapes from music stores under penal obscenity codes, levying fines and demonizing rappers in the media as “irresponsible corrupters of the public order.” The Department of Education banned baggy clothing from schools. Bootleg recordings and word of mouth became the primary means of distribution of the underground music.
Reggaeton’s roots in poor urban communities sprouted in the streets of public housing projects and in the “marquesinas” (Puerto Rican carports) of working class neighborhoods. “Marquesinas” were crucial to the development of Puerto Rico’s underground scene because of the government’s fear of losing the ability to manipulate taste. Yet the “marquesinas” recordings were of good quality and helped to increase reggaeton’s popularity among Puerto Rican youth of all social classes. The music crossed socioeconomic barriers and spread from the marginalized residential areas to middle class youths. By the mid-1990s, underground cassettes were being sold openly in music stores and the music found its way into clubs and slowly gained acceptance as part of Puerto Rican popular culture.
One of the earliest clubs to play this music, was opened by Felix Rodriguez a.k.a “DJ Negro”. It was located in La Perla, extremely poor part of Old San Juan. It was the legendary reggaeton club was called The Noise. This is the club where Daddy Yankee got his start on stage at 16 along with groups like Kid Power Posse. Before it met its demise for the third and final time, The Noise had hosted most of the genre’s greats like Tego Calderon, Nicky Jam and Wisin & Yandel.
…You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know Daddy Yankee in 2018. For those who know reggaeton, Ivy Queen, Don Chezina and Las Gaunabanas are household names as well. For those artists, though, The Noise is the place that they remember. DJ Negro’s nightclub served as reggaeton’s Motown – a self-contained hit-factory that will never be equaled. The Noise survived everything, from government crackdowns to shifty locales, only to finally cave under the crushing stress of the genre’s gentrification. —Red Bull Music
In 2004, reggaeton became popular in the United States and Europe with releases from renowned Puerto Rican artists such as Tego Calderón, Daddy Yankee, Ivy Queen, Don Omar, Calle 13, Wisin & Yandel, Tito El Bambino.The Colombian sensation Shakira recorded “La Tortura” for her album “Fijación Oral Vol. 1” (“Oral Fixation Vol. 1), popularizing reggaeton in North America, Europe and Asia.
In 2005, musicians began to incorporate the Dominican Republic’s Bachata with its signature guitar sound and slower, romantic rhythms and emotive singing style. Daddy Yankee’s “Lo Que Pasó Pasó “ and Don Omar’s “Dile” were Bachata-influenced. Producers began to mix existing reggaeton with Bachata, marketing it as “Bachaton,” Bachata Puerto Rican style.
In 2006, Don Omar’s “King of Kings” was the highest-ranking reggaeton LP to date on the U.S. charts, debuting atop the Top Latin Albums chart and peaking at number 7 on the Billboard 200 chart. His single, “Angelito,” topped the Billboard Latin Rhythm Radio Chart. He broke Britney Spears’ in-store-appearance sales record at Downtown Disney’s Virgin music store.
In June 2007, Daddy Yankee’s “El Cartel III: The Big Boss” set a first-week sales record for a reggaeton album with 88,000 copies sold. It topped the Top Latin Albums and Top Rap Albums charts, the first reggaeton album to do so on the latter. The album peaked at number 9 on the Billboard 2OO, the second-highest reggaeton album on the mainstream chart.
In 2009, Wisin & Yandel’s “La Revolución” debuted at number 7 on the Billboard 2OO, number 1 on the Top Latin Albums and number 3 on the Top Rap Albums charts.
In 2017, the music video for “Despacito” by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi, featuring Daddy Yankee, reached over a billion views in under 3 months. As of January 2018, the music video is the most-viewed YouTube video of all time. With its 3.3 million certified sales plus track-equivalent streams, “Despacito” became one of the best-selling Latin singles in the United States. (by Gloria Colon)