The Popularity of Reggaetón and Latin Trap and its Influence on Latinx Pride


Janelle White

Here is a drawing with three major Latin artists, (from top to bottom), Sech, Ozuna, and Bad Bunny. Afro-Panamanian artist Sech reached out to his fans, telling them that they should educate themselves about anti-Black racism in Latin America and United States.

Since the 2000s and even before then, Latin music has been a commanding force in the music industry. Despite English language acts ruling the music industry, Latin music has been able to become not only a national, but international phenomenon. In the 1990s and the 2000s, Latin pop artists, such as Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, and Ricky Martin were able to achieve mainstream success. Nowadays, Latin trap and reggaetón have become the two major genres of Latin music that are prominent on digital streaming services in the United States and around the world. Some major Latin artists out there include Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Ozuna, Sech, Anuel A A, and so on. 

Currently, Bad Bunny is one of the most popular and successful Latin artists. He was the most streamed artist on Spotify for 2020 and his single, Dákiti, with Jhay Cortez is the first Latin song to top both Billboard 200 Global and Billboard Exc. (excluding) US Charts at the same time. The first album that Bad Bunny released this year, Yo Hago Lo Que Me De La Gana, was the most streamed album on Spotify for 2020. His latest album, El Último Tour Del Mundo, again breaks records as being the first fully Spanish language album to be at the number one spot on the Billboard albums chart.

Senior Hannia Espinoza lists her favorite Latin music subgenres as “norteñas, bachata, and reggaetón.” 

Junior Makayla Jimenez states, “Reggaetón and Latin trap are my favorite Latin music subgenres. I enjoy pretty much everything in the Latin Trap subgenre. I grew up listening to old reggaetón and I’ve always had an ear for it. Reggaetón is catchy. There isn’t a specific reason as to why I enjoy reggaetón.” 

Senior Kaytlin Reyes says that she enjoys all different subgenres of Latin music. “I love all of these genres, including alternative, old rock, pop, oldies, corridos. I enjoy a wide range of genres. Reggaetón is my favorite genre.”

Espinoza got acquainted with Latin music during her childhood. “It’s been a part of me since I was a kid. It’s part of my family’s blood.”

[Latin Music]’s been a part of me since I was a kid. It’s part of my family’s blood.”

— Hannia Espinoza

Regarding how she got introduced to Latin music, Jimenez states, “I mostly got introduced to Latin music through my parents and family. Some friends have influenced my taste in music. The internet as well. Old reggaetón from the 90’s is what I was introduced to. I grew up listening to party music, merengue, bachata, and reggaetón. A lot of those genres were introduced to me by my family at a young age.”

Reyes details how she got interested in Latin subgenres other than the ones that she was exposed to, “I have always grown up with Latin music (oldies, corridos, bandos, etc). Songs from these subgenres were played all the time at my house, so I didn’t like these subgenres at first. Later, I got more interested in Latin music, so I explored [it] on YouTube.”

On her favorite Latin artists and favorite songs from those artists, Espinoza states, “Fidel Rueda is one of my all time favorite artists along with his song Paz En Este Amor. Bad Bunny has also been one of my favorites along with his song Amorfoda.”

Espinoza gives her opinion on Bad Bunny’s latest album, El Último Tour Del Mundo, and her favorite songs from that album, “I think this album had lots of meaning behind the lyrics, yet it wasn’t my favorite album. Dákiti and Maldita pobreza were my favorite songs from the album.”

Concerning Bad Bunny’s latest album, Jimenez states why it is different from the rest of his albums and her favorite songs from it, “This album is something different from his past works. Trap music is mostly what he does and what he is known for. There is more of an indies rock theme throughout the album. My favorite songs from this album are Dákiti, Yo visto así, and Trellas.”

Reyes explains why Bad Bunny’s new album isn’t what she expected it to be, “I listened to his entire album with my mom while at work. At first, I thought it would be upbeat and have songs to dance to. It was more of a sadder album, however there is nothing wrong with that. I was just expecting something different. My favorite songs from this album are Antes que se acabe and Trellas.”

Digital streaming apps, such as Spotify and YouTube, have been able to help Reggaetón and other Latin subgenres gain prominence. Also, reggaetón’s danceability and mainstream success have greatly influenced Latin music’s popularity in the US and internationally. RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) gave out a report that stated that digital streaming services accounted for 96% of Latin music market during 2020. Revenues from streaming Latin music grew around 20%. However, digital downloads, digital and physical sales, and so on decreased. 

On how digital streaming services have helped Latin music to grow, Jimenez agrees and states, “Digital streaming services have helped Latin music grow in it’s audience. I think that Spotify and YouTube get out Latin music through the way it is platformed. Spotify will separate different songs that they think that you like, give out suggestions, and give a rating chart. They throw different songs out there and make different playlists. The Discover playlist has different Latin artists and the audience goes from there.”

Concerning how Spotify and other digital platforms have helped Latin music to grow in it’s audience, Reyes states, “I use Spotify. You can go to your recommended playlists, go to search bars, go explore different genres, and so on.”

“Latin artists collaborating with American artists helps Latin artists grow their fan bases in the United States and gain international recognition,” continues Reyes. “Cardi B collaborated with Bad Bunny, bringing him more popularity in the United States. Also, YouTube recommends similar music or videos based on what you listen to.”

Bad Bunny’s El Último Tour Del Mundo is the only fully Spanish language album to be on the number one spot on The Billboard 200 Charts. However, it isn’t the only Latin music album that has reached top spots on the Billboard Top 200 Charts. Bad Bunny’s Yo Hago Lo Que Me De La Gana reached the second spot, Shakira Fijación Oral held the number 4 spot, and Mana’s Amar es Combatir held the number 4 spot. 

Jimenez explains how big this achievement is for the Latinx community, “I think that for him and for his fans this is such a huge accomplishment. You always see an English album make it to the top. To be a Latin artist and make it to the top in a short amount of time shows that he is passionate about his work and that he is a very hardworking person.”

Reyes talks about how significant Bad Bunny’s win is for Latin artists, and for the Latinx community in general, “This is a big thing for him to be in The Billboard 200 charts. Also, this is a big thing for Latin artists that follow after him. This is a big step for the Latinx community. Even though some people don’t speak spanish, they still love his beat. That can be compared to how people love Kpop and want to learn the language.”

Latin music, since it reflects the culture and heritage of many Latinx worldwide, is an outlet for their cultural expression and pride in who they are. Music is a major part in culture, self expression, and identity. Adjunct Professor from California State University Jorge Andrés Herrera conducted research on how music that Latinx listens to impacts their identity. Through his research, he found out that Latinx listened to genres such as pop, rock, and hip hop. When questioned on whether or not they listened to Latin music, the participants did not want to admit that they enjoyed to Latin music due to them not feeling proud of their heritage. Due to Latin music rising in popularity and getting accepted into the mainstream, it has lost its obscurity in pop culture. Herrera states that Latin music helps Latinx that have assimilated to American culture see themselves reflected in the media and helps them to feel pride in their culture. 

Latin music helps me be proud of who I am and where I come from. I listen to a lot of Latin music and it helps me understand the language, since I don’t speak a lot of Spanish. Also, Latin music is comforting.”

— Makayla Jimenez

Jimenez talks about how Latin music makes her very proud of her heritage, “Latin music helps me be proud of who I am and where I come from. I listen to a lot of Latin music and it helps me understand the language, since I don’t speak a lot of Spanish. Also, Latin music is comforting.”

Reyes is able to connect to Latin music through the messages, jokes, and emotions displayed throughout, “I love listening to Latin music because there is a lot of stuff that I can relate to, not just the vulgar stuff. Latin music makes me proud of who I am. The inside jokes give me a sense of personal connection. It is not just a bunch of random words to me. Everyone can relate to the messages throughout these songs, especially the Latin community. With reggaetón, you can dance to it everywhere. You can listen to reggaetón when you are with friends, are feeling sad, or angry.”

There are a lot of Afro-Latinx influences in Latin music, many of which have become unacknowledged due to racism within the Latinx community. Reggaetón was created by Afro-Latinx in Panama, before going to San Juan, and eventually the United States. African rhythms and beats have greatly influenced Latin music, despite being overlooked in Latin history, which is generally presented in a Eurocentric lens. Many popular Latin artists are of White Latinx heritage (Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Karol G, etc). There are some well-known Afro-Latinx artists, such as Ozuna, Sech, and Don Omar, that have been able to become successful in the Latin music industry. However, due to Reggaeton’s mainstream success in Latin music, with that comes the erasure of its Black heritage. Elías de León states that there is a lot of racism in the Latin music industry. Maidel “La Sista” Canales says that she has faced hurdles in the Latin music industry due to her race, and that if she was lighter skinned, that she would have been more successful in her career. Dr. Petra Rivera-Rideau states that those who speak out against Afro-Latinx heritage discrimination are labeled as not knowing what they’re talking about due to the false notion that there isn’t racism in the Latinx community. There have been various steps taken to support inclusion and support Afro-Latinx artists during the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that took place afterward. Sony Music Latin hired a diversity task force, YouTube created a $100 million fund to help Black artists, and Spotify created a playlist called Voces, which features Afro-Latinx artists. Pandora’s head of Latin music Marcos Juarez stated that mostly labels and distributors promoted legacy Afro-Latinx artists, instead of new Afro-Latinx artists. 

Concerning the racism that Afro-Latinx face in the Latin music industry, Jimenez states, “Personally I listen to a lot of artists such as Ozuna, Sech, and Don Omar. They also have really great music that I love listening to. It is the world that we live in that is like this. The color of your skin shouldn’t have to play in the work that you do.”

Reyes acknowledges the racism in the Latin music community and states that there is more that needs to be done in order to address racism in the Latin music industry, especially when it comes into representation of Afro-Latinx female artists, “There is racism in the Latin community. I know that there is some representation of the Afro-Latinx community in reggaetón, such as Ozuna. The most popular artists in the Latin music community are of lighter skin, such as Bad Bunny and J Balvin. The Latin community is diverse and Latinx have lighter and darker skin tones. I can’t think of any Latinas who have darker skin and that are in reggaetón. There are a lot of Mexicans that are lighter and have blond hair and there are Puerto Rican women who have darker skin and have curly hair. Karol G and Becky G both have lighter skin tones. Every single woman that is prominent in the Latin music community is fair skinned and that is something that should be talked about. There should be more darked skinned women that are prominent in the Latin music industry. I do see the racism. I hope that the Latin music community becomes better and a more diverse community for reggaetón.”

….The Latin community is diverse and Latinx have lighter and darker skin tones. I can’t think of any Latinas who have darker skin and that are in reggaetón….There should be more darked skinned women that are prominent in the Latin music industry. I do see the racism. I hope that the Latin music community becomes better and a more diverse community for reggaetón.”

— Kaytlin Reyes

During 2018, BuzzAngle, a company that analyzes music consumption, came out with a report that Latin music dethroned Country music on being the fifth most popular genre listened to in the United States. Demand for Latin music has been due to hits such as ‘Bailando’ by Enrique Iglesias and ‘El Perdón’ by Nicky Jam. The success of these songs has been due to streaming services. 

Regarding the BuzzAngle report and its findings, Reyes states, “I don’t really like country music. I am not the biggest country music fan. I think the report’s findings speak volumes.  Now a lot of people are spreading out and looking at other music out there. Many of us are just so used to country, pop, and other prominent genres in the United States. A lot of Latin songs are emotional and have stories that almost everyone can relate to.”

Jimenez believes that the rise in Latin music’s popularity has to do with social media and Latin music’s vast appeal to people of various cultures, “I think that it has to do with both. I know that people who aren’t Hispanic or Latino like Bad Bunny and listen to his music. Social media has a big impact on Latin artists and their success.”

Reyes states that Latin music has become popular through Latin community becoming proud of their heritage and due to how Latin music is appealing to people of different backgrounds, “The Latinx has grown.  A lot of Latinx…were kind of ashamed of who they were and hid that they were Latinx. We have been through so much and still deal with racism for being Latinx. Latinx are becoming more proud of who they are and of having their culture being expressed nowadays. People are ok with who they are to the fullest. The Latinx community is becoming more open and there is a lot of different music. Reggaetón makes people feel a certain way. In all music, the way that makes you feel is what makes it catchy. People who aren’t Latino or Hispanic also enjoy Latin music. For instance, Bretman Rock is a Filipino beauty influencer and loves Bad Bunny.”

Latin music has come a long way, since its inception in American culture during the 1930s. Various subgenres have come and gone. Presently, reggaetón and latin trap are the most popular subgenres nationally and internationally. Despite many of the songs being only in Spanish, people from all around enjoy reggaeton and latin trap music. People from all over the world can relate to the stories that the songs tell, despite their age, nationality, ethnicity, or where they’re from.