26-28 October. Rapping Latinas

This week we discussed a series of meanings for the expression “rapping Latinas:” a) young women seeking a life of significant impact of their talent, and making inroads of spaces traditionally considered male domains (like rap and hip-hop); b) young single mothers trying to provide for their children; c) women of all ages in the barrio joining the ministry to expand religion and religiosity from “other world” business and soul-redeeming-only endeavors to social justice and help out of poverty. How does shifting religious identity constitute ‘rapping’? How does social justice and rap relate to making a religious life come to life? What other meanings do you find for “rapping Latinas”?

Post a comment addressing one or more of these questions. Please, note that this post does NOT have a deadline, since most of you are concentrating on your proposals. These last few posts will come without a deadline, so you can write about them and post at your own pace. Hang in there, semester is almost over!

10 replies on “26-28 October. Rapping Latinas”

I was very excited to have this week’s discussion on rapping Latinas because the cover photo was of Ivy Queen. I remember being younger and listening to her music with my mom, and it was probably the first example of a rapping Latina that I had. I don’t think that it ever occurred to me how rapping Latinas and religion could be related, but after reading “Latinas in the Barrio,” it made more sense. Peréz writes:

“These initiatives have in common the difficulties that the women leaders and their loved ones experienced in their barrios and churches because the churches did not know how to respond, feared to respond, or did not see a need for these services.”

We’ve discussed before in Martell’s piece about the importance of community for Latinas. Latinas in barrios have been taking the steps to create resources for themselves, for their loved ones, and for members of their communities. They are providing for their family, a question that often times comes up when Latinas, like Nita Clandestine, decide to make rapping their career. How will they provide for their children? Nita talks about her reliance on her talent, and how her confidence in herself has allowed her to make it in the rap world. “Es cuestión de creer,” she states.
Nita also talks about the difference between collaborating with men and women in the rap world, and how oftentimes, women tend to rap more about personal experience or rap from the heart. Rapping Latinas are creating music that provides other women with a tool for empowerment or possibly just music to relate to. Rapping Latinas are providing for their children and for their audience.

As these Latinas in barrios shift their religious identities to include social justice, they mirror rapping Latinas who chose to rap about issues important to them. Both groups are providing for loved ones and communities that they belong to, further reinforcing the independence of Latinas and their care for their communities.

Last week’s discussion of the number of meanings that constitute the expression “rapping Latinas”, much comes to mind in connection to meanings found for “rapping Latina”s in other means of religious identity, social justice, and rap. Thinking back to the first week’s article from Pew Research Center about the shift in religious identity, this shift compares be means of generational changes, vocalization, societal changes, among others. With the shift in changes there are many inferences in the how and why. When it comes to rapping, rapping may constitute the shifting religious identities with its used components, primarily vocalization due to an artist’s platform. Because rapping can be used to spread new ideas, messages, ways of thinking, and values, verbal means can be thought of as a constituting power towards such shift like as in religious identity. Moreover, from the ideas spread by lyrics in rapping there offers more awareness, education, realization, and self-learning that can play into one’s shif in identity. Social justice and rap relate to making a religious life come to life in a number of ways with some shared components. Specifically, verbal utilization is a form of spreading social justice and calling attention to matters that are believed to be in need of being addressed. This similarly relates to the output of social justice being spread verbally through the form of rap as well. The constitutes of one’s life goes through countless changes and shifts, which play into adding more awareness and extending one’s knowledge in all areas bring one’s life closer to “come to life”.

In attempting to answer the question of how social justice and rap relate to making a religious life come to life, I see it as a distinction within what are considered essential issues for shifting religions. With the articles read this past week, we can see a trend where Latina women are fusing both their religious and social values into their songs. Some of these include gender awareness, education, and overall social equality between different groups. When utilizing music as a platform to make their voice heard, Latina artists are fostering a more inclusive environment in terms of who can be influenced by their lyrics.
Then again, there is also the issue of gender within the music industry, particularly for Latinas. In class, we discussed how the article highlights manners in which there are distinctions between men and women in the music industry. For one, men often hesitate to collaborate with women since they view them as something less than within artistic production. There is also the issue of stereotypes. Some of these male artists believe their female counterparts are not fulfilling their deemed role as caretaker of the children. In their minds, being a Latina mother and artist can not exist within the same space. In other words, you sacrifice one for success in another. However, many Latina artists have been able to juggle the duties of a mother and work. Some of these include Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, both whom have had partners involved in celebrity roles.

Social justice and rap relate because it is a means of using one’s voice. Rap has become a means for Latinas to express the joys, sufferings, and needs in their daily life, and social justice in the barrios is about Latinas raising their voice and sleeves to meet those needs where they are.

Nira Clandestine spoke about her collaborations with other women rappers as incredible; that the women rap from their feelings and about what is happening in their daily lives. Hence, as women see the injustices in their barrios, rap and fighting for social justice are both means to address the circumstances around them.

Religion is also a key component to responding to circumstances. In one sense, religion is a personal and intimate relationship with God. Padilla’s article states that “Latinas’ relationship with the divine is a very intimate one. This intimate relationship is a matter not only of believing that God is with us in our daily struggle, but that we can and do relate to God the same way we related to all our loved ones….”
Hence, the application of this relationship are the actions women take to enact change in their communities. There is a deep sense that to not care for one’s barrio or community is a sin. ““Sin is not a matter of disobedience but of not being for others… not to care for the children of the community—that is a sin, a crime!””(Perez and Gonzalez 289).
As women take a step out of their “traditional” threshold into a space of rap and social justice through the church, it becomes a means of empowerment. As Nira Clandestine states, “Creo que ese es el empoderamiento, el despertar de la conciencia y reconocerse como mujer en todas sus actitudes y aptitudes. ​” In other words, empowerment is the awakening of a woman ‘s consciousness and recognizing her attitude and aptitude as a woman. Social justice and rap are means of expressing and materializing a Latina’s deeply held beliefs for justice and community, and through this embodiment of these beliefs, Latinas are able to apply their unchanged beliefs and identities into new spheres of expression.

I think rapping is such a powerful tool for Latinas because it allows them to have a platform to air their grievances in a manner that is accessible to the general public. As we’ve seen throughout the class, Latinas have often been silenced, but rap gives them an avenue to speak up that had not previously existed before. This is especially powerful as Latinas rap about the social issues plaguing their communities and work to bring light to those problems. Although, this is not to say that Latinas as completely welcome into the rap world. As mentioned in the article with Nina Clandestine, women are often shunned from the rap industry and men are more hesitant to collaborate with women artists. This problem is further highlighted after Nina became a mother, and more people did not want to work with her. As she mentioned in her interview, there is a perception that motherhood and artistry do not go together. By pursuing a music careers, mothers are thought to not be fulfilling their role as a caretaker for their children. This type of logic is extremely flawed and shows the level of misogyny present in our society. Why can fathers pursue their careers while taking care of their children while mothers can’t? Additionally, there are many female musicians, like Cardi B and Beyonce, who show that it’s possible to maintain a career in the music industry while taking care of a family. Although music, and rap specifically, is a great avenue for Latinas to use as a platform to call out bad behavior, there obviously needs to be some change made in the industry for it to become more inclusive for Latina artists.

Similar to Regina, Ivy Queen was the first example of a Latina rapper that I had growing up. She represented/is an example of someone who moves unapologetically and honestly in her music and the industry she works in, which was really inspiring for me to watch as I grew up. I think rapping and shifting religious identities/practices are similar because they provide space for someone to be honest about what they need. For many folks, the ability to write yourself/your feelings into existence using lyrics or find a religious space that caters to your needs and desires can be really empowering and affirming.

Something that I’ve been thinking about since our conversation in class is about the limitations that can exist within both the space of rapping and religion when it comes to women being honest about their grievances, their needs, and their desires. How can these spaces have the authority to limit our imaginations and possibilities for liberation? How are rappers now challenging these restrictions/limits on how honest Black and Brown women and femmes can be in their songs? I’m especially thinking about rappers like Megan Thee Stallion and how she represents someone that is using rap to express unapologetic joy and pleasure in her music. How do religious institutions struggle with this expression of honesty and search for fulfillment in the flesh?

Although I don’t usually listen to rap music too often, it was exciting to test the boundaries of religion and social justice through this music genre. Considering the male space of rap in the US and in Latin America, it was clear that Latina rappers break several boundaries in producing their music. After this week’s discussion, rapping women, and rapping Latina’s specifically, seems to have found many new meanings. Firstly, the constant shift and change of rap music mirrors the liminality of Latinas, who change constantly in response to politics, culture, society, the environment, etc. I believe the accessibility of rap also draws a connection to Latinas and the barrio, in the way that it is music made for and by ‘the people’. The same lateral, horizontal connections Latina’s have between themselves, their religiosity and the community around them is mirrored by the accessibility of rap and its ‘common’ associations. The steady increase of rapping Latinas, and female rappers in general, points to the continuous shifts made by Latina women in normative society. Most Latina rappers do not enter the male space of rap by copying men, but instead by creating their own art and style, forcing the genre to shift and change as well.

I’ve always seen rapping as a medium used for the verbalization of struggle, dreams, and personal experiences, but mostly done so within an American context. It was interesting to see how Latinas made their own enclaves within rap while also continuing to incorporate visual elements characteristic to the genre. While music’s purpose is for pleasure overall, rap’s purpose seems to be more for idea exchange and expression compared to other genres. I think rap’s accessibility to the masses has allowed it to be a genre in which such ideas are able to be expressed and social justice issues are able to be addressed in very personal ways. We see this as Latinas have incorporated rap in everyday music videos like those we saw for class, as well as in more political musical expressions in protest songs. I know that rap is not only melodic talking alongside a beat, but the emphasis on verbal clarity over what we think as traditional singing makes rap a great method for expression of distress to everyday people or political leaders and institutions. Ideas and demands are allowed to be well heard through rap and religion is just one aspect of the complexity of such expression.

In the readings for the week of rapping Latinas, I thought about the earlier reading from Rivera’s “Poetics of Flesh” on Glissants interpretation of poetics as a force that links human expression in relation to the world. I have always viewed rap as a form of art that is the musical production of poetry. Similarly to poetry, rap seeks to reconfigure the broken pieces that Rivera’s chapter discusses as “shattered histories”. Poetry and rap are two pieces of literary artwork that marginalized groups in society have utilized to vocalize and bring to light the inequalities and inequities of their societal conditions. As I mentioned in class, el talento del barrio shows the translation of such tremendous artwork within the form of rap.

The story of Nira Clandestine’s rise in the rap scene of Colombia shows a changing face of latina artists who defy the odds to establish themselves as respected rappers. As a single mother, she is presented with a doubly challenged position then other female rappers. She refuses to let that status hinder her from accomplishing her goals and setting high standards of achievement. Clandestine chooses not to conform to societal norms of what may constitute “appropriate” roles for motherhood. In addition, Clandestine also creates her own style of aesthetics in musical videos and lyrical composition that defy and challenge the typical presentation of rap.

From the article by Perez and Gonzalez, the reverend “Mama Leo” acted as a rapping Latina by also challenging the existing religious life of the Pentecostal Church that sought a vertical relationship with God and left out the horizontal relationship with other humans. Mama Leo understood the importance of comunidad de fe and transformed the direction of the Church to reach out and meet the needs of people in the barrios.

The question of how rapping Latinas can relate to having a religious life come to is comical to me. I grew up listening to K-Love (the Christian rock radio station) and Radio Maria (Spanish Christian songs) and Radio Disney all through my teens. My Catholic mother forbids music (such as Rap) since, as she claimed, all they rapped about was sex, drugs, and guns – everything the catholic church was ‘against’ so seeing rapping in a new light, a light that is comparable to religion is interesting to me. Separating the values and practices of religion from the church itself, as Ms. Alexie Torres did when starting her social justice organization for youth takes the good part of religion from the part that keeps women down. This combined with a Latinas tendency to be selfless and their relationship with their barrio (raised to serve and give) helps promote those morals that religion tries to teach and actually applies them to real-life in a way to uplift the community (something that my catholic church strived for but was never able to accomplish). Religion for to long has just been a sacramental ritualistic thing that isolates Latinas but now it can take something Latinas to care about and something they relate to and use it for good, just like the Latinas in rap are taking a genre they like and relate to and using it for what they believe in.

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