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Mala Rodriguez & the Rise of Latina Hip-Hop Artists

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First Posted: Oct 14, 2013 09:53 AM EDT
Album cover of 'Por la Noche' by Mala Rodriguez
Album cover of 'Por la Noche' by Mala Rodriguez.

Latin entertainment has introduced audiences to true performers and artistic legends. Icons such as Jenni Rivera and Celina Cruz are some of the fierce faces that led a community of creative and active performers. And while Latin women have made terrific strides in music, there's a distinct and clear absence of Latin women functioning and succeeding in the music industry in an iconic & exemplary way.

Executive Director of Latin Content & Programming for Billboard Lelia Cobo spoke at length to NPR's Jasmine Garsd on the subject of there being a lack of bold female Latin figures in music.

"I think there's a lack. I'm sorry, I do. Yes, there's Shakira. Shakira aside," Cobo said, "the female presence is a little light. Why are there no more big female acts in Latin music right now? I look at my charts, and there's very few female names... you have a lot of these pretty, sexy young women, who women now are identifying less and less with. I really wish that were different."

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Spanish MC Mala Rodriguez, 33, and a handful of other women in the Latin hip-hop arena intend to increase the number of female Latin entertainer frontrunners by displaying strong personalities, political intelligence and ambitious creativity. Musicians who show similar tenacity to Rodriguez are dynamic Spanish-language artists, like Ana Tijoux, who according to Garsd, "melts and reworks the Spanish language like a blacksmith," and also Dominican/Spanish artist Arianna Puello. 'Goyo' Martinez and Liliana Saumet are other powerful rappers.

A Latin Grammy Award-Winner, Mala Rodriguez emerged at the age of seventeen with feminist lyrics that were aggressive, confrontational and clever. She possessed a hardcore rapping style that was accented by native flamenco sounds. Rodriguez has been active since the late nineties, producing songs such as "Una De Piratas" and, later, "Nearby Galaxies." She often raps about strength, not wealth, and about struggle. Mala wins fans by producing lyrics that can be identified with, and are influential.

Latin hip-hop taps into traditional Latin rhythms, instruments, and the Spanish language. Also, it has the trademark energy and pace of American hip-hop. The role of women in Latin hip-hop is profound, as Latin rap has deviated greatly from American rap, and more male-centric Latin rap music. Latin music blogger Juan Data opined that the fame enjoyed by Rodriguez and similar female rappers is largely due to marketing and being female, while others would say that her uncompromising ability to create feverishly powerful lyrics should take the credit.

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