As well as being an art form and a source of empowerment, hip-hop has also challenged existing states of affairs, disrupted the status quo, and communicated racial struggles and socio-economic concerns. Hip-hop is a way of life for many, serving as a voice for underserved communities, and its influence is evident in music globally. Hip-hop is borderless.
Under authoritarian regimes such as Chile, for example, hip-hop became a source of rebellion for many youths in the ‘80s. Chilean hip-hop pioneers like Jimmy Fernandez, Tiro de Gracia, and La Pozze Latin, to name a few, paved the way for the genre to grow, producing artists like Makiza (Ana Tijoux), KTF Clan, La Frecuencia Rebelde (Dj Raff), and Liricistas, among others.
A thesis from the University of Chile in Santiago, titled “La Cultura Hip-Hop en Chile,” explains:
“When hip hop arrives in our country, and little by little, as we analyze how it is consumed, distributed and produced, it is incorporated into the manner of living of young Chileans, changing its essential marginality. It is a marginal mass phenomenon. This paradox grows when ascribing to hip-hop as a gesture understood as rebellious, even assuming that hip-hop itself is not. In other words: in its principles (value and time) hip hop is subversive, it ‘is’ illegality, but when it arrives in our country, this subversiveness is transformed into multiple and contradictory forms.”
Hip-hop’s popularity in Chile continues to blossom, and its artists continue to create music in the genre while developing their own style and sharing their rich culture and unique stories.
On the other hand, I am not sure if it’s on purpose, but many of these amazing musicians have very little information out there so it’s difficult to find anything on their history, their influences, or much else. For one group, all I could find was a current press release which was copied and pasted by most outlets that covered them. Weird!
I did the best I could with what I was able to find.
Here are five Chilean hip-hop projects making their own way in the movement.
Como Asesinar a Felipes
I cannot emphasize this enough: I am obsessed with the Chilean hip-hop group, Como Asesinar a Felipes.
My heart jumps with excitement every time I play one of their songs. My mind was blown during my first introduction to their music because their sound is, in many ways, abstract. It’s an experimental amalgam of hip-hop with jazz, psychedelia, and progressive rock, among other interesting sounds.
Their lyricism is powerful, rebellious, and exciting and it’s not egocentric, as is most current hip-hop. The creativity in their art and graphics is fantastical. Everything about them blows my mind. I can barely type thinking about them.
Sadly, I have not had the honor of writing about them before because I always felt that I needed to see them in person in order to hear what they do live. In that way, I would be able to take all those emotions and transcribe them so you can understand their power over me. They are, by far, on the top of my list of groups I’d like to see perform in the U.S. But, alas, they are in Santiago de Chile, and my heart must continue dreaming…
In the meantime, they have released a bunch of music since their debut in 2007, and their latest is this year’s Luz, Figura y Sombra.
GO. Listen. Now!
I first heard poet and rapper Ruzica Flores through the 23-song compilation, She Is Remembered, an effort to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women. Ruzica heavily defends women in her music, especially because so many continue to live in fear and so many are victims of femicide.
In her single for this album, “TLRTC,” she dedicates it with the words: “To all of us, free and revolutionary women.”
In an interview with Sour Magazine, she explains:
“More than talking about how they kill us and violate us, I speak from the inside. Of what it is like to feel and live with that fear. Of the times you want to escape, but you are haunted by memories of how you are haunted by guilt. Guilt that is not real. Of how you see yourself outside of yourself. Of the times you thought there was no escape and your stomach tightened. But I also rescue the learning from all that. Loving yourself, rediscovering yourself.”
Isabel Riffo is a rapper and photographer who goes by the name La Deyabu. Her lyricism speaks of socio-political themes, misogyny, and stereotypes, while also sharing her culture and the power of introspection.
In her work on Matria, for example, she explains that it’s “an album that proposes an encounter with our emotions, our history, and our land. It is a journey of ideas, landscapes, and experiences set to music.”
In her single “Anónimas,” which was highlighted by femme-fronted Ruidosa Fest, she declares: “The inspiration was my own experience and that of my ancestors, the stories of so many women without names, without history.”
I believe La Deyabu’s music is a powerful outlet, and platform, that shares stories left unheard, reveals our continued struggles as women, and serves as an anthem of empowerment.
Her latest release is the seven-track EP Chakana, which she presented in a beautiful rendition, in full, at the Teatro Municipal de Valparaiso.
She’s a fierce rapper, with a bold vocal style I love, who goes by Ruska Ruzz on Soundcloud, ‘La Ruska,’ and 22Ruzz elsewhere. I heard her through a collaboration she did with Bronko Yotte for the song “Contienda.”
She raps about current events and is featured in work with other hip-hop artists, and I hope we get to see more about her as she launches into the media with her new EP 22.
La Brígida Orquesta
This experimental mega hip-hop ensemble, La Brígida Orquesta, describes the group as consisting of “11 vocals and 22 hands.” Formed in 2017, the group is led by Gabo Paillao, with MC Matiah Chinaski as frontman, and is surrounded by an idyllic assortment of musicians from bands like Portavoz, Mapocho Orchestra, and Newen Afrobeat.
LBO has created its own interpretation of jazz with hip-hop, and in their latest release Antipoda, they sought out an analog recording style to give their music a retro, big-band sound.
This year they were invited to perform at WOMEX, the biggest conference of global music, in Portugal.
***One honorable mention because, as a group, they are leaving the scene…
This underground group just released a new, nine-track album, 4 Ases & 1 Joker, as a farewell. Yes, Dead Jonkie’s time together has come to an end, but not without leaving us with this Cenzi-produced recording which includes four original songs, as well as remixes and skits, with additional production by Fitonbeats and guest DJ See All, and Inkognito with art direction by Victor Miced. Plus, there is an additional awesome surprise appearance via New York, by one of our favorites, Rod Starz of Rebel Diaz, who collaborates on the track “Robo sin mesura.”
Although they seem to have had an impact on the genre in Chile, there isn’t much about them online, which sucks because their music deserves more attention as they head in different directions.
Featured image: Chilean rapper and photographer Isabel Riffo, who goes by the name La Deyabu