San Juan – Puerto Rican rappers such as Residente, Omar García and MC Siete-Nueve are not shy about using their songs to highlight the social problems the island faces.
The relationship between rap and social questions "should be very close," René Pérez, a.k.a. Residente, told Efe, though noting that the current hip hop scene in the mainland United States does not reflect his view.
U.S. rappers, he said, no longer write protest songs.
"They have good rhyme, while some don't, but they don't talk about anything. And that is a problem," he insists.
Residente has enjoyed international success with topical rants like "Pal' Norte," about the treatment of Mexican immigrants in the United States; "El hormiguero," which decries militarism; and "Los de atras vienen conmigo," a lament on poverty in Latin America.
Other Residente songs denounce the Puerto Rican government and the drug-trade-fueled surge of violent crime on the island.
But it was "Querido F.B.I." (Beloved FBI), a commentary on the 2004 killing of fugitive guerrilla Filiberto Ojeda Rios, that gave Residente credibility with the Puerto Rican left and the island's small independence movement.
Omar García, once known as OMG, helped to blaze a trail for rap in Puerto Rico in the 1990s.
He told Efe that rappers, unlike singers in other genres, "communicate things as they are."
"The rapper opens his mouth and says what he says, just as it is said in his barrio. The problem that appears is born from the same thing: from the lack of education, empathy and solidarity," García said.
"There are artists who don't have the gift, or who don't like, to write about social issues, yet they do have the responsibility and the power of drawing attention," he said.
MC Siete-Nueve, the Puerto Rico-born son of Dominican parents, is an outspoken advocate of independence for the island and a bitter critic of Puerto Rico's continued colonial status.
In 2008, he spurred controversy with "Quedate callao," a song blasting Puerto Rican reggaeton star Daddy Yankee for campaigning among Hispanics on behalf of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.