Culture

Cardi B Reminds Us That Latinos Have A Complicated Relationship To The N-Word

For those who have been hiding under a rock over the past few months, Bronx native and proud Dominicana, Cardi B, has taken the world by storm with her hit single, “Bodak Yellow.”

We’ve all heard the song at this point (even our moms and tias) and as a result, it’s reached the number two spot on the Billboard music charts. Why do we love it so much? Because it celebrates an unapologetic brand of feminism, the hustling mentality that many of us were raised on, and it reminds us that stunting on your haters is sometimes the only way they’ll ever get the point.

But while Cardi B continues to compile accolades and rep her Dominican and Trinidadian heritage, some internet blogs have recently questioned her for responses related to a question about using the N-word in a recent interview with DJ Vlad for VLAD TV.

Credit: Cardi B/Instagram

What does the N-word have to do with Latinos you might ask? The short answer: A lot.

If you live on the East Coast, then you’re probably aware that Latinos can be of African descent. From the Caribbean to South America, Afro-Latinos of various nationalities have made their imprint on New York for centuries. But in cities like Los Angeles, there are far more Latinos of indigenous and mestizo descent than Afro-Latinos or Blaxicans (Black-Mexicans) like myself.

For some, Cardi’s use of the N-word comes with no surprise, especially for those who grew up using the word around African Americans and other people of African descent.

“And I’m quick, cut a n***** hustle, Don’t get comfortable,” she recites throughout “Bodak Yellow.”

“N***** hatin’ on me, really be upset,” she raps in another song, titled, “Red Barz.”

While the conversation around the word now involves Cardi B, she is, however, not the first Latina to be publicly questioned (read: dragged) for using the N-word in a song.

Jennifer Lopez (J.Lo) holds that title.

In 2001, J.Lo was publicly scrutinized for using the word on “I’m Real,” before rapper Ja Rule (everyone’s favorite summer-of-2001 rapper) came to her defense, claiming there was an “unwritten rule” that allows Puerto Ricans to say the word because African Americans and Puerto Ricans “are all kinda in the same family.”

Credit: Kevin Mazur, Getty.

Other prominent Latino artists like Latino rapper Fat Joe – whose racial background has been debated in the past – has consistently used (and defended) the word throughout his career.

Still, while J.Lo and Fat Joe may have defended themselves, there are a large majority of people in the U.S. who rightfully feel like the word has no place in Latino communities and outside of them.

So where does Cardi B fall under the complicated history of Latinos and the N-word? As a self-identified black woman of Caribbean descent and someone who has openly spoken about the racial discrimination that she has faced in her life, it almost seems like Cardi B has “rightfully” earned the right to use the word.

“… because at the end of the day, there are also Latinos (many of whom exist in our families) who use the N-word in social settings and are openly anti-black.”

But Cardi B’s response to DJ VLAD’s question revealed that she has her own hang ups about the word’s loaded history.

“It’s just something that like, is a lingo, like even I want to stop saying it,” she explained. “I really can’t stop saying it, I’m sorry.”

“It seems like something that is so normal, which is bad, but it is what it is,” she continued.

We’re introduced to her own racial background moments later when she claims that she and all Latinos come from diverse backgrounds.

Credit: Cardi B/Facebook

“My parents, my father’s side, we’re Spanish, were Hispanic, and everything. But it’s like where do them Spanish people come from? Where do them Latino people come from? They’re mixed people, we’re mixed with African, European… What is it? Mulatic?”

It’s safe to assume that Cardi B probably didn’t mean to say Mulatic. I’m guessing she was looking for the word Mulatto or Mestizo — both represent different forms of racial mixture, but we can never be too sure. Mulatic may, in fact, be the group of undiscovered people in the Caribbean that white scientists and anthropologists are dying to “discover” next.

But Cardi B was far from finished.

She concludes the interview by explaining that, according to white people, there is no difference between Latinos and African-Americans. “And at the end of the day,” she says, “like Latinos and Hispanics they are considered a minority, like you think white folks see Hispanic and Black people, like oh yeah they are Hispanic and they’re black, no, we are all considered the same to them.”

Cardi B raises an interesting point and something that some non-black Latinos who use the N-word have often alluded to: African-Americans and Latinos are both victims of racial discrimination, which makes it OK for Latinos to use the N-word.

(Another point often used by Latinos who use the N-word: African-Americans and Latinos often grow up in the same neighborhoods, listen to the same music, adopt the same fashion trends, which also makes it OK to use the word.)

We’ve all heard these arguments before. And while they may occasionally ring true, they can easily downward spiral because at the end of the day there are also Latinos (many of whom exist in our families) who use the N-word in social settings and are openly anti-black.

Credit: Facebook

Last year, the popular television show, “Black-ish,” created by Kenya Barris, took up the ongoing debate in an episode, titled, “The Word.” During one of the scenes, Curtis (Allen Maldonado) and Charlie (Deon Cole), used a dry erase board to stage an informative session at their workplace in hopes of educating their white coworkers about which Latino groups could and couldn’t use the n-word.

One of their white coworkers ask, “Mexicans can’t say the N-word, but Dominicans are OK?” To which Charlie explains, “Puerto Ricans are cool too unless you’re a J.Lo (Jennifer Lopez) Puerto Rican.”

Other people in this group, according to Charlie, include actress, Rosie Perez, deceased rapper, Big Pun, and Fat Joe. Marc Anthony and Ricky Martin, however, were, “no bueno,” and not allowed to say it under any circumstances.

“See basically the whole terror squad can say it, but not Menudo,” both men add.

While the scene was filled with comedic moments intended to diffuse such a loaded topic, it also raised an important point about the question of geography with regards to Latinos and the N-word.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Dmitry Rogozhin; CC0 Public Domain, George Hodan

Do Latinos on the west coast and east coast use the word in different ways? 

DJ Sour Milk, a Latino Los Angeles-based DJ and radio show host at POWER 106 FM, believes that there are differences between the West and East coast Latino’s relationship to the word.

“I think there’s always been tension between the Mexican and the Black community in L.A.,” he explained to me over the phone. “There were always race riots in my high school between blacks and Mexicans.”

“But the N-word was something that my African American friends and I often used as a term of endearment and love even if black and brown people were beefing around us. I don’t think New York has all of that; I feel like it’s all love out there between African-Americans and Latinos,” he continued.

“Do Latinos on the west coast and east coast use the word in different ways? Should one group be allowed to have more access to it?”

DJ Sour Milk’s attempt to differentiate between Latinos on the east and west coast shows that there may be a regional difference with regards to the word. Particularly, if there are more Latinos of African descent on the east coast then there are on the west coast.

Perhaps the racial lines are often blurred between African-Americans and Latinos on the east coast in a way that they are not on the west coast where, in contrast, there are less Afro-Latinos according to the censusStill, a continued examination of the word’s existence in the Latino community will certainly prompt differing views, but what will also continue to transpire is the reality that African-American and Latino experiences are undeniably woven by a thread that, as our current political and racial climate shows, has the potential to create bridges.

That said, Latinos of non-African descent must also acknowledge that before these threads can be woven, the anti-black sentiments that are deeply ingrained in our communities must be addressed, while simultaneously realizing that being part of a discriminated group doesn’t exempt one from confronting their own racial prejudices.

The differing viewpoints that continue to revolve around the word reveal another glaring detail: Cardi B shows us that the Latino relationship to the N-word is part of the unresolved legacy of racism and mistreatment of people of African descent both in the U.S. and throughout Latin America.

Should Latinos be allowed to use the word? The debate will continue long after you finish reading this story. But if you’re a Latino who continues to use it, you should also remind yourself that for people of African descent in this country, the word means more than just a term of endearment amongst friends. It can also be a vivid (and sometimes haunting) reminder that being black in this country means that you are part of a group that continues to be disprorportionately impacted by the unrelenting legacy of white supremacy and police killings. 

READ: 9 Things That Happened While I Dated Outside My Race

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

Things That Matter

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

If you’ve ever wondered what someone with a bulletproof vest and an AR-15 would look like flossing — the dance, not the method of dental hygiene — apparently the answer to that question can be found on TikTok.

Unfortunately, it’s not as a part of some absurdist sketch comedy or surreal video art installation. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend of drug cartels in Mexico using TikTok as a marketing tool. Nevermind the fact that Mexico broke grim records last year for the number of homicides and cartel violence, the cartels have found an audience on TikTok and that’s a serious cause for concern.

Mexican cartels are using TikTok to gain power and new recruits.

Just a couple of months ago, a TikTok video showing a legit high-speed chase between police and drug traffickers went viral. Although it looked like a scene from Netflix’s Narcos series, this was a very real chase in the drug cartel wars and it was viewed by more than a million people.

Typing #CartelTikTok in the social media search bar brings up thousands of videos, most of them from people promoting a “cartel culture” – videos with narcocorridos, and presumed members bragging about money, fancy cars and a luxury lifestyle.

Viewers no longer see bodies hanging from bridges, disembodied heads on display, or highly produced videos with messages to their enemies. At least not on TikTok. The platform is being used mainly to promote a lifestyle and to generate a picture of luxury and glamour, to show the ‘benefits’ of joining the criminal activities.

According to security officials, the promotion of these videos is to entice young men who might be interested in joining the cartel with images of endless cash, parties, military-grade weapons and exotic pets like tiger cubs.

Cartels have long used social media to shock and intimidate their enemies.

And using social media to promote themselves has long been an effective strategy. But with Mexico yet again shattering murder records, experts on organized crime say Cartel TikTok is just the latest propaganda campaign designed to mask the blood bath and use the promise of infinite wealth to attract expendable young recruits.

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia, in a statement to the New York Times. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

Mexico used to be ground zero for this kind of activity, where researchers created a new discipline out of studying these narco posts. Now, gangs in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and the United States are also involved.

A search of the #CartelTikTok community and its related accounts shows people are responding. Public comments from users such as “Y’all hiring?” “Yall let gringos join?” “I need an application,” or “can I be a mule? My kids need Christmas presents,” are on some of the videos.

One of the accounts related to this cartel community publicly answered: “Of course, hay trabajo para todos,” “I’ll send the application ASAP.” “How much is the pound in your city?” “Follow me on Instagram to talk.” The post, showing two men with $100 bills and alcohol, had more than a hundred comments.

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