Things That Matter

If You’re Latino Then Chances Are You Remember The Rapper Who Took The World By Storm In 1990

Before Latina and Latino rappers like Cardi B, Big Pun, or Lil Rob were using Spanglish (Spanish-English) lyrics in their music, there was an Afro-Cuban rapper named Mellow Man Ace from South Gate, California whose Billboard Top 20 song “Mentirosa,” put bilingual rap on the map.

“Cause right now you’re just a liar, a straight mentirosa, Today ya tell me something y mañana otra cosa.”

CREDIT: Credit: Facebook

If this is your first time hearing his name, or reading the lyrics from the hit song, you’re probably not alone — Mellow Man Ace’s overnight success came long before the rise of social media. (It should be noted that he currently has over 20k followers on Instagram, which, by some standards, means that he has some type of influence.)

Born Ulpiano Reyes in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba, Mellow Man Ace is usually overlooked in favor of other Latino/Chicano rap pioneers like Kid Frost, A Lighter Shade of Brown (LSOB), and Lil’ Rob. Frost’s “La Raza” and LSOB’s “On A Sunday Afternoon,” both released in 1990, were anthems for Chicanas and Chicanos in the Southwest, while San Diego native, Lil Rob is best known for his 2005 hit “Summer Nights.” All three are probably on your “Chicano Rap” Spotify playlists at the moment.

CREDIT: Credit: Facebook

But for those of you who are, in fact, old enough to recognize Mellow Man Ace’s name, you’ll remember the way “Mentirosa” took the world by storm in the early ’90s. And, more importantly, the feeling you felt when you finally heard a rapper on the radio who rapped in Spanglish.

Mellow Man Ace emerged on the scene wearing a Cuban guayabera and a Panama straw hat, which resembled a Cuban bolero singer more than it a rapper at the time. But instead of singing “Guantanamera,” Mellow electrified the world with a hard-hitting blend of bilingual, edgy lyrics that ranged from parties to relationships to fame.

I remember the day que tú me decías, time and time again que tú me querías

Before Mellow, however, Latinos on the West Coast didn’t have a voice in the Hip Hop world that reflected the bilingual worlds that we came from. We were listening to Ice-T, Queen Latifah, and Public Enemy in the privacy of our rooms. Meanwhile, our parents played Vicente Fernandez and Paquita Del Barrio in the living room while yelling, “Bajale a esa mierda” (turn that shit down) whenever we played our music.

CREDIT: Credit: Facebook

Our parents didn’t understand our reasons for loving hip-hop, and would often dismiss it as a music form all together. But Mellow had the power to communicate the day-to-day things that we were experiencing in a hybrid language that reflected the “ni de aqui, ni de alla,” (not from here or there) feeling that we felt on an every day basis.  

You’re probably wondering where I sit in this equation, right? I had just entered preschool when the song came out, but I was old enough to recognize that the music that was thumping from my cousin’s bedroom would have an impact on me for years to come.

CREDIT: Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernandez

I mean, who wasn’t instantly moved by the catchy opening line: “Check this out baby, tenemos tremendo lío, last night you didn’t go, a la casa de tu tío.” (Check this out baby, we have a big problem, last night you didn’t go, to your uncle’s house.)

I remember receiving the cassette as a Christmas gift a year after the song came out. I’d carry the cassette wherever I went and would play it every time my mother and I drove somewhere until an older cousin of mine (who shall go unnamed) borrowed it one day and never returned it.

“Before Mellow Man Ace, born Ulpiano Reyes, Latinos who loved hip-hop didn’t have a voice that reflected the bilingual worlds that we came from.”

Still, while I was without the cassette, I was never completely removed from the song because it was constantly playing throughout my Southeast L.A. community in homes, liquor stores, and especially our next door neighbor’s 1965 Chevy Impala.

Because for someone like me, who grew in a predominantly Spanish-speaking home (with family from Mexico and Cuba), the bilingual nature of “Mentirosa” allowed the language that I spoke at home and the one I was learning in school to find a way to coexist together. It was almost as if Mellow’s words acted as a timely message to the world: A new generation of Latinos were here and we were going to speak in whatever language or languages we wanted to. 

CREDIT: Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernandez

But in addition to becoming an overnight music sensation, Mellow had an immigrant story, that I would learn about as an adult, that hit close to home and resonated with other Latino immigrant experiences throughout the U.S. He reminded us that being a Latino immigrant in the U.S. meant that you had to sacrifice and endure in a country whose language and way of life didn’t always reflect the one our families had left behind.

After immigrating from the western province of Pinar Del Rio, Cuba, in 1971, Mellow and his family settled in a Los Angeles suburb known as South Gate, a community adjacent to Watts. His biggest challenge, among other things, was adjusting to a new language.

“When I got to L.A ,” he explained to me over the phone, “I struggled with the English language and I spoke a Sammy Sosa type of English.”

“Another big difference was that we had carpeting and electricity for the first time in our lives,” he added.

“But understanding Mellow’s impact only as a music contribution is to miss the magnitude of his influence on Latinos throughout the U.S.”

After learning English, he began to write rap lyrics in the tenth grade, but still faced some challenges, which forced him to drop out of high school two years later. 

Mellow Man Ace’s passion for music, however, may have been genetic.

His grandfather was once was a composer in a famous Cuban orchestra and his brother, unbeknownst to many, is Sen Dog from the pioneering hip-hop group Cypress Hill. (Mellow Man Ace was also part of an early version of Cypress Hill.)

But understanding Mellow Man Ace’s impact on U.S. Latinos only as a musical contribution is to miss the magnitude of his influence.

“Mentirosa” did more than give us a hypnotic chorus to dance to and recite over and over again. It gave an entire generation of Latinas and Latinos, like myself, to be unapologetically multilingual and multicultural.

For, Mellow Man Ace, whose success paved the way for Latino rappers, it was also about letting the world know that Latinos didn’t have to compromise who they were. 

“When I came out, I wanted to make sure people knew who I was,” he said while reflecting on the impact of his career. “I wanted to make it acceptable for Latinos to be who we are, so at the end of the day I kept my life Cuban and that’s how I lived. I never pretended to be anybody else.”

“I opened doors for others and I never closed the door behind me.”

Mellow did, in fact, open doors for an entire generation of Latino rappers like Immortal Technique, Snow Da Product, and Big Pun who, without his success, arguably, may never have been able to break into mainstream music.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my cousin and I still have a tremendio lio because it’s been twenty-eight years and he still hasn’t returned my cassette.

READ: These Latino Rap OGs Are Still Blazing It 25 Years After Their Debut

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The World Can’t Get Enough Of J Balvin, He Is YouTube’s Most Streamed Artist Worldwide

Entertainment

The World Can’t Get Enough Of J Balvin, He Is YouTube’s Most Streamed Artist Worldwide

Roger Kisby / Fotógrafo autónomo / Getty Images

¡Mi gente! Your faves could never. Latin music domination continues around the world with the top spots of global streaming platforms being stacked with Latinx artists. What a time to be alive. Remember when we all had to pretend Drake was Dominican to get some kind of representation out here? But when you think about the sheer number of people on the planet that speak Spanish, it totally makes sense that Latinx artists would have such a massive reach. 

And let’s be real, while fluency helps, you really don’t have to be proficient to enjoy reggaeton. The energetic, pulsating beats can compel anyone to move. Do you really think everyone in the United States knew the English translation of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” in order to enjoy it? Music transcends language and so does Colombian trap artist J Balvin apparently. Do you think anyone even noticed that the lyrics in “Harlem Shake” are largely in Spanish? Nope. 

J Balvin is here to stay.

For six consecutive weeks, J Balvin has chopped the global charts on YouTube. That’s a total of 1.26 billion views on the platform. 

“Artista más visto en YouTube Global,” Balvin wrote in an Instagram caption.

This comes as no surprise to Balvin fans. In 2018, Balvin ousted drake as the most-streamed artist worldwide on Spotify. The singer surpassed 48 million monthly listeners last summer thanks to his single “X” with Nicky Jam which streamed over 327 million times. Balvin is in great company on the global charts with Daddy Yankee, Bad Bunny, and Ozuna all in the top 10. The trio’s single “China” with Anuel AA and Karol G is currently number 1 on the YouTube global charts and number 2 in the United States chart. However, we’re pleased to note that “Señorita” by Camilla Cabello and Shawn Mendes is topping the charts in the states. 

Balvin shouts out his Latinx fans. 

“Artista más escuchado en el mundo en @spotify posición #1 que celebro con todos mis latinos y los soñadores. Gracias Gracias Gracias,” Balvin wrote in the caption. 

Our boy is famous basically everywhere?

The top countries streaming Balvin’s music are Mexico with 240 million views, Argentina with 121 million views, and Colombia with 121 million views. The United States is in fourth place with 112 million views, followed by Spain, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela. But fear not, Balvin has fans in at least 100 different countries according to YouTube. 

We stan a humble king of the masses!

Like, literally could you imagine how this level of adoration and attention would completely warp your mind? I would be a monster. I would build a house out of fan mail and then set it ablaze just to laugh at my stupid fans. I’d have so many, who cares! Meanwhile, the artist, who typically regales his followers with personal messages on Instagram every morning at 5 a.m., knows how to connect with his fans. Balvin even served ordinary people from a coffee cart in New York City the other day. 

“Buenos días , buenos días , buenos días !!!!! ARCOÍRIS TOUR empieza 30 de Agosto en Puerto Rico !! Choliseo,” he wrote on Instagram. 

 We stan a humble king of the masses!

This isn’t the first Latin wave (and it won’t be the last).

In the 1990s, the late and great Selena catapulted Tejano and Cumbia music into the mainstream American consciousness. This ushered in the era of the “Latin Explosion” where legends were born. Ricky Martin, Thalía, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, and Jennifer Lopez made their marks. Hell, even Frank Sinatra personally invited Luis Miguel to record a duet of “Come Fly With Me” on his 1994 album Duets II. 

In the 2000s, there was the “Latin Pop Boom” that saw the likes of Shakira, Paulina Rubio, and Christina Aguilera topping the charts. You may even remember non-Latinx artists trying to ride the wave with Beyoncé collaborating with Shakira on the duet, “Beautiful Liar,” and releasing a Spanish language version of the single “Irreplaceable.” It almost feels odd to call these decades different waves or eras when it is pretty clear Latinxs have been consistently rocking the charts since Gloria Estefan in the 1980s. Since then, in the United States, we have been blessed with many more Latinx acts including the likes of Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, Becky G, and Cardi B. And of course, there are all the amazing imports from Latinx countries around the world. If we want to continue this Latinx chart domination, I only have one piece of advice: stream “China” by J. Balvin on YouTube and Spotify!

Sparking Tequila: It Better Be On The Menu At Your Next Pool Party Or I’m Not Going

Culture

Sparking Tequila: It Better Be On The Menu At Your Next Pool Party Or I’m Not Going

@AzulanoTequila / Twitter

Summer 2019 is officially the summer carbonation took over the hearts and minds of the the adult beverage industry. Natty Light, PBR, Four Loko, and practically any alcohol company with a pulse who can make and bottle boozy seltzer jumped on a train that continues to bubble out of control.

The next phase of the sparkling beverage boom: Sparkling tequila.

LA-based Pure Azul just announced that it will be rolling out Azulana sparkling tequila this week in California, producing the first and only beverage on the market made with 100% blue agave tequila and sparkling soda.

Crafted in Jalisco, Mexico, it comes canned in three flavors: Original (… tequila-flavored sparkling soda), Lime, and Pineapple Rosemary. Azulana sparkling tequila will be released in 12-oz. cans, containing 4.3% ABV with 145 calories.

In other words, the legit perfect drink for summer. You just may want to break out some sal y limon to fully enjoy it. 

The three flavors are each unique and, not gonna lie, sound straight up tasty.

Credit: @AzulanoTequila / Twitter

According to the company’s website, the “Original” flavor goes down smooth with a “lightly sweet” and “slightly tart” taste.

The “Pineapple Rosemary,” meanwhile, boasts a fruity, herbal flavor somewhat reminiscent of flowers, while the “Lime” option is zesty and tropical.

Sparkling tequila is the the latest in a total takeover of the alcoholic beverage industry by sparkly, bubbly bebidas. 

Clearly, Azulana looks to capitalize on two glaring beverage industry trends: The proliferation of sparkling hard seltzer and the continued success of tequila, which Azulana notes “continues to thrive.” In 2017, for example, the US saw an 8.5% increase in tequila liter sales over the previous year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

In a press release, Katie Pittman, Head of Sales and Marketing at Pure Azul notes, “Our goal is to help others understand that tequila isn’t just enjoyed during a wild night out – with Azulana, it can truly be enjoyed during all occasions – anywhere, anytime.”

It’s also good timing – tequila sales are up up up across the US. 

It may not seem like it to those of us who regularly order the Patron or some Cuervo when we having a party, but it’s true. Tequila sales are booming in the US. In 2017, for example, tequila sales were up 8.5% from the year before. 

So if there was ever a time to enter the tequila business – it would be now. Make them coins. 

The grand unveiling was August 22nd at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

And, of course, it made its debut at a Rolling Stones concert. Because I guess tequila and Stones go together like…sal y limon? 

But don’t worry if you didn’t make it to that concert. You won’t have to wait long. The sparking tequila beverage will be available at Bristol Farms supermarkets in Southern California from August 28th before expanding to other markets and regions from then. 

While some seemed to at least be open to the idea…

I mean, it all really depends on your feelings towards sparkling drinks to begin with. If you’re already a fan, then sparkling tequila isn’t too much of a stretch. 

Mexicans were openly skeptical.

But let’s note, many on Latino Twitter basically said they were simultaneously fascinated and disgusted by the idea of sparkling tequila.

And a few people pointed out that summer is nearly over. 

But if you have sparking tequila at your house…is summer ever really over? I don’t think so. 

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