Spawned from reggae, Latin American music, and rap, reggaeton is an intercultural meld of musical styles. Of course rap serves as its distinctly American bloodline, while reggae is Jamaican and the Latin influence is often credited with Puerto Rico. Regardless, the form spread rapidly throughout all of Latin America over the 90s decade.
Reggaeton’s early years can be traced to the import of Jamaican dance music to Puerto Rico during the 1980s. Rap had already infiltrated the mainstream. The new dance style was characterized by an electronic element, which attracted reggae and Latin rappers from both Panama and Puerto Rico who in turn added their own distinctive brand of sound. DJs already sold on reggae especially took hold of the new movement.
The 1990s witnessed reggaeton’s market spread worldwide. It spread rapidly through Latin countries, but still took another half dozen years to really catch on in the U.S. Outside of predominantly Latin communities, reggaeton was relatively unknown until the infectious Latin single ‘Gasolina” hit the mainstream airwaves in 2004. The artist, Daddy Yankee, had already a large following of reggaeton fans, both back in his native Puerto Rico and now worldwide.
Jamaican artist Sean Paul has seen significant success in the U.S. with his signature reggaeton-Dancehall style. He is similarly categorized as reggae and dancehall. Whatever it is that draws an audience to reggaeton, some say is the ‘dem bow” rhythm. Pure reggaeton is literally built musically around this unique and classic dancehall beat.
Contemporary of Daddy Yankee’s and fellow collaborator, Don Omar has infiltrated the U.S. mainstream and the classic reggaeton beat is a constant throughout his work. The beats are smooth Latin and fundamentally founded on the traditional dem bow hook. His album Last Don is not only a classic of the style, but is accessible to reggaeton newcomers. For a truly infectious Latin groove the Omar single ‘Reggae Latino” is a must-have.
Contemporary crossover artists that have contributed to the reggaeton effort include Latin heartthrob Ricky Martin and rapper Snoop Dogg, both of whom have collaborated with Daddy Yankee, and R&B songstress Alicia Keyes whose ‘Karma” remix was married to a reggaeton beat.