Entrada de la Agencia Cubana del Rap. Foto: Rastabeans / Wikimedia Commons bajo licencia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

Seventeen moments of a hip-hoper institution

7 minutes / Alejandro Zamora Montes

03.10.2019 / Articles

Days ago I was walking with my friend Víctor Fowler near La Madriguera, when suddenly a teenager (almost a child) intercepted us. He called me by my full name and told me that he was a rapper, that he read all my texts on Facebook, and in the end he thanked me for my work, and even exhorted me to continue doing so. In all that gen weightI was thinking yesterday while I was waiting for the beginning of the show at Maxim Rock for the 17th Anniversary of the Cuban Rap Agency.

When it finally began, I saw that a few fifty people had attended, and at times (although there was a stubborn rain of my own for nostalgics, and the rapper proposal was very good) I could not help but have the bitter feeling of being in presence of a wake or a cultural cemetery. I would have liked that, since we thought about doing this tribute at the Casa del Rock in Cuba, rock bands / soloists would have come together with rap bands / soloists.

Two of the strongest and most dialogic alternative genres our nation has had for several decades. Until it was Etián Brebaje Man's turn to step on the stage and express the most heartfelt words I've heard in the scene for a long time hiphopera national. Brew Man (sitting, dressed in white and in a low voice) confessed to want to stop rapping. He talked about the many and complex dimensions that Rubén Marín (current Director of the Rap Agency) had to face and elaborated very acute questions related to the crisis of that Cuban rap (conscious, emancipatory) today. He also expressed that it hurt that they did not applaud the artists on stage. If there was a person yesterday who understood it, it was me. In Medellín, before more than 3000 people I heard the name of Etián Arnau shout and all his songs were chanted, just as unanimously shouted how positive Cuban rap is and the strength / presence it has in Latin America. The Negrons group relaxed the scene with rapped / fused pieces with funk, timba and other sonorities.

Then Rubén Marín (visibly excited) picked up the microphone and confessed that Etián's words had reached him very deep, and he felt very hurt to hear that a prestigious old-school rapper (as is Etián) stopped to say publicly I was thinking about stopping rapping. Rubén spent approximately fifteen minutes (before the eyes and attention of all) asking hard questions and remembering not a few situations related to apathy-irresponsibility of not a few sectors hiphoperos. He self-criticized on several occasions and expressed that he could no longer be the director of the institution he directs tomorrow, but many unresolved issues with the Hip Hop culture in Cuba and its cult / s would remain, and that had to do with cultural dimensions more complex that transcended the agency.

I was excited when he mentioned that the Cuban rap pioneers had started with nothing, and the detail of the nail paint to stick cassettes with backgrounds Americans, product of a passion that, apparently, will not return. He also thanked the help of Pedro Álvarez Mosquera and many people (intellectuals, agency workers, activists) who support him day by day.

Personally - and reached this point - I would like that young man who approached me to publicly receive my apologies. I feel that we have failed you generationally. We have not been able to deliver a movement hiphopero cohesive, in which the multiple united voices of a nation still very young are reflected. However ... do words have to remain movement and unity? Why? Did those words ever weigh, or were they just chimeras? Is being a rapper in Cuba currently a synonym for political opposition, or a synonym for cultural resistance / continuity and hope for the fucking historical? Are there other ways to support this social project that, with its many-many-many limitations, still bets for us humanitarianly (we, I repeat: blacks, mestizos and poor whites) not as numbers or disposable batteries, but as worthy human beings? And if we ask that they close the Cuban Rap Agency at a good time, would the problems of hip hop in Cuba be solved or aggravated? Do we think of hiphopero historical responsibility / legacy? Why do some rappers ask to be paid for rapping to prisons? Is that Hip Hop? Do we do Hip Hop or are we Hip Hop? What happens with KNOWLEDGE and CONSCIOUSNESS in the Cuban hiphopero context? Do we deserve more? Some Cuban hiphoperas / os vacillate transport, abundant food at Swedish hotel tables, national festivals all year round using the state budget ... and then, in addition to not producing a fucking kilo, the right thing then is to attack (not suggest, criticize with valid arguments in favor of an improvement) to the country and to those who (at any level) try to level it in some way? Is that fair seen in a broad context?

I'm sorry, but I won't be part of the spiral of silence. I oppose jokes that talk about joints. We are bigger than that. This is the country of Benny Moré, Capablanca, Elena Burke, Los Zafiros, José Martí, Maceo, Mariana Grajales, Titón, and of millions of Cubans and Cubans who stand up and work hard (here and in the diaspora) to improve it from everything positive-humanist point of view. Either we do a professional rap that builds spiritually, or we perish. There is no third option.

I continue: not attending yesterday the celebration of the 17 years of the Cuban Rap Agency (both in person and with a simple digital note or a call for support and solidarity) is not to make a veiled war against Rubén Marín and its possible limitations / successes as a leader, but symbolically betray the memory of Barbarito Grandes Leagues, Lucius Walker, Eduardo Djata Dieli, DJ Vahamas, Wilanga Party, Matilde, Arsenio, Filah, and many more who died thinking / loving Cuban hiphopera culture. We would also betray the efforts of living people such as Ariel Fernández Díaz, Pablo Herrera, Joaquín Borges Triana, Tomás Fernández Robaina, Grizel Hernández, Tatiana Cordero, Roberto Zurbano, and others. It is like ratifying the colonizer who won all the possible battles once and for all: hip hop in Cuba is dead, we are fragmented, full of hate and ego. No ideological compass or leadership. We are fragile in the face of political manipulation and post-truth. We remain slaves of mind.

However, despite all this apocalyptic vision, I also want to tell that young rapper not to faint: Hip Hop in Cuba enriched the work of not a few intellectuals regarding issues related to race, gender, postcolonial studies. Cuban popular dance music was enriched with rap. Van Van, Irakere and many great popular artists rapped. If we were a tiny little island, we made Common, Dead Prez, The Roots, Paris and many more global hip hop artists come fascinated, and admire us. There are children's books with hiphopera themes, plays, academic books, fanzines. Fashion was also influenced by the conscience in motion, global theses that narrate the resistance of Cuban hiphoperas in order to push humanity a little further, which is, in my opinion, the main reason for being alive . Aurora Bosch danced symbolically with Miguelito La Peste! 17 years is an instant from the historical point of view ... but also an eternity. Happy 17th Anniversary of the Cuban Rap Agency! With me you can always count. Peace, memory, love.

(Taken from the author's personal Facebook profile)

Alejandro Zamora Montes

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