Last year was a strong one for Spanish hip-hop. Proponents of the genre, which first gained traction in Seville in the late 90s, have often struggled to forge their own identity in but over the last few years, Spain’s rap artists have finally come into their own.
Bejo (or Bejito as he is sometimes known) is the latest artist to have taken the scene by storm. Blessed with charisma, style and a fresh supply of playful rhymes, his 2017 release Hipi Hapa Vacilanduki featured on many “disc of the year” lists in his native country.
Formerly a member of Locoplaya, the Canary Islander already has a solid following with a whole faction of young Spaniards now attempting to imitate his rather unconventional look. With the underground scene in Spain critically endangered, now is the time for those key players to break out and bulldoze the mainstream into submission, and Bejo has emerged as the reluctant driver at wheel.
For his latest project, he worked with some top producers from Spain and around the world including no.katana and Tom Misch. Such is the reach of his work, that his track Mucho was included in a mix by highly-acclaimed producer A-trak where it shares a platform with the likes of Vince Staples and A Tribe Called Quest.
Another artist to enjoy acclaim in 2017 was N-Wise Allah (aka N-Y). He emerged on the scene in 2009 as a member of the MDE Click collective and has now unleashed his solo album Casino Chips onto the world. While the title and album cover might give the impression that the rapper spends his free time playing the virtual tables over at FreeCasinoSlots, it is actually a work of intricacy and depth that, as well as paying homage to the world of gambling, also explores many other themes from thug life to spirituality. However, like many Spanish albums, it perhaps falls into the trap of trying to squeeze too many tracks onto a single disc.
Gata Cattana’s album Banzai also proved to be her swansong. The artist (real name Ana Isabel García Llorente) passed away in March aged 25. The album was released posthumously and must be commended for achieving that difficult task of building bridges across musical divides. A rap album at heart, its electronic sound, fluid poetry and occasional indie pretensions brought it to the attention of a diverse audience. Her lyrics were always thoughtful, philosophical and often political, dealing with global issues in such an intimate way and her final release was no exception. It was no surprise when it featured on many “best of” lists in 2017. And for many music fans in Spain, this was the standout album of the year.
With other significant releases from Foyone (Rico sin denuncia), Juancho Marqués (Blue Sundays), Nethone (Causas perdidas) and Alex Orellana and Jayder (School Of Hardnocks), 2017 was a good year overall for fans of Spanish rap and hip-hop and has perhaps raised the bar for the genre higher than ever before.