Cuban Rappers message almost lost in translation

Do you ever have trouble understanding what the hell rappers are talking about? Well, try listening to a hip-hop group that only raps in Spanish.

Obsesion took the stage in Capilano’s cafeteria courtyard last Wednesday to share their incredible style of Cuban hip-hop. Though the lyrics were sung in Spanish, it was still a great time, with students dancing at the front and echoing back in crowd participation.

Alexey Rodriguez and Magia Lopez are a husband and wife hip-hop duo from the suburb of Regla, in Havana, Cuba. The band formed in 1996 shortly after they married. Without any label support, these two have been recording at home on a PC mixing console for over ten years. Although they would love to master their music in a studio, Alexey and Magia aren’t looking for fame. Instead, they’re trying to convey the importance of Cuban revolution through their music.

Obsesion’s performance was upbeat and energetic, regardless of the Spanish lyrics. The two definitely sung from the heart, but an obvious language barrier was at play. Not understanding the language made it seemingly more difficult for students to get into the music, but the two managed to pull it off.

Previous to being a member of Obsesion, Alexey had been a breakdancer and a fan of U.S. hip-hop, which Cubans refer to as “la moña.” Magia has her degree in communications and was a former member of an Afro-Cuban dance troupe before becoming a sculptor. Both Magia and Alexey were working as sculptors when the two met. They shared the same passion for hip-hop, not so much to make people “move” but to share a message about love, politics and social issues.

While writing, composing and producing for Obsesion, the two are still both active members in the Cuban community. They participate in a mixed media arts project called La Fabri-K, to help young people get in touch with other people in the arts community. The organization introduces young people to hip-hop and other arts like sculpting, poetry, and dance. The pair works in disadvantaged neighbourhoods around Havana to help better the community, as well as working in jails to spread inspiration through their music.

When sitting down to get inspired, the band listens to Jazz and other beats such as conga to ad a different flavour into their music. Although the band doesn’t have a recording contract they have shared the stage with The Roots, a popular American band famed for their live approach to hip-hop.

When asked about the importance of the U.S. Alexey voiced, “Of Course I have been influenced by American hip-hop.” With favourites such as Talib Kweli, Common, and Dead Prez, you can see the relationship. These artists are looking to spread a more important message then how fat their paycheques are. Obsesion also have a pretty impressive fanbase themselves, with American hip-hop icon Mos Def supporting them.

Despite the political turmoil between Cuba and the United States, Obsesion recently embarked on an American Tour. “People were great, they were there to enjoy the music. It’s only the people on top that you sense the bitterness from.” Not content with just spreading their outspoken lyrics through the States, Obsesion took the stage for the first time in Western Canada at Vancouver’s Hip-hop Versus War festival.

Obsesion is a talented band with a message, so if you’re interested in expanding your musical horizons, and maybe your Spanish, check out their MySpace page:

//Jazmine Bahr


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