In the 1970s African American, Puerto Rican and other Caribbean youths created a new expressive culture called hip-hop that included DJ-ing, MC-ing (rapping), break dancing and graffiti.
Expressed in break beats, rhymes and dance, hip-hop was a participatory activity that provided creative opportunities and fun for kids in bleak urban neighborhoods like the South Bronx. Pioneering hip-hop crews included Puerto Ricans such as DJ Charlie Chase of the Cold Crush Brothers, and MCs Ruby Dee and Whipper Whip, who rapped with Grand Wizard Theodore and the Fantastic Five (all featured in the 1983 film Wild Style).
Puerto Ricans were also active as dancers. The Sugar Hill Gang’s 1979 hit, Rapper’s Delight, opened up the commercial market for rap music, including prominent Latin percussion. Mean Machine’s Disco Dreams (also on the Sugar Hill label) even included rapping in Spanish.
With the advent of rap recordings; however, the music industry chose to market the new style as “Black” music. Thus, Latino rappers found themselves left out. The Puerto Rican presence that was clearly visible in the streets and house parties of the Bronx was much harder to see in commercial rap music. Many Latinos continued to enjoy and participate in mainstream hip-hop, but they also created alternatives where they could have more voice, such as rap en español (rap in Spanish), and later reggaetón.