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'It's Not Just Twerk Music': Podcast Traces The Complex History Of Reggaeton

Singer, rapper, songwriter,  actress and — as of recently – podcast host Ivy Queen, photographed at SBS Studios on April 14, 2017 in Miami.
John Parra
Singer, rapper, songwriter, actress and — as of recently – podcast host Ivy Queen, photographed at SBS Studios on April 14, 2017 in Miami.

Updated August 20, 2021 at 5:08 PM ET

Reggaetón is a hugely popular musical genre: Many have danced to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito," a song with over 7 billion YouTube streams, or blared Shakira and Maluma's "Chantaje" from their radios. But few people actually know where reggaetón came from. While some trace the genre back to Puerto Rico, where many of the genre's most famous artists are proudly from, that's only part of its history. "But to tell the story right, we have to start in Panama," says Puerto Rican rapper Ivy Queen, a trailblazer of the sound.

Queen is the host of a new Spotify and Futuro Studios podcast called Loud, which explores the origins of reggaetón and promises "an incredible musical story about sex, race, drugs, censorship and, of course, perreo." Loud executive producers Marlon Bishop and Julio A. Pabón and producer Katelina "Gata" Eccleston joined NPR's Ailsa Chang to discuss the roots of reggaetón and how it came to be a fusion of many genres, including dancehall, reggae and hip-hop.

"[Reggaetón] went from a tool of resistance, to really a tool of movement," Eccleston explains, as Chang and the podcast team talk about the arrival of Jamaican immigrants in Panama and the melding of communities and cultures in the region. "People decided after all, 'You know what? We want to dance.' Dance is resistance as well. That's what perreo is, right? It's not just twerk music."

Loud is a bilingual podcast, meant to be accessible to a wide range of listeners. Bishop says, "The idea is that you know there are so many people in this country who are bilingual and enjoy hearing media and living their daily lives in both languages, and there's people who may not catch everything, but they'll catch enough to follow it along. And in this story, it just wouldn't make sense [to do it one way or the other]. It's inherently a spanglish story. From the beginning, it just was the natural way to produce this podcast."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Sarah Handel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Miguel Macias
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.