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The crisis in Latin music

So last week wasn’t a very big week for hip-hop album sales. As has been the case fairly often this year, there wasn’t a single rap album in the top 10 of Billboard’s albums chart. One thing I did notice is that Rick Ross’ Port of Miami, which has been out for a while longer, is now outselling OutKast’s Idlewild. It also happens to be the only rap album at all in the top 20.

Perhaps the most prominent hip-hop-related album to enter the charts this week (other than John Mayer’s Continuum, natch), was some shit called N.O.R.E. y la Familia … Ya Tu Sabe by Noreaga, who may be going by just N.O.R.E. (Nigga on the Run Eatin’) these days. I’d be lying if I said I knew very much about this album, but I’m assuming it’s some sort of reggaeton thing.

Whatever it was, not very many people bought it. It only sold about 11,700 copies its first week out, which was good for a chart debut way the fuck down at number 82. Granted, you have to attribute at least part of that to the fact that N.O.R.E. is on Def Jam, which I’m convinced may actually be run by Jay-Z at this point. But that’s still pretty shitty even by today’s hip-hop standards.

I’m not sure how those numbers relate to album sales by other “latino” artists, but that’s the thing. With massive increases in the hispanic demographic, you’d think at least some of it would translate into album sales for hispanic artists. But for the most part, that hasn’t really been the case. Even reggaeton radio stations, which don’t cost anything, have been struggling as of late.

At the risk of asking what might be a ridonkulous question, I’m going to go ahead and put this forth: If we know for a fact that there are now more hispanics in the US than there are black people, how come they aren’t very many popular hispanic recording artists, especially in the world of hip-hop?

A few possible reasons I came up with:

The language barrier. If this is the US, and everyone here speaks English, where’s the market for an album that’s mostly, if not entirely in Spanish? Where as black artists have been able to cultivate a following among cracka-ass crackas in the suburbs, where all of the money is, “latino” artists may be confining themselves to the type of people who huddle in Spanish-speaking enclaves by refusing to learn the language.

Economic resentment. If your job decided to shut down its operations here and move to Mexico, or if it just pays half as much today as it did 20 years ago due to illegal immigrants who undercut wages for American workers, how quick would you be to go cop an album by someone who looks vaguely similar to the guy who’s got your job?

Disposable income. You’d think that your average “latino” could afford to cop a new CD every now and again, since so many of them are working. (The unemployment rate for hispanics is generally much lower than it is for blacks.) Only thing is, like I said, black people are obviously selling a lot of music to white people, while hispanics may be relying primarily on themselves at this point.

Hispanics don’t like music. This one is, admittedly, a matter of sheer speculation, but maybe “latinos” aren’t as into as other groups of people. For example, I wonder if, adjusted for general financial ability, people in, say, Mexico or… um, Mexico (let’s face it) buy as much music per capita as your average American. Indeed maybe there’s a lot of shit people buy there that people don’t buy here.

What do you ‘bags think?

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