Rap music may seem synonymous with black culture, but if you look beyond the surface to its earliest incarnation, you'd find that the genre was cultivated in large part with the assistance of Latin Americans, whose contributions have proved invaluable in shaping hip-hop as we know it. However, for a long time, Latin Americans were underrepresented in the mainstream, with acts like Frost, Cypress Hill, Fat Joe and Big Pun being among the few Latino artists to gain credibility within the culture while also making their presence felt on the Billboard charts.
However, over the past 20 years, the mainstream and hip-hop as a whole has come a long way in terms of fully embracing artists that rep their Latin heritage. Latin rappers may still speak to an ethnic background or experience, but is no longer a defining quality thanks to artists like Noreaga, who helped popularize the reggaeton movement that featured acts like Daddy Yankee and Tego Calderón to hip-hop a decade ago.
Today, hip-hop is as homogeneous as ever, with an array of artists of all ethnic backgrounds making their mark and resonating with the fans. But 2017 also saw a noticeable spike in the number of artists of Latin descent whose contributions helped define the past year in music. With the year coming to a close, XXL presents a list highlighting Cardi B, Kap G, Lil Pump and some of the other hottest rap artists with Latin roots who made an impact in hip-hop in 2017.
Capitalizing on her standout verse on J Balvin's 2016 single "Safari," former Oxygen Sisterhood of Hip-Hop alum BIA kept her nose to the grindstone throughout the past year. In addition to hitting the road with Ariana Grande as an opening act on the pop star's Dangerous Woman tour after appearing on Grande's "Esta Noche," BIA released two singles, “Badside” and “Fungshway," which precede her forthcoming Trap Vogue project.
Bodega Bamz is a young rap veteran. Aside from sporadic musical releases, including “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Young & Living Out of Order,” Bamz, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, also made a foray into acting, his first role being that of Carlos, a character on the Showtime comedy series SMILF. With his long-awaited P.A.P.I. album set to touch down in 2018, Bodega Bamz may have gone a bit Hollywood last year, but plans to remain true to his Uptown stomping grounds on what will be his most ambitious body of work to date.
Cardi B made the leap from reality television to the top of the Billboard charts in 2017 in seemingly effortless fashion, making for one of the most feel-good stories in music. Inking a record deal with Atlantic Records early this year, Cardi B unleashed her official debut single "Bodak Yellow," which would become the arguable 2017 anthem. The song made the Puerto Rican Bronx native the first female rapper to score a solo No. 1 since Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)" in 1998. In addition to "Bodak Yellow," appearances on G-Eazy's "No Limit" and Migos' "Motorsport" kept Cardi's voice in heavy rotation, making her the runaway rookie of the year for 2017.
Few rappers have generated the amount of buzz that Dave East has over the course of the past 12 months. From cosigns by some of rap's most respected names to Tyra Banks checking for him, the Harlem native with Bajan and Dominican roots appears to be the next to blow out of New York City. After inking a deal with Def Jam Records in 2016, East released his most recent project, Paranoia: A True Story, which debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200, the highest charting position of his career. And with a sequel to the EP on the way and a major label debut album looming in 2018, Dave East is on the cusp of elevating himself into elite territory.
In 2017, Kap G proved that hard work pays off. The Atlanta native—who wears his Mexican heritage on his sleeve—saw his stock rise to unprecedented levels this past year, earning a slot on XXL's annual freshman issue and releasing his debut album, SupaJefe, which boasts appearances from Pharrell, Chris Brown, and fellow 300 signee Dae Dae. Having found himself on the national radar on the strength of singles like "Rings" and the gold-certified "Girlfriend," Kap G is among the hottest Latin stars to win big in 2017 and is a reminder of hip-hop's community of multi-cultural talent.
One rapper that captivated the rap world in a big way in 2017 was Lil Pump, a 17-year old Dade County native that has compiled one of the more impressive résumés of any rap rookie. Initially using the streaming platform SoundCloud to release his music, Pump, who is of Puerto Rican descent, would hit the ground running with songs like “Lil Pump," “30’s,” “Elementary" and “Ignorant," all amassing more than 1 million views individually, resulting in the teenager becoming one of hip-hop's hottest unsigned artists. Lil Pump's popularity reached a fever pitch during the past year, with singles like "D Rose" and "Gucci Gang"—the latter of which peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100—self-titled mixtape and record deal with Warner Bros., confirming the phenom's arrival.
Born Diego Leanos, California native Lil Xan is one of many Mexican-American rappers putting on for the Latin community today. After trading in his camera for a mic and recording his first song in 2016, Lil Xan has hit the ground running, releasing a slew of buzzworthy tracks, most notably his 2017 single "Betrayed," which peaked at No. 69 on the Hot 100, his most successful song thus far. With his debut album, Total Xanarchy, on the docket for the first quarter of 2018, Lil Xan's name is one that will be ringing bells for the foreseeable future.
Since first taking the national stage at the 2011 BET Hip-Hop Awards, Nitty Scott has grown and evolved, both as an artist and a person. The daughter of an Puerto Rican mother and an African-American father, Nitty Scott, who called Michigan and Florida home before landing in New York City to pursue her rap career, has been one of the more active females in rap this decade, releasing acclaimed projects and sparing with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Styles P, Rapsody and Action Bronson. In 2017, Nitty Scott liberated her latest body of work, Creature!, a conceptual album that aims to empower women in the Afro-Latina community and beyond, and is regarded as her most complete collection to date.
The son of Cuban and Persian parents, Miami rapper Pouya has been one of the artists at the forefront of South Florida's newfound reputation as the most fertile breeding ground for rap talent in hip-hop. One of the initial acts to spark an interest in his area's indie scene, Pouya has continued to be instrumental in putting South Florida back on the national radar in 2017, joining forces with Fat Nick for the collaborative album Drop Out of School, which dropped this past February. South Side Suicide 2, Pouya's collaborative project with $uicideboy$, is slated to be released in the new year, and should only help ignite the rapid-fire spitter's meteoric rise.
Previously known as Wavy Spice and Destiny, Princess Nokia has become a beacon of feminism and true-school values when it comes to New York City rap, a scene she has become all but synonymous with. Born Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, the Afro-Puerto Rican and Taino artist caught tastemakers' attention with the early releases Metallic Butterfly and Honeysuckle before unleashing her highly ancticipated 1992 Deluxe project earlier this year. Gaining critical acclaim and strengthening her buzz, 1992 Deluxe played a major role in making Princess Nokia's 2017 a breakout year, as she translated the immense hype surrounding her return into tangible success.
Casual rap fans may know her from her appearance on the Oxygen reality TV series Sisterhood of Hip Hop, but those who are privy to New York's most formidable young spitters are more than familiar with Siya, who has built a reputation as a sharp-spitting lyricist. A native of Brooklyn, Siya, who is of Puerto Rican and African-American descent, began the year on the high note off the heels of her 2016 debut, SIYAvsSIYA, her most acclaimed project to date. Following up SIYAvsSIYA with her Commitment EP in February and her 383 - For Roosevelt album, Siya continues to gain traction while building her brand as an artist and a rep as one of the more formidable rhyme animals in her class.
Born Omar Pineiro, the son of a Hispanic mother, Miami native Smokepurpp enjoyed a surge in popularity in 2017 after first turning heads in 2016 with songs like “Ski Mask” and “WOKHARDT,” unleashing his gold-certified single "Audi," his most successful release to date. Those tracks, along with his collaborations with fellow Floridian Lil Pump, would precede the producer-turned-rapper's debut mixtape Deadstar, which peaked at No. 42 on the Billboard 200. Having inked a contract with Travis Scott's Cactus Jack Records, Smokepurpp is in position to maximize his success going into 2018 and beyond.
Houston native and Atlantic Records artist Snow Tha Product has spent the past few years cultivating her fan base with a succession of musical releases, resulting in her becoming one of the more respected female spitters in rap. 2017 may have been a relatively quiet year for Snow Tha Product, but the San Jose, California native was far from absent, making noise with the visual to her song "Problems," as well as her Vibe Higher mixtape, which was supported by a nationwide tour of the same name. Displaying a return to form and a hunger for more in recent moments, Snow Tha Product is primed for a landmark year moving forward.
Wifisfuneral has emerged as one of the more prominent rookies out of South Florida's rap scene and an artist to watch for in 2018. The Puerto Rican sensation enjoyed a fruitful 2017, inking a record deal with Alamo Records/Interscope and releasing his Boy Who Cried Wolf project, which further ingratiated listeners to Wifi's progressive brand of emo rap. Having recently wrapped up his Boy Who Cried Wold tour and with all signs pointing to a major label debut, Wifisfuneral heads into the new year as one of the more buzzworthy Latin rappers in the game today.
First making waves as a member of NYC rap trio Ratking, Manhattan native Wiki has enjoyed breakout success as a solo artist, becoming one of the more popular subterranean rappers to call the five boroughs home. Wiki, who was born Patrick Morales to a Puerto Rican father and an Irish mother, enjoyed a particularly busy year, with the release of What Happened to Fire?, his collaborative EP with Your Old Droog, as well as his solo debut, No Mountains in Manhattan. An album steeped in the grit and grime that defines his hometown's streets, No Mountains in Manhattan marked Wiki's transformation from being a mere cog in a unit to the main event and one of the premier soloists on the indie circuit.
After creating a national rap anthem with her 2016 smash "Ooouuu," Young M.A. spent much of 2017 in the shadows, however, she did pop up to bless fans with a musical release. The Brooklyn native with Puerto Rican and Jamaican roots put listeners who deemed her as a fluke on notice with "Walk," a cocksure selection produced by 1Mind and DJ Burn One that saw the New Yorker closing the year out on a high note and increasing intrigue into her next move.
Hailing from the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, 6ix9ine saw his profile rise in a big way in 2017 despite being shrouded in a cloud of controversy. The rapper, who is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, caught fire with the release of his 2017 single "Gummo," which peaked at the No. 12 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and has amassed more than 72 million views on YouTube to date. Produced by Pi'erre Bourne, "Gummo" may have been one of the biggest hits of this year's fourth quarter, but did nothing to distract hip-hop fans from reports that 6ix9ine, born Daniel Hernandez, had previously pled guilty to three felony counts in New York Supreme Court for use of a child in a sexual performance. The charges, which stemmed from a February 2015 incident, have caused many rap fans and artists alike to denounce 6ix9ine, but has done little to damper anticipation for the rapper's forthcoming Kooda project, set to drop in early 2018.