Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bilingual Rap Quietly Makes Its Return

It's been a long while since Hiphop has been treated to a quality song that featured an artist rhyming in something other than their native language.

Two songs immediately come to mind when weighing the contenders for best bilingual rap songs of all time performed by non-bilingual rappers.

The summer of 1991 was responsible for tons of hits that are now classics, but the Hiphop nation stood at attention when Nice & Smooth flipped their already hot single Hip-Hop Junkies for its Spanish Fly remix, paying tribute to their Spanish-speaking fans as well as their Bronx brethren:

Nine long years later to a much less publicized degree, Mos Def and De La Soul were featured on the bilingual jewel What's That (?Que Eso?) from Tony Touch's The Piece Maker album.

De La was great, and of course Tony Toca excelled, but Mos Def stole the show by closing his impressive and memorable verse with the following line (ironically delivered in English): "Understand that when I shine all your light is through, y'all n*ggas wack in one language, son, I'm nice in two."

But now these two songs get some quality [and surprising] company from Compton rapper Game, who is featured on French rapper La Fouine's song Caillra For Life.

Game has generally improved as a rapper since his debut, but his verse on this song shatters all preconceptions we may have had of his rhyming prowess by flowing effortlessly in both French and English. (Editor's note: criteria for this list does not include subject matter...)

Not only does it show that Game is willing to step outside of his comfort zone (for which he should be commended), it also displays a growth that was never expected from a rapper of his ilk (when is the last time a gangsta rapper emceed in another language?).

This brief but substantial list leaves out Cypress Hill, The Beatnuts and other pioneering Latino rappers and rap groups who have always infused their native language into their mostly English rhymes, and their contributions shouldn't be ignored. But rare is it when a rapper goes out of his element to showcase his rhyming ability in another language.

Honorable Mention: GURU featured French rapper MC Solaar on Jazzmatazz, but GURU himself never rapped in another language, making him ineligible to appear this list.

I'm sure there are other notable bilingual songs from non-bilingual rappers. Who am I missing?

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