¿Cómo se dice? From Drake to Jay-Z to Lauryn Hill, a timeline of rappers speaking Spanish
Drake is a bachata fan. Can an OVOXOAventura crew be far off?
When rappers try to spit rhymes en español, it’s usually a muddle of Spanglish and grammatical errors galore (conjugation, anyone?) squeezed into 16 bars. Sometimes, though, rappers get it right or at least have fun experimenting with a new tongue. “A” for effort, right? Here are some of the most memorable rhymes in (or attempting to be in) Spanish.
2012: Childish Gambino featuring Heems, “Tell Me”
Two of hip-hop’s newest oddballs joined forces for “Tell Me” earlier this year in which they traded strange verses about things like Oprah and Snapple. Somewhere in the mix, the duo throws in some bilingual zingers. Heems sums up three of our favorite things quite succinctly: “Buenos dias/Frida Kahlo/Papas fritas.” Good morning. Good art. Good food. What more do you need?
2011: Drake, “The Motto”
“Go Uptown, New York City, bitch/Them Spanish girls love me like I’m Aventura.” Not really Spanish per se, but we love to see Drizzy shout out our favorite bachata boy band.
2008: The Game, ”Money”
Being from Cali, we’d expect rapper The Game to have a little more multilingual fire in his arsenal. In 2008’s “Money,” we had to settle for “Speak no inglés but dinero I talk it fluent.”
2007: Kanye West, “Big Brother”
Kanye’s heartfelt homage to his rap inspiration Jay-Z; “Big Brother” had us grabbing for the Kleenex but also shaking our heads with the line, “Back in my mind I’m like, ‘Damn, no way’/Translate, español, no way, José.”
C’mon, Mr. West. Babel Fish translator could have spit out something a little more poetic.
2006: Cam’ron, “Wet Wipes”
“She had a candy **ocha/Como te llamas?/ Rosa?/Lets be a family, let me hit it, Sammy Sosa.” Uptown’s son Cam’ron wanted an exotic girl from the “Seven Seas” in this song and this was his mating call. Romantic, no? If nothing else, Killa Cam deserves two gold stars for properly conjugating llamar and then adding in a name-check for Sammy Sosa.
2003: Freeway and Peedi Crakk, “Flipside”
Fans of classic Rocafella hip-hop still nod their heads to this one.
Sadly, the memorable opener to “Flipside”—“Que tu quieres mujeres, said she blow la-la/and she my baby mama”—lasted longer than featured rapper Peedi Crakk’s career.
2002: Nas, “Made You Look”
“Like Pun said, ‘You ain’t even en mi clasa.’” We would say, “Smarten up, Nas” and chastise him for using a made-up word but in fact, the late Big Pun (a proud Nuyorican) did say “clasa” (in addition to casa) in his “Wrong Ones.”
2001: Jay-Z, “Girls, Girls, Girls”
No ode to beautiful women would be complete without love for the Latinas and for that, we thank you Jay-Z. Unfortunately Hov was also spitting love to women of 35 other flavors and his arroz-making señorita had some choice words after she finds him straying in the song. “I got this Spanish chica, she don’t like me to roam/So she call me ‘cabrón’ plus ‘maricón’/says she likes to cook rice, so she likes me home/I’m like, un momento, mami, slow your tempo.”
Tell him, girl (and let him starve!).
1999: Eve, “What Ya Want”
“Rubia huh? Papi screamin out of they mouth/Bombshell, just a second, mami, wanna speak out.” Eve was serious about her Spanish in the breakout “What Ya Want.” The sultry, conga-laden number even came complete with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights-themed choreography and Eve, in a floor-length dress, cozying up to a sexy Latin dancer in the music video.
1997: Wyclef featuring Lauryn Hill, “Guantanamera”
This remake of the classic Cuban tune featured the legendary Celia Cruz so we were sold by the first verse. Both Wyclef and Lauryn took shots in Spanish but we especially love L-Boogie’s “This gentle flower of fertility was empowered/ Sweet persona/Venus flytrap primadonna/Que será que será/she turned dinero to dinera.”
1997: Diddy, “Señorita”
Remember the 90s, when Diddy, er, Puff Daddy was in love with J. Lo? Although technically the two hadn’t romantically linked when 1997’s “Señorita” was recorded, Puffy clearly had a special someone on his mind…so much so that he sang the sappy chorus in Spanish: “Mami ven aqui, I wanna be your papichulo can’t you see?/Baby I need you conmigo/Your style is my steelo/ te necesito aqui.” We bet this was the calling card he used to get Jennifer to costar in his steamy “Been Around The World” video as royalty shortly thereafter. The rest, as they say, is history…