Tony Touch had always been at the forefront of Latino Hip-Hop. He’s featured emerging Latino hip-hop acts on both his mixtapes and official releases and was one of the first people to try and bring reggaeton into the mainstream. With “The Reggaetony Album,” Tony Touch is finally able to dedicate an entire release to Latino hip-hop. For those not familiar with the reggaeton phenomenon, the best description would be fast-paced hip-hop in Spanish. From its name it’s obvious that the genre also borrows heavily from dancehall reggae, but the truth is that anyone rapping or singing in Spanish nowadays gets lumped into the reggaeton category. “The Reggaetony Album” doesn’t aim to change this perception as the album features everyone from reggaeton superstars to hip-hop legends like The Beatnuts, B-Real, Nore, and even production from DJ Premier.
The album starts off with “Pa Que Tu Lo Sepa,” a short solo track that features Tony Touch’s simple, but entertaining, rap delivery. The production is also simple, featuring the typical snare-stutter reggaeton drum pattern. The album’s first single follows with the Nina Sky assisted “Play That Song.” The song’s beat is definitely danceable, but not distinguishable from any other reggaeton track. The hook features another semi-talented R&B act recycling the “Hey DJ” concept, the difference being a few Spanish words. The track works well for what it is, but if not for a strong verse from B-Real, the track would just be pop fodder. Hip-Hop heads will instantly recognize the thick syrupy vocals of Puerto-Rican rapper Hurricane G on “Asi.” The track slows down the tempo a little with a slithering flute melody, meshing reggaeton with hip-hop nicely. “Sofrito” features The Beatnuts, and is really a straight up hip-hop song, the only difference is the Spanish vocals and Spanish influence on the beat. It sounds a lot like The Beatnuts Spanish remix of “Se Acabo,” and is equally pleasing on the ears. Tracks like these, while nothing like what is typically classified as reggaeton, are actually the better efforts on the album.
The album picks up the reggaeton vibe again on “Tranquilla,” which isn’t a bad track at all but showcases all the problems with reggaeton. It’s not Tony Touch’s fault, but the genre of reggaeton can be a very repetitive, boring, and shallow form of music, both musically and lyrically. Producers tend to recycle the same double-time snare/ bass drum pattern track after track while only changing the sparse instrumentation that surrounds the drum pattern. At times this can produce a hit, but mostly it just produces generic music. Lyrically, the genre also suffers from recycled concepts and topics. Reggaeton artists won’t stray far from party anthems and boasts about violence or material possessions. Granted, the same complaint could be made about current commercial hip hop, but at least hip-hop fans know a world of diverse music exists beyond the radio playlists. Tracks like “Toca-me-la,” “Saca Semilla,” and “Here I Come” all fall into this category of stereotypical and generic reggaeton.
The album’s true highlights are the more hip-hop influenced tracks. The dirty-south synths included on “My Playground” give the track an added boost, though the song itself is still average. “Gangsta Gangsta” is one of the album’s most promising tracks, but DJ Premier’s beat is far from his best. The sub-par beat brings the track down, but the idea of Tego Calderon’s vocals over a hip-hop beat works very well. Underground favorite Thirston Howell III shows up for “Pa’ Eso Bebe,” a track that is heavily influence by latino-carribean music but is quite different than your typical reggaeton track.
Overall, “The Reggaetony Album” delivers what it promises. It focuses on the emerging reggaeton movement and adds just enough of a hip-hop twist to entertain a broader fan base. Reggaeton fans should be pleased on every level by the album as it features an all star cast of artists. Hip-hop fans probably should stay away unless they are fluent in Spanish and have money to spare. I’m not trying to take a stuck-up stance on the issue by implying that reggaeton is a step below hip-hop, but the truth is that the genre still has a lot of growing to do before it can be a force outside of the dancefloor.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: July 19, 2005