Rapping in Spanish

Written by
Julie Clack, Office of Communications
June 24, 2019

From Barcelona to Buenos Aires and Madrid to Mexico City, Spanish rap music and hip-hop brings people from all different backgrounds together. Like the music itself, the spring course “Rapping in Spanish” did the same for Princeton students.

Taught by Germán Labrador Méndez and graduate student Paula Perez-Rodriguez, the course explored Spanish rap and hip-hop as a kind of urban poetry by studying lyrics for things like linguistic rhythm and meter. The course also considered the music as social commentary that voices opinions about contemporary issues in Latinx society, including politics, sexism and immigration.

Students in the spring 2019 course 'Rapping in Spanish'

Students assemble the materials for their song books. The course was taught by Germán Labrador Méndez, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, and graduate student Paula Perez-Rodriguez. It was part of the Collaborative Teaching Initiative, which aims to foster graduate students’ professional experience through the design and co-teaching of an innovative undergraduate course. “Rapping in Spanish” was a natural extension of the instructors’ overlapping interests in rap, poetry and contemporary urban cultures and politics. Photo by Julie Clack, Office of Communications

“Teaching poetry today is difficult, but rap songs are poetry too,” said Labrador. “The aim of this course was to give students a knowledge of rap as a poetical genre and all of its complexities, inflections and social impact.”

“Prior to this class, I would simply enjoy a rap song but didn’t give much thought to its actual structure,” said Dani Peters, a junior concentrating in molecular biology. “Through exploration of different song characteristics such as rhythm and rhyme, literary devices, themes, and more, I now feel like I am able to recognize the more complex elements of a song that enhance its crafts and demonstrate the profound abilities of the rapper.”

In addition to discussing contemporary issues surrounding the music, Labrador and Perez-Rodriguez gave students an historical overview of the cultures and traditions from which Spanish rap and hip-hop emerged.

Senior economics major Eitan Sapiro-Gheiler said, “My biggest takeaway from the course was the depth of the musical and cultural context in which rap exists. Professor Labrador and [Perez-Rodriguez] brought a tremendous range of topics to bear, from the intersection of rap and globalization to Aristotle’s poetics to other forms of music once considered as ‘rebellious,’ like tango, samba and rock.”

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