June 13, 2024

Hip-hop, like any other music genre, has multiple layers and flavors that combine under one big umbrella. One of these layers of hip-hop is Chicano (Mexican-American) rap. This style is predominantly composed of lyrics describing the life and times of Mexican-Americans living in the west coast and in the southwestern United States, often referencing Latino gangs of Southern California. It’s also distinct in its usage of Spanglish, mixing English and Spanish languages into its raps. Its musical sound draws influence from ‘70s and ‘80s funk. In fact, the first widely known Chicano rapper came in 1990 with an electro-funk artist named Kid Frost. I wanted to highlight one Chicano rap group that was especially influential.
One of the most prolific Chicano artists is a rap duo named Lighter Shade of Brown (LSOB for short). Originally from Riverside, California, LSOB was composed of rappers One Dope Mexican and Don’t Try to Xerox. The group was active from 1990 to 1999. Their albums include their debut “Brown & Proud” (1990), “Hip Hop Locos” (1992), “Layin’ in the Cut” (1994), “Lighter Shade of Brown” (1997), “If You Could See Inside Me” (1999), and a “Greatest Hits” album, also released in 1999. The duo first rose to prominence after their single “On A Sunday Afternoon” from their “Brown and Proud” album became a Top 40 hit. One of the best things about LSOB was the fact they weren’t one-dimensional. In other words, their lyrics weren’t limited to gritty street tales, and on the other hand weren’t all about partying and women. They had an effective blend of many themes which painted a picture of the Chicano community that had many complex layers. If you wanted to hear lyrics that described life as a Chicano in Southern California, you could listen to “Things Ain’t the Same” or “Brown & Proud.” If you feel like partying, you could listen to songs like “Latin Active,” “Hey DJ,” or “If You Wanna Groove.” If you just feel like chilling, you could listen to “Dip Into my Ride” or their classic hit “On A Sunday Afternoon.”
LSOB’s influence in the Chicano Rap Movement was significant. Due to their success, other Latin hip-hop artists and groups have been able to infiltrate the west coast hip-hop scene. Notable examples of other groups are Cypress Hill, who achieved even more success than LSOB by the early and mid-’90s, and Brownside, who was founded by Eazy-E in 1994 and meant to be a Latin version of N.W.A.
Chicano rap has some of the most distinct lyrics and sounds out of all the different flavors of hip-hop. LSOB gave listeners a wide array of songs to listen to for any situation. But most importantly, they allowed for more voices in the Latino — specifically the Chicano  — community to be heard through hip-hop music through substantial rhymes and smooth west coast beats.

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