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This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip hop music, and it’s important to recognize the contributions of Latino artists throughout its history. From the early days of breakdancing and popping in New York City parks to today’s chart-topping rap acts. Latino musicians have been integral to the growth and evolution of hip hop music.

We’ve curated a list of the biggest names that have contributed to the game. We have no doubt you will agree with certain picks. But also, debate some and recall names that you believe worthy of inclusion, that may have been overlooked. In either case, the community can declare victory. Because it demonstrates the depth and breadth of Latino contributions and impact to the genre.

Big Punisher aka Big Pun (1971-2000)

Big Punisher, born Christopher Rios, was a Puerto Rican rapper from The Bronx who is often considered one of the greatest lyricists of all time. His debut album “Capital Punishment” is widely regarded as a classic and has been credited with bringing Latin culture into mainstream hip hop. His seminal hit “Still Not a Player” remains a hip hop classic that still commands airplay. Though Rios tragically passed away at 28 years old, Big Pun’s influence can still be felt today in modern rappers such as Kendrick Lamar and J Cole.

Cypress Hill (1989 – Present)

Representing West Coast Latino flavor, Cypress Hill rose to fame in the late 80’s/early 90s. Their initial single “How I Could Just Kill a Man”, served as an appetizer to their breakthrough hit “Insane in The Brain”, from their album “Black Sunday” which had kids from El Barrio to The Burbs bobbing their heads. They were one of the first mainstream Latin acts to gain recognition for their unique blend of rap and rock music. Cypress Hill combined elements from both genres to create a distinct sound that would go on to influence many other acts including Kid Cudi and Method Man & Redman.

Fat Joe (1993 – Present)

No list is complete without including Fat Joe. Perhaps one of the most influential Latinx rappers of all time. Joseph Antonio Cartagena has been active since 1993, when he released his debut album “Represent”. Since then, he has released nine studio albums creating some of the most memorable anthems the game has ever seen. From “Lean Back” to “All the Way Up”. Fat Joe has always managed to stay relevant by adapting his style and collaborating with other artists from different genres such as reggaeton, trap and EDM.

Beyond dropping his own tracks he’s developed and cultivated other artists. He set up his own label, Terror Squad which signed artists such as Big Pun, Remy Ma, Cuban Link and a then-unknown DJ Khaled.

His work in front of the mic and behind it has cemented his legacy as one of the most influential Latinx rappers in hip-hop music.

Daddy Yankee (1992 – 2023)

Let the debate begin! We are some hip hop music purists may debate this pick. Perhaps on the basis that his genre is reggaeton not hip hop. But were going to put an inclusive lens on. One cannot talk about Latin hip hop without mentioning Daddy Yankee, one of the most successful Latinx reggaetoneros ever. He’s released countless hit singles over his career. Classics such as “Gasolina” and “Despacito” are anthems.  The reggaetonero from Puerto Rico pioneered Reggaeton music, which blends elements from reggae, dancehall, rap, and Latin music. He has sold over 15 million records worldwide and continues to be an influential figure in Latin culture today.

Pitbull (2000 – Present)

Pitbull is another important figure in Latinx hip hop music who rose to prominence in 2004 with his debut album M.I.A.M.I., which spawned several hit singles such as “Culo” and “Culo (Remix).”

Born Armando Christian Pérez in Miami, Florida to Cuban immigrant parents. Pitbull has shown the world what Latino hip hop coming out of the 305 looks and sounds like. Pitbull has since become one of the world’s biggest stars, selling more than 70 million records worldwide throughout his career and earning numerous Grammy nominations and awards along the way.

The hits are endless, as are the collabs. The likes of Neo, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown, Lil Jon, Snoop Dog have joined forces with Mr. Worldwide in hopes of crafting a party anthem. His success has made him an icon for many Latinos around the world, inspiring them to pursue their dreams regardless of what obstacles they may face in life.

N.O.R.E. (2000 – Present)

N.O.R.E. is another important figure in Latinx hip hop music who started out as part of Capone-N-Noreaga, a group that was formed by fellow rapper Kool G Rap back in 1995. NORE went solo in 1998 with his debut album The War Report, which spawned several hit singles such as “Superthug” and “Banned From TV.” Since then, he has gone on to release five more albums and collaborate with numerous other artists from different musical genres including rap, reggaeton, trap and EDM. He has also been credited with helping bring Latinx culture into mainstream hip hop music through his collaborations with other popular rappers such as Nas, Kool G Rap and Busta Rhymes.

Cardi B (2015 to Present)                                   

Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar Cephus aka Cardi B is one of the biggest stars within rap music today. Thanks in large part to her breakout hit single “Bodak Yellow” which topped charts around the world back in 2017. She quickly followed up this success with her debut album “Invasion of Privacy”. The album earned her five Grammy nominations including Album of The Year. In the process making her only the second female rapper ever to receive this honor after Lauryn Hill did so back in 1999 for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Cardi B’s success not only speaks volumes about her talent but also shows how far Latinx representation within hip hop music has come over the years. Thanks largely due to Latina trailblazers like Cardi B herself! 

The contributions that Latino MCs have made towards hip hop music is immeasurable. From Big Punisher’s lyrical genius to Fat Joe’s work in front and behind the mic, to Cardi B’s recent success—and it continues to grow every day! Their impact can be seen everywhere from radio stations playing their hits to fashion trends being influenced by their style. They are true icons whose influence will continue long after their careers end!

As we commemorate 50 years since its inception. Let us celebrate these legendary figures throughout history who have helped shape not just hip hop but also Latino culture itself!

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