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Dame la Reggaeton

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Dame la Reggaeton

PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY (MAY 18, 2005)
BY KATE KILPATRICK // PHOTO BY JEFF FUSCO

You don’t have to know what “dame la gasolina” means to appreciate the effect the staccato beats and rapid-fire refrain of Daddy Yankee’s anthem has on the female torso.

Reggaeton music-an upbeat Latin-flavored hip-hop/reggae/dancehall blend born in Puerto Rico-has burst onto the nightclub scene not just as a party staple, but as the party jump-off-causing ladies to move their bodies in ways that entice guys to push up as far as permitted.

And it’s not just Latinos who love it.

“I was married to a Puerto Rican girl, and I didn’t care to learn Spanish,” says DJ Deluxxx of G-13 Sound, a collective of five DJs who want to see Philly get down with reggaeton. “Reggaeton makes me want to learn Spanish really bad.”

G-13 is a diverse musical group. The members-Deluxxx, Double L, Jay-P, JesOne and Rahsaan-all have their own preferred sound, from dancehall to house to Dirty South hip-hop. What unites them, they say, is their shared progressive mindset when it comes to DJing.

The Está Bien (everything’s okay) night at Silk City represents G-13’s personal mission to see the reggaeton that’s presented outside North Philly become more than just a two-song set.

“People are just now realizing that reggaeton’s not going anywhere,” says Deluxxx, the crunkest of the crew. “‘Oye Mi Canto’ and ‘Gasolina’-nine out of 10 DJs who aren’t Spanish are gonna play those two songs and that’s it. That’s their reggaeton set.”

The problem, the group says, is that Philly’s DJs aren’t doing their jobs, which should be to push new music. Local radio and nightclub DJs are reluctant to play anything that’s not already a mainstream hit, allowing music video stations to break new music instead.

Several members of G-13 work at Armand’s Records on Chestnut Street-ground zero for local DJs. Thanks to Deluxxx, the store stocks the largest vinyl selection of reggaeton in the country.

He says the majority of radio DJs who come in don’t want to hear any suggestions, and they don’t come to pick out hot new reggaeton singles by artists like Nicky Jam or Ivy Queen. But they’ll come back three months later-after the songs have blown up in the mainstream-and request the same record.

“People dismiss things until they’re kind of late,” says Deluxxx. “Radio doesn’t even break new songs as much as videos do, and there are four hip-hop stations in Philly.”

Reggaeton, he says, isn’t going away-and DJs should start respecting and playing it.

“If you don’t know more about the music than your audience, you shouldn’t be DJing. Keep sleeping on this reggaeton and you’re not going to have anything to play in 2007.”

The members of G-13 decided that what the Center City scene needed most right now was a reggaeton night. So when a vacant night opened at Silk City, they jumped on it.

The location was perfect for drawing people from both Center City, where they could lure reggaeton newbies, and North Philly, where the music is already established.

To promote their party, G-13 dropped fliers at the usual downtown spots, as well as at community centers, music shops and hair salons along North Fifth Street.

“Fifth Street is like the Nile,” says Rahsaan. “If it’s anywhere south of Spring Garden, North Philly won’t come.”

The members of G-13 weren’t sure at first if they could pull it off-if they had both the arsenal to play four hours of reggaeton and the ability to play it well. But the first night proved promising as they worked to figure out what would move the crowd and what was most representative of reggaeton. A bit of dancehall, soca and Spanish hip-hop got thrown into the mix.

North Philly showed up big the second night, and the dingy Silk City floor was filled with sexy women looking for dance partners.

G-13 hopes to keep the Está Bien party at Silk City while picking up other reggaeton-themed nights at other venues to fill the rest of the month. “You at least ought to be able to hear reggaeton a couple nights,” says Deluxxx. “This isn’t Iowa.”

Está Bien CD Release Party of G-13 Sound’s Reggaeton Version 1.0
Thurs., May 19, 10pm. $5. Silk City, Fifth and Spring Garden sts. 215.592.8838. www.silkcitylounge.com

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