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Baker's Dozen

Everything's Connected: Omar Rodríguez-López Favourite LPs
Stevie Chick , September 10th, 2020 08:43

Former At The Drive In and Mars Volta member Omar Rodríguez-López speaks to Stevie Chick about the records that shaped his life, from Latin traditionals to how Janet Jackson got him into punk


Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam – With Full Force 
When my family came to America, this was the first English-speaking music that was played in my household, along with Shannon's Let The Music Play. This music is known as freestyle, and it comes from Latinos, Hispanics, particularly the Afro-Caribbean community: Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in Manhattan or the Bronx. You can hear what becomes the sound of 80s electro, synth-pop, hip-hop… It's influenced by stuff like Afrika Bambataa and everything else, but if you check out Cover Girl's 'Show Me', or 'Pretty Poison', or even Paula Abdul and Bobby Brown, it's all coming from freestyle music.

Lisa Lisa's Nuyorican. It's very raw. It's the sound of that era, but because it's the origins of it, and it's coming from this minority community, it's like punk – they're going into whatever studio they can afford and putting down these songs, and it's super-raw.

This was my transition into English-speaking music. It was pop music, being made by Puerto Ricans, in English, and it became super-popular at the time. The two big contributions to English-speaking music by Caribbean Latinos would be freestyle music, and obviously what it known now as Reggaeton. You hear that in all music now – in hip-hop, in pop hits, I've heard it on radio in London. The tracks are essentially Reggaeton, but it's now just part of the pop vernacular.