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The Ten Best Reggaeton Songs of the Last Half Decade: A Survival Guide in the Age of Pitbull

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Mon, Nov 21, 2011 at 4:00 AM

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Reggaeton is dead in the same way hip-hop is dead -- the popular stuff no longer resembles the gritty, lo-fi ups and downs of the working class, from whose beaters and back-alleys both genres were born.

But a little spitshine isn't always a bad thing, especially on the big rubbery assbeat that defines reggaeton. (Dem Bow at its purest and most insatiable.) In 2005, after the brand-new genre was flown over from Puerto Rico, hip-hop heads fell prisoner to its crazy heat. "Oy, that beat," wrote a music critic turned rhythm victim for the Village Voice.

One UCLA professor even devoted an entire book, this year, to graphing reggaeton's infiltration of the Top 40. (Watch him explain the world's sexiest genre in a dork voice that could deflate the heartiest Afro-Latin buttcheek, here.)

Of course, weak-souled U.S. radio couldn't withstand the pummel forever. Within a year or two, the wave of pop-up "Hurban" stations either died out or diluted themselves with Usher, Akon and the rest. But as Pitbull and his contemporaries have slowly (and skillfully) watered down the Latino presence on U.S. airways to fit the electro revolution, reggaeton -- the stubborn bastard -- kept right on folding in on itself. Here, in handy YouTube playlist form, is everything you've been missing while it pummeled through half a decade of Latin American all-nighters without you.

We admit: Making a list of the "10 Best Reggaeton Songs" is like making a list of the "10 Best Rap Songs." No one will agree with each other, and no one will ever be right. So for our limited purposes -- a beginner's guide, not some hot new mixtape out the Dominican Republic underground -- we'll set some priorities. a) When the choice must be made between hard/grimy and catchy/danceable, we're going with the latter. Reggaeton is for dancers; socially conscious Spanish-language rappers (and fluttery Aventuras, for that matter) can get their own list. Also, the newer the better, because reggaeton's heydey did last pretty deep into 2006 and 2007. b) Repetitive, nasally, shouty shit will be kept to a minimum. A reggaetonera loves bathing in it like a Southern-rap enthusiast loves to be deep-fried in Lil Jon's vault of YAYUHs and OKAYs; however, it's not for everybody. c) Mix up the roster a bit -- not all Wisin y Yandel. Rough, but everyone deserves a chance. d) No Pitbull. But you already knew that, didn't you.

So this list is now amended to be "The 10 Most Danceable, Least Annoying Reggaeton Songs of the Last Half Decade (in No Particular Order)." Best enjoyed with a few cocktails and a dance floor, or whatever takes you to that "fuck guilty pleasures" state of mind.

10. "El Ritmo No Perdona (Prende)" -- Daddy Yankee

(Song doesn't begin until 00:38, FYI.) This may come as a surprise to some, but Daddy Yankee is not Pitbull. And saying they're the same person because they're both light-skinned Latin American dudes in sunglasses is like saying Kanye West is P. Diddy.

In fact, Daddy Yankee is the reigning king of reggaeton. Say what you will about his impish douche stance, bucket hat and Guido haircut -- dude started the revolution with "Gasolina" in early 2004, and on one solid album per year, he'll die trying to re-facilitate that first fix. Though it wasn't near as pretty/popular as she-catering hits "Que Tengo Que Hacer," "Oasis de Fantasia" and "Llamado de Emergencia" in 2008, the manic beat on "El Ritmo No Perdona (Prende)" one year later was the closest anyone has gotten to stretching the steadfast reggaeton bap into something even more danceable. And through it all, those old-school Latin instruments on backup, tooting and chortling to hold the thing down. When you love this game as much as Daddy Yankee does, an unforgiving rhythm is the only way to work.

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