Monday, March 31, 2008

#5 George Lopez

Don’t let his former-ABC sitcom fool you; George Lopez is funny as hell. Not to be confused with the unfunny Carlos Mencia (the only other “working” Latino comic”), Lopez has actual talent.

After being abandoned by his mother at the age of 10, the L.A. native turned his pain into laughter. In 2004 his comedy album Team Leader was nominated for a Grammy and his long running show (2002-2007) George Lopez ran on ABC and can now be seen in syndication on Nickelodeon’s Nick-at-Nite. Actually for some strange reason the show is actually funnier in syndication-go figure. The George Lopez show became the second longest running sit-com starring Latinos coming after I Love Lucy. Lopez’s show also succeeded in turning the spotlight on actress Constance Marie, one of the hottest Latinas on TV. With his star power, Lopez performed his greatest feat when he opened the door for Freddie Prinze Jr., helping to green-light Prinze’s poor excuse of a sit-com Freddie. In 2005 Time magazine named Lopez as one of their “25 Most Influential Hispanics in America” and believe us, getting young FPJ his own show takes a ton of influence.

But don’t be fooled, Lopez is no media darling; actually the Mexican comedian isn’t afraid of pissing off the mainstream. In 2007, Lopez went on record calling late-night talk show host Jay Leno “The biggest two-faced dude in TV.” But Jorge didn’t stop there; rumors have it that Lopez roughed up fellow comedian Carlos Mencia for stealing his material. And with his jokes on immigration, Latino culture and America’s screwed up politics George Lopez keeps it realer than most.

In his 2007 HBO special America’s Mexican Lopez criticized not only President George Bush for his immigration platform, but California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s as well for his anti-Latino, English only policy, “Governor Schwarzenegger is for English only. Ok that’s good, but the problem there is motherfucker you don’t speak English… I’ve had uncles who are drunk that I could understand better than Arnold Schwarzenegger,” joked Lopez.

Not since Cheech Marin has Latinos a funnier comedian. Long live El Rey de Comedy!

#4 Flags

Latinos love flags. I remember in high school the bathrooms were bombed with "PR #1," "DR #1," or "Mexico #3" (just kidding amigos). A lot of gringos hated on it saying, "Yo, US #1 and if you don't like it go home." SAY WHAT????? Dudes would also hate on the bandannas and flags, but if they didn't lump us all together, there wouldn't be a problem now would there?

Flags get repped hard cause Latinos don't like being labeled together as one rice and beans eating group from Mexico. Solidarity is dope, but people like gettin' the home town some burn and you gotta pay attention to the distinguishing characteristics. What better way to show your colors than flags, holographic cd's, and frog stickers on your rear window? But, once one Latino does it, so does the rest of the neighborhood. Constantly finding creative placements for flag art that other people don't have is one of the greatest Latino Pastimes.

Whether you're playing soccer, handball, or just chillin on a lawn chair in Harlem drinking Coco Rico, your flag game's gotta be on point. Check out some of the recent innovations:

#3 Freestyle Music

Want to get the party started?!? Well if there are any Latinos in the house Mr. DJ better have some Freestyle in those crates. No, not the off-the-head style of Rap made famous by hip-hop stars like Supernatural and Mos Def, we’re talking about FREESTYLE MUSIC!

During the late ‘80s an emerging sound began to develop out of NYC and Miami and after it impacted, Latinos were never the same. Marked by its pounding 808s, synthetic keys and melodic vocals; often telling tales of tragic love, Freestyle music became the Latino answer to hip-hop. While genres like Salsa and Merengue became synonymous with an older generation due to their roots in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Freestyle became something that American-born Latinos could call their own. Stars like TKA (“Maria”), George Lamond (“No Matter What”) and Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam (“Head to Toe”) took the once underground sound to the mainstream proving that the genre can have life in the clubs and on the pop charts.

Freestyle music was derived from the electro-Euro pop of acts like Kraftwerk. Usually clocking in at well over 100 beats per minute, the genre took dance music to the next level and made New York clubs like the Funhouse, the Roxy and Broadway 96 world famous. Shannon’s “Let the Music Play” was one of Freestyle’s earliest and biggest hits, soon to be followed by tracks like Freeez’s “I.O.U.” and Safire’s “Let Me Be the One.” Eventually acts like Brenda K. Starr (“I Still Believe”), The Cover Girls (“Show Me”) and Stevie B. (“Spring Love”) began to define the genre and take it to new heights. With all of its commercial appeal, Freestyle crossed over into the world of pop music and eventually began to die in the face of early 90s acts like Paula Abdul and Milli Vanilli.

Still to this day Freestyle remains popular amongst 80s babies and has even seen a mini-resurrection of sorts amongst artists like Pitbull, Nina Sky and Lumidee. Almost 25 years after its inception it is clear that Latinos can not withstand the infectious rhythms of this unique brand of electro-pop music.

#2 Big Pun

Let’s set the record straight, Latinos have been apart of hip-hop since day one! From DJ Disco Wiz, to the Cold Crush Brothers’ DJ Charlie Chase, to the Rocksteady Crew’s Crazy Legs, Latinos are hip-hop! More often than not the Latino contribution to the culture gets overlooked because for years spanish cats lacked that one superstar MC. But when Big Pun emerged in the mid-nineties all of that changed.

After a a debut verse off of Fat Joe’s Jealous One’s Envy album, Pun stole the show on the Beatnuts’ 1997 single “Off the Books.” But when the Puerto Rican rapper emerged in 1997 with his groundbreaking, “Still Not a Player,” it was over! Once he released his multi-platinum debut Capital Punishment in 1998, Pun had already cemented himself as a hip-hop great. Latinos finally had the champion they were looking for. Equally regarded on the streets and the pop charts, Pun became more than just “a spanish kid who could rhyme,” he became the greatest off all time. But after his untimley death in 2000, there was a gapping void left in hip-hop.

Ask any Latino to rattle off their top 5, dead or alive rap list and Pun will come up damn near 100% of the time. Maybe he never got the Grammy, or the Source Award that he was famously jerked out of, but it didn’t matter. Still not a believer? Throw “100%” on at any party and witness Puerto Rican pride at it’s finest or try to recite “Dead in the middle of little Italy…” amongst a gang of battle MCS.

Now even 10 years after his death, hip-hop is desperately searching for the next Pun. No there will never be another, but there has been a resurgence in Latin MCs. Joell Ortiz is a beast, Termanology shows tons of promise and Omar Cruz is reppin’ the West Coast to the fullest. Still it is something about Pun that makes him our G.O.A.T. Oh so he isn’t on your top 5 yet? Keep playing, I’ll cut you puto!

#1 Baseball

Let's keep it all the way real, Baseball hasn't been America's favorite pastime for quite a while now. Ever since Roberto Clemente revolutionized the game in the '60s, Beisbol took a turn for Latin. Now the Major Leagues is dominated by Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Venezuelans and names like A.Rod, Sosa and Big Papi will take place in the hall of fame besides luminaries like Ruth and DiMaggio. The fact of the matter is we’ve taken Baseball and we’re not giving it back.

Take the Dominican Republic for example, a country who’s chief export is homerun hitters, Baseball is like religion to Latinos and the fact the MLB is over 30% Latino is proof in the pudding. In ’07 Detroit Tigers outspoken outfielder Gary Sheffield remarked on the rise of the Latino player in an issue of GQ. “I called it years ago. What I called is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out,” said Sheffield. Sheffield went on to suggest that Latinos will supercede Blacks as the dominant minority in the Major Leagues, mostly due to the language barrier which makes, Latinos easier to control. Yes Sheffield’s comments were asinine, but he was right about one thing, Latinos have taken over.

Still the Latin obsession with baseball goes beyond the diamond. Check the stickball legends from the Bronx who adapted the game without a bat, baseball, or gloves. The fact is that Beisbol is tradition and has become a vital part of the Latin DNA. For Americans baseball is simply a pastime, a sport- for Latinos it is a way of life. Cuba’s national baseball team is world renown, made up of amateur (a.k.a THEY DON’T GET PAID) players, the team from Cuba has been the most dominant team in the Olympic play and finished second in 2006’s World Baseball Classic.

With Boxing, Baseball and Futbol already in the bag- we’re going after Hockey next!