News / Music, Remezcla

Borderline Latin: The Latin Kings of Sweden

Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature a song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

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I am not a huge fan of hip hop, but I believe this band’s story is worth telling. They are, in fact, a somewhat legendary band now: they played in Sweden during the 1990s up until the early 2000s. During this time, they were part of a wave of Swedish hip hop bands who started recording in their own language. They even incorporated other languages in order to mimic the slang of certain immigrant populated neighborhoods of their country. Something like hip hop en tu idioma, only Swedish.

The Latin Kings took their name from the homonymous Chicago gang. During their time, they were accused of being mostly image, and that’s somewhat true. But you have to cut them some slack: Stockholm is a rather nice place to live, pretty mild. Besides, The Latin Kings do have a Latin background, and hail from Botkyrka, a municipality populated mostly by immigrants. Back in the 1990s, Swedish rappers recorded only in English, but TLK started singing in Swedish and a whole movement started. Soon they also incorporated Spanish, and even a mix they call Rinkeby Swedish, which includes words from Turkish, Aramaic, Spanish, Persian and Arabic –a little weirder than our good old Spanglish.

Their first album was very successful in Sweden, so in 1995 they recorded a full Spanish version of it, called Bienvenido a mi barrio. From that album, check out the Spanish version of their song “Snubben” which means something like El loco. It’s quirky, but funky “el loco se creía capo/pero sólo era un sapo.” Enjoy.