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The Dictionary of Latin Urban Music: Decoding Slang in Reggaetón & Trap Lyrics

We listen to it full blast, we sing the lyrics at the top of our lungs, and even relate to the song, but perhaps there are times we are unsure of what we’re actually singing — and that’s OK, because Billboard has curated the ultimate Latin urban dictionary of reggaetón and trap music. 

In this edition, we specifically focus on Puerto Rican slang, decoding the meaning of words such as “puñeta,” “chavos,” and “la movie,” to name a few, found in the most popular lyrics. 

“Puerto Rico is the epicenter of everything that happens with urban music in the entire world,” Siggy Vázquez, Puerto Rican hitmaker who’s worked with Myke Towers, Shakira, and more, tells Billboard. “There are many countries that have contributed to our music, we owe a lot to Panama, Jamaica, and the United States, but Puerto Rico maintained that essence and knew how to globalize the movement. I think that the slang that we Boricuas use is unique. It dates back to the neighborhood, from the experiences we go through every day, and I think that connection is marked and reflected with the slang that we use in reggaetón lyrics. Currently, it’s one of the important characteristics by which our music is influencing and reaching larger markets.” 

Evidently, Puerto Rican slang has transcended the Caribbean island and expanded into other countries. Colombian star Karol G released the empowering “Bichota” deriving from the Puerto Rican term “bichote” that describes someone who’s powerful; Dominican artist Natti Natasha dropped the provocative “Algarete”; and “Bellakeo” finds Brazilian sensation Anitta and Mexican phenomenon Peso Pluma singing about being turned on. 

“I think it’s great that other countries use our vocabulary,” reggaetón and trap artist Brytiago says to Billboard. “In this way we maintain our culture and vocabulary, and it’s a way to represent our flag and roots to other diverse cultures in music. Music is a universal language, it belongs to all of us. If our vocabulary inspires others, that’s a great thing because it helps us continue to represent the beginnings of our movement.”

“I think that was the main goal: to let the world know about our slang and have other countries be nurtured and help us diversify,” adds Vázquez. “I think the most important thing about this is that when you listen to the music and there’s a word that you don’t understand, you search its meaning and its origin. At the same time, we are talking about education and we are doing proactive things so that people can be oriented about our movement and culture.” 

From “al garete” to “corillo” to “tiraera,” check out the list below.

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