Reggaetón is a fusion of Jamaican reggae and dancehall with Latin American rhythms, including merengue, bachata, bomba, plena and others. Though often mistakenly defined as Spanish hip-hop, reggaetón is a distinct musical genre of its own. While the former is simply hip-hop music performed in Spanish, the latter has its own distinct rhythmical structure while incorporating a variety of musical elements like those listed above. It can be sung or rapped in Spanish, English or, more commonly, Spanglish.
Reggaetón is distinguishable from reggae and hip-hop by a distinctive rhythm called Dem Bow, from the Shabba Ranks song of the same name. This beat, which is played throughout every reggaetón song, is a combination of a kick drum and a syncopated snare drum. The kick drum maintains a steady 4/4 beat, while the snare plays a 3+3+2 beat. The reggaetón beat is very versatile, enabling it to incorporate rhythmical elements from merengue, bachata, bolero, salsa and hip-hop.
It is difficult to pin down reggaetón's origins, but it is generally believed to have developed as a variation of Jamaican reggae in the Central American country of Panama, where Spanish-language reggae has been performed and recorded since at least the 1970s. The Panamanian artist El General is credited as one of the fathers of reggaetón. However, the genre did not become recognized under the name reggaetón until the early 1990s in Puerto Rico, where it first became internationally popular.
Reggaetón did not gain widespread popularity in the United States until 2004, with N.O.R.E.’s Oye Mi Canto and Daddy Yankee’s Gasolina. Today, reggaetón continues to be popular in the United States, Central and South America, and even Europe, Asia and Australia. The majority of today’s popular reggaetón artists continue to come from Puerto Rico. Popular artists today include Daddy Yankee, Angel y Khriz, Voltio, Nina Sky, Zion y Lennox, Don Omar, Tego Calderon, Wisin y Yandel and Ivy Queen.