Las Krudas Cubensi: Changing the Hip Hop Paradigm in Latin American and Beyond
Las Krudas Cubensi is a Cuban hip hop duo composed of Odaymara Cuesta (Pasa Kruda) and Olivia Prendes (Pelusa MC). The duo are currently the top female Cuban hip hop artists. They target a variety of controversial topics that they feel haven’t gotten much attention in the hip hop arts such as: racism, LGBTQ rights, and gender discrimination.
Founded in 1996 in Havana, Cuba, Las Krudas Cubensi were the first vegan and queer activist art group on the island. Upon entering the hip hop scene, not only was Las Krudas one of the only groups in Cuba that talked about women’s rights, but also the only one composed of women. In their documentary titled Krudas, directed by Opie Boero Imwinkelried, one of the members starts up the film by stating, “When we came into the hip hop scene in 1999-2000, the discourse was totally masculine. Women were ghosts.”
Due to this lack of female representation in the hip hop scene, the duo set off on a quest to spread awareness of not only gender issues in society, but also many other societal issues that plagued much of the underrepresented people in Cuba. Their goal was to shed light on such issues and acknowledge them through the arts, especially hip hop. Their videos and the lyrical components in their music work together to fulfill such objectives. Videos by Las Krudas often portray many images of people of color, immigrants, and women while also advocating for a change in gender norms. The artistic image of Krudas Cubensi is a very edgy and masculine one, an aspect that many around the world aren’t always comfortable with when it comes to women; however, this is something that serves to remind their audience that they should embrace their identity with confidence and pride.
In their music video for “No me dejaron,” Las Krudas talks about the different kinds of discrimination that Cubans face around the world; the main point that the song tries to make is that being black, overweight, a woman, or coming from a certain region/culture does not justify getting discriminated against. The title itself translates to “They didn’t let me.” This title indicates that human rights are rights that should be enforced upon all people regardless of these matters. The video plays around with the idea of gender roles towards the end when Las Krudas says “Sí que estamos krudas a cambiar el mundo/ sí que va cambiar, sí que va cambiar/ ahora las mujeres vamos a gobernar,” this translates to:
“We are raw [and prepared] to change the world.
Yes, it’s gonna change.
Yes, it’s gonna change.
Now we women are going to govern”
Upon saying these lyrics, the video depicts a kind of trading-places phenomena between women and men. Women of all ages are depicted shouting “Yes, it’s gonna change” repeatedly with fists held up high; this is definitely a sign of power, independence and strength. Next, men of all ages are shown doing the traditional jobs normally reserved for women in society such as caring for the babies, cooking, cleaning, and washing dishes. This change in gender roles is something Las Krudas also notes in the lyrical verses translated below:
“We women will govern,
and the men will cook, wash, clean, and babysit.
All that they have made dirty, they will clean.”
They are definitely advocating for a change in the cultural norms surrounding gender roles. Corresponding to this is also the idea of equal rights. This is a clear theme seen even more apparently in their music video titled, “Horizontalidad.” This video revolves around the ideas of reform and fighting the oppressors of society (seen as the government and political forces) for justice and for an equal distribution of power among people in society. The video starts by claiming that the song is dedicated to the outraged men and women, with special respect given to the movement of resurrection. Following these lines Las Krudas goes on to describe all the negative characteristics that make up those that are in the upper classes of society. Hypocrisy, hatred, and fearing the changes demanded by the poor are all mentioned by the duo. Even so, they quickly switch to describing the many positive characteristics of the oppressed and how they plan on fighting back against these forces: “Rimando, rallando, rascando, brequeando, culturas conectando, civiles protestando. Es la voz del silencio en este tiempo gritando. Es esta generación proponiendo, cambiando.” In English this translates to:
“Rhyming, spraying, scratching, break dancing,
Cultures connecting, civilians protesting.
It is the voice of silence that is screaming in this time.
It is this generation that is proposing and changing.”
This demonstrates that Las Krudas also advocates for those in society that are often not heard. It is interesting to see the group show methods in which civilians go against the status quo and attempt to make their voices heard. In the translation above, it becomes quite obvious that hip hop culture is a big part of it. Throughout the rest of the song, the lyrics continue the trend of exposing the negative aspects of the oppressor and highlighting the strengths of the oppressed with similar examples.
Aside from powerful lyrics, the images that are portrayed in the video for “Horizontalidad” also contribute to its influential significance. Similar to the music video for “No me dejaron,” “Horizontalidad” everyday people of all genders, ages, and backgrounds which allows the audience to connect with the meaning and purpose of the song more profoundly. It also portrays images of protests and marches, unlike in “No me dejaron,” because it has a more political focus and it is almost as if Las Krudas was speaking directly to the political forces much throughout the song.
After analyzing and exploring two very unique videos by Las Krudas, it becomes evident that the duo wants all different kinds of viewers to watch their videos and, most importantly, relate with them on a personal level. By lyrically speaking about a variety of social issues that affect many people all over the world and by portraying images of such people in their videos, there’s no doubt about the fact that they are truly accomplishing all the goals they originally set out to fulfill as hip hop artists.
(This article was written by Jocelyn Caballero as part of the Global Hip Hop Cultures class at Trinity College Fall 2016 semester.)