On April 19 last year, the body of the 42-year-old Mexican rapper Mr. Yosie Locote was dumped in an empty lot in the western city of Guadalajara. A note claiming he had been killed because of a connection to an enemy of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel was pinned to his chest with a screwdriver. In a separate case three days later, authorities arrested another local hip-hop star, the 24-year-old Christian Palma, known as Qba, who confessed to dissolving the dead bodies of three film students in sulfuric acid on the orders of that same organization.
Both artists were pioneers of rap malandro (thug rap), a style of hip-hop the Mexican press has cast as the soundtrack to the country’s drug war. With performers rapping about meth abuse and massacres, the media blames the music itself for perpetuating gangland violence. But defenders of the genre argue that rap provides youngsters from poor urban areas with an attractive alternative to drug cartel recruitment.
Young people have taken to this music with enthusiasm in Guadalajara, the capital of the state of Jalisco and Mexico’s second-largest city. Although Jalisco is better known for tequila and mariachi, Guadalajara’s low-income Oblatos sector has become a mecca for the country’s hip-hop scene, spawning numerous stars including Mr. Yosie Locote and Qba.
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