I'm recovering from a Jenni Rivera cruda. The hangover is from watching songs like "Madre Soltera" (above).
Here's my translation of the lyrics.
When I told him a child is on its way He lowered his head denying his offspring Incredibly cruel The bastard told me to get rid of it ... I'm a single mother I'm fierce I'm a mother and a father
Look at the audience. The women. The lyrics speak to them. I ¤ Jenni because of what she does for her fans. Jenni Rivera's singing chops are far from a Lucha Villa or even Paquita la del Barrio. What Rivera represents for many of her fans and the experience she embodies could be just as important as the singing.
Rivera is from Long Beach. Her parents immigrated poor from Mexico. Her brother, Lupillo Rivera, is a famed banda and narco corrido singer. Both together have sold tens of millions of records in Spanish. She sings in the norteño style of northern Mexico and the ranchera style of central Mexico, combined with the swagger of a Mexican American immigrant raised with gangsta rap.
For example, here's a phone video of Jenni at a concert singing "Vas y Chingas a tu Madre."
The refrain is basically, "go f--- yourself." Why does the audience sing along? Well, if you leave your country, your parents, what you're familiar with because there's no hope for a better life, and risk life and limb to cross a border, arrive to live in ghettos, and work jobs serving people who don't look like you, see your kids join gangs and use drugs, I would understand how that would push people to scream obscenity or two.
Read some of the comments in these videos. And if you're Spanish deficient ask one of your Mexican American co-workers for help. There are plenty of people who don't like Jenni Rivera's style.
She also has new reality show. Seeing some of the episodes though, there's a gap between her songs and what she does for Spanish speaking immigrants and her Encino-mansion life. She'll have to overcome that to cross over.
Looking for further enlightenment I reached out to KPFK-FM's Ernesto Arce, the L.A. bureau chief for the Pacifica network and a hard working reporter I see a lot out in press conferences. He grew up in the La Puente area but spent a lot of summers in Mexico and knows a lot more than I do about banda.
Sent at 10:38 AM on Tuesday
djkilabeat: sabes manejar esta chingadera?
Earth to Adolf
me: I just graduated from the clay tablets.
Welcome home, brother
me: Hey, dude, I'm watching a youtube of Jenni Rivera on Don Francisco's show
She's defending a war of words she was having with the singer Graciela Beltran
djkilabeat: Ooh that sounds interesting
I know Graciela had to defend her "good girl" persona from Grupera supper hero Ana Barbara back in the day.
me: She's talking about how the song Mis Ovarios is a response to some of the attacks against her, she's holding her own
djkilabeat: I'm wondering if the fight was along those lines?
me: Oh, you know more about it than I do, this sounds like the Tupac and Biggie onda back in the day
djkilabeat: Mis Ovarios? Are you serious? That's great.
Yunno this could never have been recorded in Mexico
I mean, her style is uniquely Chicano and uniquely LA
me: I've been OD-ing on her songs the last few weeks, yeah and how about the song with the refrain "Chinga a tu madre"
djkilabeat: More specifically, it's very Long Beach. Dogg Pound meets Chalino,
me: Yeah, she doesn't have the "modales" no tiene pelos en la lengua
djkilabeat: That's what all the kids were listening to.That's another great observation.
Mexicans in Mexico always mention the fact that Chicanos don't know the subtleties of the language
me: That's why her fans love her, no? It's kinda a gangsta-ranchera aesthetic, Spanish speaking immigrants know gangsta rap, the style, the pose, the look, and Jenni does it while singing ranchera
djkilabeat: this, of course, also means they use words and phrases that might be acceptable in English but are definitely frowned upon in Mexico
That's why she is so popular!
I was just reading her web site. They boast of 20 million in record sales!
me: Dude, this reminds me of a Lalo Guerrero interview I did a few years before he died, he said he could forgive but never forget that he went to Mexico and was offered a ranchera recording contract that was yanked when executives found out he was born in Tucson.
djkilabeat: And I bet she STILL isn't recognized on the streets of Long Beach by many residents
On the same subject, Graciela Beltran became famous in Sinaloa after pinning the title: La Pochita de Sinaloa
She was 12 or 13 at the time, I think. People in Mexico thought it was cute. But they definitely put up a barrier about her performing in Mexico.
She was, after all, a pocha.
me: So they're upholding the immigrant flag in Mexico, where immigrants were called sellouts
djkilabeat: You can say that.
The fascinating thing about Jenni is that she comes from this new school of "fuck it."
me: I remember as a kid going to visit relatives in Mexico City, my uncles would say, Adolfo's here, take out the ketchup. It hurt.
djkilabeat: "I am who I am and if you want to judge me Ch*nga tu madre!"
me: There are a few youtube videos of her live shows where she gets the audience to say, in unison, chinga a tu madre, in tune of course, and I'm thinking
djkilabeat: Yes, we all have experiences where family in Mexico has ostracized us for being "too American." but I think that cultural line has blurred greatly
me: yeah, immigrants leave the family, their culture, risk life and limb, come here and serve people who don't look like them and live substandard conditions, yeah, I can understand why they'd want to say chinga a tu madre
Sent at 10:52 AM on Tuesday
djkilabeat: And Jenni - along with others of her generation who reject traditional roles - have captured the frustration of first Generation Mexican-Americans
me: There must be some younger bucks coming up, Jenni's been around for a while, is kind of an institution, who's next?
djkilabeat: It's that swagger you talked about. People love it. It's a defiance that impresses people.
It's new and exciting with a foot in Old Mexico.
me: And you gotta have feet in both worlds to get it, no?
djkilabeat: Apparently Jenni's message is: you can have your pastel AND eat it, too
As for the young bucks,I see more of a fusion between hip-hop and grupera music
me: Really? Any bands in particular?
djkilabeat: I walked into my local indoor swapmeet to see what all the kids are listening to and I see this Lil Rob-looking pelon with a Tejana, boots, the whole get up.
me: Gangsta-grupera? Los Bukis meets Wu Tang?
djkilabeat: I asked if it was cholo rap. The guy behind the counter says, 'No, that's cumbia-rap. Kind of like grupera with hip-hop.'
me: I'll look for it. What swap meet?
djkilabeat: Los Bukis meets Wu Tang? I would copyright that line. lol
The Amar Swapmeet in La Puente
me: Oralay. Hey gotta go. Thanks for the chat. See ya on the radio!
djkilabeat: It's on the corner of Amar Road and Ardilla Ave in the Bassett neighborhood where I grew up.
Poet and KPCC Reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez writes his column Movie Miento every week on KCET's SoCal Focus blog. It is a poetic exploration of Los Angeles history, Latino culture and the overall sense of place, darting across LA's physical and psychic borders.