Ikol Santiago: Hip Hop Boricua

Last week, Puerto Rican hip hop artist Ikol Santiago released this video for a track from his April ’13 album Iguacas.

Eight months after the album release he updates the emotional song Mili, in tribute to his mother, with he says, the added insight of a time of healing. The video is simple and moving, directed by Ricardo Santana for Taller2C1. The track has been remixed by Gas-Lab with the addition of Hector Mario on flute adding a sweet sentimentality.

Returning to his homeland in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico in 2004 after twelve years absence, Ikol Santiago got involved in the underground hip hop movement on the island, releasing his first album last year. ‘Iguacas’ is the Taino (indigenous) term for the Puerto Rican parrot, the only remaining native parrot in Puerto Rico, listed as critically endangered since the mid 1990s. On the album, the Iguaca functions as a guide, and a symbol for the Puerto Rica-born (Boricua) social position in history.

The album is in many ways a classic production of soulful hip hop. Sampling, soft instrumentation, rolling beats and Ikol’s gentle, eloquent rap style. Rapping in Spanish, first of all Ikol is so listenable you don’t need to speak his language to hear his music – his voice is a gentle soul instrument. But even a little understanding brings the full force of this very personal, philosophical, self-reflective meditation on grief and freedom, and ‘changing yourself before you can attempt to change the world’.