When conservative watchdogs snarl about the ugliness of gangsta rap, Talento de Barrio might be what they picture in their head—a vile, stupid, violent-crime drama that would be laughable if its content wasn’t so toxic. Drug boss Edgar Dinero (reggaeton star Daddy Yankee, who mostly glowers) prowls the gritty streets of Puerto Rico and dreams of becoming a rapper. Directed limply by José Iván Santiago, Talento de Barrio lustfully idolizes its shallow, gun-toting bad boy, as can be witnessed by the disinterested lip service given to crime’s downside and a particularly risible moment when Edgar carts out the old “the whole world’s corrupt” justification during a brief monologue. Reggaeton’s success was due to its Latin-influenced reinvention of commercial hip-hop’s sonic palette, but Yankee’s vanity project resorts to every rap-music-video cliché to tell the umpteenth story of a young tough who has to choose between burgeoning stardom and the “reality” of the ‘hood. Talento de Barrio sells Yankee’s fans a fantasy of hot babes, cool cars, and an endless supply of fresh threads—just so long as you don’t get killed first, of course. Which would be a total drag, because then who’s gonna buy his records?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 8, 2008