WHAT'S IN A NAME?: Jumbo screen flashed the name and mug of one of the most anticipated performances at El Evento 40 held earlier this month at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?: Jumbo screen flashed the name and mug of one of the most anticipated performances at El Evento 40 held earlier this month at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City.

Felix Danilo Gómez was going by “Flex” as he collected his 8 trophies at last night’s Latin Billboard Awards (list of winners here). He beat out all the competition to take home the top Latin album and song of the year. Nevermind that everytime he accepted an award, the “N” necklace he sported swung back and forth like a reminder of his more popular nom de plume. You can check out post-show coverage from AP and Miami Herald.

One of the highlights of the awards show had to be the grouping of bachata crooners Aventura, Akon and reggaeton kings Wisin & Yandel. Take a look:

(via)

Flex started out over a decade ago crooning so-called “romantic style” reggae made popular in Panama in the plena tradition sometime around 1992, as he explains in this interview. He was with a small indie label before scoring a deal with EMI/Televisa. The Daily News gives good background, explaining how he dropped “Nigga” for “Flex” to meet Wal-Mart’s standards. Of course, the mighty “N-word” stays for the Mexican version of the cd.

Panama is considered the home of reggaeton. Which borrows heavily from Jamaican dance hall beats. This “romantic” incarnation takes a note from the romantic streak in reggae music, most famous in the work of singers like Junior Kelly.

But what’s really good with a guy calling himself Nigga? It’s shocking to say the least and blogs such as Media Takeout have aired their qualms. I mean, it it’s offensive to many, I’m sure.

The use of the name has been brought up in the past, like in this 2007 Billboard piece. Of course, Flex a.k.a Nigga seems to avoid the question, and in this People interview brushes it off as old controversy.

I’m not trying to get all Black studies reader on folks, but it is jolting to see “Nigga” in a bright digital readout glowing on a few thousand people. Latin America is long famous for its lack of understanding when it comes to Black folks.

To allow such a popular artist to market his work under such a divisive moniker without any peep or protest or censorship (which is the norm for us “sensitives” in the U.S., I guess) can be considered racist by some, and probably just plain ignorant by most.

“NIGGA” Listening:

One of his first hits, a song to his dead mother called “The Ballad of Nigga“:

Two of the better cuts in his syrupy sweet, sad lover-boy oeuvre:

Si no te tengo:

Te Qiero y no te dejo:

Te extraño:

Nigga performing his monster hit Te Quiero at the 2009 Latin Billboard Awards:

More romantic stylee:

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4 thoughts on “Winner Is . . . Flex or Nigga?

  1. Been meaning to comment on this one. I’d like to get your thoughts on how American expatriates’ opinions seem to change when they cross the border southward. Many people I talk to about this consider the name no big deal, yet this would warrant an outcry in the States. Does this environment foster latent racism?

  2. Besides, I think to really get to the heart of this isn’t to talk to gringos. You need to look at how Mexicans, Colombians, Peruvians, etc, basically the people who live “southward” view blackness, or if they see “blackness” at all.
    I say call Princeton, tell em you’re an alumna and holler at Cornell West, he’s probably got the most well thoughtout opinion on the issue.

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