Raka Dun and Raka Rich are cousins from Panama who grew up in Oakland, California and have been making music as independent rappers Los Rakas for the past 7 years, when they were in high school. Los Rakas call their unique style of bilingual hip hop as “the sound of the Panabay” — equal parts dancehall club bangers as well as tracks that are socially-conscious and detail the pains (and proud achievements!) of growing up as bicultural Afro-Latinos in the U.S.
We caught up with Los Rakas at SXSW in Austin prior to their major label album debut “El Negrito Dun Dun & Ricardo” to talk about why they choose to rap in Spanish for an American audience (most of their fans don’t speak a word of Spanish) and to learn the Raka slang vocabulary. To be a “Raka,” they say, is to tout your roots and who you are no matter what society might say. In fact, the term “rakataka” is a derogatory term in Panama for black people from the ghetto, and they’ve turned that into something positive.
We couldn’t make it into the video clip above but something cool from our interview: Raka Dun recently went back to Panama after 12 years and surprised his mother, whom he hadn’t seen since he was a child. Everything was documented on camera, of course, so expect that emotional reunion to appear in one of their music videos soon…perhaps for Mother’s Day?
Credit: Video filmed by Douglas Forte, edited by Ingrid Rojas