Bian Oscar Rodriguez Gala, the Cuban rapper known as El B, has responded to an Associated Press report detailing how the United States the Agency for International Development used members of Havana’s hip-hop movement in a campaign in an effort to force social change in Cuba.
Rodriguez and Aldo Rodríguez Baquero of the rap duo Los Aldeanos became known on the island and outside of Cuba -- particularly among Miami’s Cuban exile community -- for frequent criticizing Cuban social woes and the Cuban government in their songs. According to the AP’s investigative article, Los Aldeanos were aggressively popularized among Cuban youth as part of a secret campaign, funded by USAID.
“In the 20+ albums that we have released, we have not limited our message to politics -- we are Cuban rappers [and] it is up to us to comment on our reality,” El B writes in a Facebook post published Thursday (Dec. 11). “But never has the Cuban government, much less the American government or any organization, paid us."
“… to date I have not needed any financing to say what I think and do not criticize those who do because they must have their reasons especially given the country where what they do is repressed,” he continues. “It is a shame how our image was taken [so that] this news article reach the masses at the expense of our popularity in an attempt to soil it.”
Ironically, the surprise publicity for Los Aldeanos from the news media came just days before the release of El B’s new solo, Compilacion, set to hit digital outlets on Monday (Dec. 15). The rapper is in Miami, where he had been working on the project and a new Los Aldeanos album. But he is not estranged from Havana, as the article stated.
“What I am all too well aware of is that we have been utilized without our own awareness by these persons for their own financial gain,” Referring to the alleged USAID-backed promoters. “But not only them, if not most who have arrived into our lives.”
The rapper disputes many of the article’s claims, citing several inaccuracies. On is that Los Aldeanos increased their popularity by meeting with pop star Juanes when he was in Havana for his 2009 Peace Without Borders concert.
“Our music was widely recognized outside of Cuba, throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain prior to Juanes saying anything about us,” El B writes on Facebook.
The Cuban artist stresses the grassroots development of Los Aldeanos music and Cuba’s hip-hop movement, pointing out that the details of an international plot like the one described in the AP article would even have been beyond his comprehension.
“It is impossible for us to ever be truly aware of anything being in Cuba where there is no internet and the information only comes from one direction,” El B says. “The first time we logged on to the internet we didn't even know how to navigate, nor that iTunes even existed nor that there was even a music industry; thanks to the persons who have tried to take advantage of our ignorance and our Cuban condition, one way or another, is that we have had to learn how to manage ourselves little by little.”