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Ivy Queen - The Queen Of Reggaeton

August 22, 2005

Known for her brash attitude, distinctive throaty voice and lyrics of female empowerment, Ivy (pronounced Eve-y) Queen has made her mark in the Latin music world as a bona fide reggaeton superstar.

The 33-year-old Puerto Rican rapper, aka Martha Ivelisse Pesante, is the only woman to break into the male-dominated up-and-coming music genre that blends hip-hop with Latin and dance-hall reggae beats. She headlines Saturday at ``La Invasión del Reggaeton'' at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

Her hits, including ``Dile'' (Tell Her), ``Tocame'' (Touch Me) and ``Baila Asi'' (Dance that Way) off her album ``Real,'' are staples on local Spanish radio station La Kalle -- KVVZ-FM (100.7) and KVVF-FM (105.7) -- formerly known as Viva. And with the recent explosion of reggaeton on the West Coast, Ivy Queen has crossed over onto Bay Area mainstream hip-hop dials.

We caught her before her first Bay Area appearance at the Sound Factory in January where she talked about the growing popularity of reggaeton music and her pioneering role in it.

Reggaeton has been popular in Puerto Rico for years, gaining a steady following in New York. It's now making its way West. Why is it now hitting the mainstream?

I think people are realizing now this is the music of the youth. It came from people that were out on the streets. Poor guys or just regular people. It's growing so big. It's huge. . . . I've been doing this for 11 years. We've grown because we keep it real. The music is bangin'.

In the media now, people are comparing reggaeton to hip-hop. Is it an apt comparison?

I think so. We have a similar background. This music was first underground. It was transferred from the microphone to the radio. There was struggle. People claim, ``Oh, this music is so ghetto. This music is violent.''

We have the same background as hip-hop. The reggaeton community in Puerto Rico loves hip-hop so much. There's so many similarities to both of the genres. So what's happening is that the American hip-hop market is coming to Puerto Rico to mix hip-hop with reggaeton. Which is what happened to me on this album (``Diva'') with Fat Joe. We don't feel bad that people compare us with hip-hop.

For people on the West Coast just now catching on to it, what is the essence of reggaeton?

It's the beat. The beat is going to make you move. But let me tell you, I went to Aruba, no one speaks Spanish there, and everybody was into the music. . . . I worked with Wyclef (Jean) five or six years ago. We made a collaboration on my album. When we were recording in the studio, he was telling me, ``I don't understand nothin' but the tone of voice you have, and the way you throwin' it is amazing.''

You write a lot about female empowerment in your lyrics. It's what you're known for. Why is that an important theme in your songs?

It's important because we have 30 or 40 singers that are men. I have to represent the females. Whether you're Latina or not. The main thing they think when you come into music and you are a girl is that you came here to shake your booty. Everything is about your body.

For me, I break that barrier. It's about my lyrics. It's about fire. When I started 11 years ago, I didn't look like this. I looked a little like a tomboy. People heard my tone of voice and guys were like, ``Whoa.'' Then they see me later and can't believe I'm the same girl . . .

I make them know I'm not an artist of the moment. Everywhere I go, I did it, with respect I did it, with all the power of my soul, because I fell in love with this music. So, from that day to the way I am now, I've gotten the respect of the community because I always represent the females to the day I die.

People also make comparisons with you as the Lil' Kim or Foxy Brown of hip-hop.

These women don't take stuff from nobody. If they have to go slap a guy that's being disrespectful, they go and do it. And that's what I do. When you're a female artist, people get into your looks, and that's what I don't like. Get to my lyrics. Get to my album. Get to what I'm saying. When they compare me to these girls, I go nuts. That's big.

Hip-hop for this generation has become more than music; it's a movement, it's a culture, it's the way you walk and dress. Does reggaeton have the potential to get that big?

It's the same thing. Right now I'm getting offers from clothing lines, refreshments, cigarettes, everything. But this music started underground. . . . It's growing. We've been punished so much from the big companies. They treat us so little; they said reggaeton isn't going anywhere, it won't last. But it's been years; we're still here.

Any other collaborations in the future?

Yes. Sean Paul, I love him. I'm a big fan... Also Remy Martin.

Is this crossover music, bringing together all types of Hispanic people?

It is. It is. It's like you touch every heart with this music. . . . You get everyone together to go nuts and dance and feel the love of this music.

What about the criticisms that the music is about sex, drugs and violence?

People make their own choices in their lives, as I choose this music to be my husband. When you go to an ice cream parlor, there's different flavors. Everybody picks what they like. We've always had criticism for years and years. They say music kills. That's ignorant. When Bill Clinton was with Monica Lewinsky, he wasn't listening to hip-hop or reggaeton. That's just ignorant.

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The content of this article belongs to and it's copywritten by the Ivy Queen's website: http://www.ivyqueen.org

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