SXSW: Mala Rodriguez at SESAC Day Stage Cafe

Maybe it’s the steady diet of the Geto Boys I was raised on, or maybe it’s that my Spanish is pretty shabby these days, and I don’t speak any other languages. But I’ve never been able to digest hip-hop in other languages very well. Even the phonetically appeasing French lyricist MC Solar has never grabbed my attention enough to make me want to drive around blasting his songs in my ride and at least attempt to sing along. Don’t get me wrong, there’s music in foreign tongues I love: Salsa has always hit the spot and in recent years I’ve really dug into Turkish psychedelic artists like Baris Manco.

But who would have thought the one to show me the light of non English-based hip-hop would be a petite female Spaniard by the name of Mala Rodriguez. Though small in stature, her command of the stage was larger than the two mammoth MCs with her that were each three times her size put together. It was the first show I attend at SXSW.

Randomly walking by the convention center’s SESAC stage this afternoon, I was stopped dead in my tracks by this sass-filled girl jumping around the stage, immediately grabbing my attention. If you will, imagine if M.I.A. could flow worth a damn in Spanish, now you’re getting into the ballpark. Hell, she’d probably murder M.I.A. in an English language freestyle battle for the matter. Of course the fact that she had some extremely well-crafted beats behind her did nothing but help her break the language barrier.

Rodriguez’s flows were too fast for me to understand much of anything but she was fluid with her delivery, Spanish or not. Looking around the crowded room of mostly blonde-haired, blue-eyed folks, I likely wasn’t the only one who couldn’t understand, but it was evident that nobody else seemed to mind one bit. - Brett Koshkin