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The Classist History Behind Bad Bunny's 'Bichiyal'

Puerto Rico remained the main producer of reggaeton for years, even as the genre endured two waves of criminalization and persecution in the late 90s and early 2000s, according to Verónica Dávila, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University. The first came under the administration of Governor Pedro Rosselló in 1993 and continued in the early 2000s with Senator Velda González. Both waves waged war on Puerto Rico's poorest communities, as writer Marisol Lebrón described in the Boston Review, and pushed the narrative that reggaeton was intrinsically linked to criminal activity in housing projects and low-income communities. Reggaetoneros fought back through their lyrics, with songs such as Ivy Queen's "Somos Raperos Pero No Delincuentes" (or "We Are Rappers Not Felons") and Eddie Dee's "Censurarme" (or "Censor Me").

As a result, reggaeton's lyrics became cleaner, romantic and pop-influenced. Eventually, "yal" fell out of vogue as slang in local artists' lyrics as they distanced from the genre's roots. "Bicha," on the other hand, flourished as a colloquial term in the island's youth scene, eventually becoming a widely known slang word.

By the early 2010s, though, Puerto Rico came face-to-face with an economic crisis that eventually led to a Congress-imposed fiscal oversight board in 2016. And along with the financial slump came the return of the "yal." But this time, the term jumped out of reggaeton lyrics and into the colloquial vernacular of Puerto Ricans, who used it to describe a trite stereotype of the island's poorest women.

Read entire article at NPR Codeswitch