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The Latin Kings

There had been a hip-hop scene in Stockholm throughout the entire '80s. But the Latin Kings were the first to reach the charts rapping in Swedish, thus paving way for innumerable other artists. The debut album was a smash hit and the Latin Kings were hailed by critics, politicians, and anyone who could join in, not only as Swedish hip-hop pioneers, but also as representatives for the suburbs and the immigrants living there. A few years later, the fruits of their work were picked by artists like Petter, Ken, and Feven, while the Latin Kings couldn't even survive on their music.

Dogge Doggelito formed the Latin Kings together with the brothers Christian Salazar and Hugo Salazar in the late '80s, taking the name from a gangster movie and from the fact that they all had Chilean parents. The members' stage names were Dogge, Salla, and Chepe. In 1992, Rodde joined the group and they participated in Rap-SM, a nationwide rap contest, making it to third place. Through this they came in contact with Gordon Cyrus who produced their first single, "Snubben Trodde Han Var Cool," released in 1993 on Alpha. He also put them in contact with reggae singer Daddy Boastin, who toasted on the single and who would often work with the group in the future. The Latin Kings were soon offered a contract with Warner and the debut album Välkommen Till Förorten was a huge and surprising success. With almost no promotion, a bunch of kids rapping in Swedish about growing up in suburban Stockholm sold gold and were awarded two Swedish Grammy Awards. The lyrics -- mixing humor with social realism -- the playfulness, and the musical diversity of the album -- ranging from salsa and reggae to hip-hop and soul -- attracted a varied audience and made the band a favorite with the critics. By then, Rodde had left to concentrate on his other band Infinite Mass.

After such a start, the Latin Kings seemed destined to become something big, but the follow-up album was delayed, and despite the debut's good result, the contract left almost no money for the band. Growing disappointment culminated in 1996 when they left Warner. With support from Mega they started their own label, Redline Records, taking the name from a suburban train line. In 1997, they recorded and released I Skuggan Av Betongen. This time they produced the album themselves and it was heavier, more somber, and left out many of the debut's world influences. Commercially it was a disaster. In 1998, Petter had debuted, reviving the interest for Swedish hip-hop and selling more than had previously been seen as possible for a Swedish MC. Meanwhile, the Latin Kings had to take various jobs, legal and non-legal, to survive and discouraged by the failure, they spent their time producing artists signed to Redline instead of making a new album. Life on the Line, a compilation consisting of young Swedish hip-hop artists went by almost unnoticed, but Den Svenska Underjorden, released in 1999, received much more attention, featuring names like Mobbade Barn Med Automatvapen, Melinda, and Fattaru. In 2000, Dogge spent a month in jail, but after his release, defying rumors that said the Latin Kings had split, Mitt Kvarter was released on Virgin. "Blend Dom" with "Daddy Boastin" became a hit, the album got very good reviews, and being 25 to 27 years old, the Latin Kings were unanimously hailed as pioneers of the Swedish hip-hop scene. Commercially, they still played in the second league. ~ Lars Lovén
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