Before listening to hip hop, there was Merenguehouse or Merenrap. This era was trendy in New York City in the 1990s. When I think of Merenhouse, I think of four groups: Ilegales, Proyecto Uno, Fulanito, and Sandy y Papo.
Growing up in Washington Heights, this kind of music, you could hear it in the neighborhood and house parties back then. We used to play this at my house back then.
For those of you who don’t know what this genre means, it’s a blend of Dominican merengue music with rap, dancehall reggae, and hip hop.
The mix of Latin music, house music, and dancehall started in NYC in the late 80’s in club mainly by Puerto Rican DJs.
Merenhouse usually combines a rap style of talk-singing with actual singing. The genre originated during the 1990s in New York City by Puerto Ricans.
In 1995, the Ilegales broke into the scene with their debut album. Vladimir Dotel leads the group. The group started with four members. Ilegales had great music to dance, such as “La Morena” and “Fiesta Caliente.” One of my favorite tracks came from their 1997 album, Rebotando. The song I’m talking about is “El Taqui Taqui.”
Ilegales had early success, but I felt that the group was never the same after one of their members, Jason González, died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic in 1998.
Next up is Proyecto Uno. What can I say about Proyecto Uno? They were responsible for popularizing the style of merengue with techno, dancehall, reggae, and hip-hop/rap music
When it comes to Proyecto Uno, two words come to my mind: El Tiburon.
The single, “El Tiburon,” released in 1993 and became the group’s biggest hit. I still listen to this song to this day. Magic Juan is the group’s leading vocalist. Proyecto Uno had other good tracks such as “Esta Pegao,” “Latinos,” and “Otra Noche (Another Night).
During the group’s run, they won Billboard Latin Music Awards, Premios Lo Nuestro, and an Emmy award.
Sandy y Papo
Oh boy! Sandy y Papo! In my opinion, the most unforgettable and likable duo from the Merenhouse era. I was just listening to “Es Hora De Bailar” not too long ago. The most popular hit of their career. It takes me back to when I was living on 177th and Pinehurst Avenue. Another favorite song of mine from the duo is “Mueve, Mueve.” Nice beat to dance too.
Just like Ilegales, there was a tragic end of the group. Papo, from the duo Sandy y Papo, died is a fatal car accident on July 11, 1999. I remember hearing the news in the show, El Gordo y La Flaca. The damage of the car sends chills down my spine. Rest in Peace, Papo. Your music lives on forever.
Lastly, we have Fulanito that represented the genre. Fulanito is a group of five members from my hometown, Washington Heights.
Their debut/my favorite Fulanito album, El Hombre Mas Famoso De La Tierra, had my favorite song, which is “Guallando.” Following Guallando, they also had good songs such as “La Novela,” “El Cepillo,” and “Cometela Ripia.” We had this album in my house back then. I think my dad still has it. Not sure, haha. “El Cepillo” was played several times at my sister’s 17th birthday party, back in 1999. Good Times, Good Memories!
From the ages of 4 to 8, these were the four groups that I witnessed representing the Merenhouse/Merenrap era. I want shout out to Puerto Rican rapper and singer, Lisa M. She was the first artist to combine merengue with rap in her second album, No Lo Derrumbes, released in 1990. Lisa M is also the first female rapper artist to debut in Latin America.