Monday, October 31, 2016

Narco-Corridos; a historical overview

Posted by Chuck B Alamda for Borderland Beat from Regeneracion & Vanguardia articles

Starting with Calderon’s war, the violence was also reflected in the lyrics.

Couples are committed to invading the dance floor. The band prepares the instruments and the lights point toward the stage. The whistling is loud so that the waiting can be over. The technicians adjust the sound equipment and from several speakers you can hear:


 “Con cuerno de chivo y bazuca en la nuca/ volando cabezas al que se atraviesa/ somos sanguinarios locos bien ondeados/ nos gusta matar/ pa’ dar levantones somos los mejores/ siempre en caravana/ toda mi plebada/ bien empecherados/ blindados y listos para ejecutar…/ soy el número 1 de clave M1/ respaldado por El Mayo y por El Chapo/ la JT siempre presente y pendiente/ pa’ su apoyo dar”.

(With an AK-47 and a bazooka on the neck/ blowing off the heads of whoever gets in front/ we’re ruthless, crazy, and high/we like to kill/ for kidnappings we’re the best/ always in a caravan/ all the homeboys/ with bullet proof vests/ armored vehicles and ready to kill, execute/ I’m the number one with radio sign M1/ backed by el Mayo and el Chapo/ The JT (Javier Torres Felix) always present and on stand by to provide his support)


With the cadence of norteno dance, the attendees sway to the rhythm of the music which is executed with banda instruments: chun-ta-ta, chun-ta-ta. Everyone sings. They’re teachers, lawyers, workers, students, secretaries, business owners…. and of course, people involved with el narco.


The cowboy hats are almost mandatory for the dance; the cowboy boots and expensive shoes also. The shirts are brand name (or perfect imitation). The women wear high heels even if it’s a dirt covered dance-floor. The only goal is to celebrate the rite of dancing to narco corridos. This popularity, despite being demonized and even banned in some states where it is illegal for radio stations to play them and also illegal for promoters to organize concerts with them or bars from playing them.


Nevertheless, the government efforts to ban these songs have not had the desired effect as they continue to be the preferred music for many sectors of the population, with and without links to el narco. The fans of this music continue to look for music and live concerts of bands such as Los Tigers del Norte, K-Paz de la Sierra, Exterminador, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Los Capos de Mexico, among many other.

Its main impact is felt in the northen part of Mexico, but narco-corridos has surpassed its norteno scope and continue to invade other popular zones throughout the country (and the US).

Vacant lots, sporting fields, and other open fields such as bodegas are the places where thousands attend to listen to their favorite bands that also sing romantic ballads in between narco-corridos. The magnet is always to listen, sing, and dance the corridos made for el narco and its historic or current capos. The costs to attend these events can start anywhere from 100 to 400 pesos (5-21 USD) average. Also, during these concerts, there is an abundance of beer, brandy, rum, whiskey, especially Buchanan’s that has become popular among the followers of this type of music because it is said that the traffickers drink it.

El Corrido has been, as it has since its origin, a chronicle of the reality. But as the decades go by, the topic related to narco trafficking has transformed it and its narrative has incorporated descriptions of the actions committed by sicarios: executions, hangings, kidnappings, and every other action adoption by el narco.

Born as a subgenre of the traditional corrido–where it told the achievements of the heroes from the revolution. The archives suggest that the first narco-corridos originated during the first part of the 30’s on the border between Mexico and the US. In his book ‘Cantar a los Narcos’ (Singing to Narcos), Juan Carlos Ramirez-Pimienta, professor at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley, makes a historical journey of this musical genre: The first corridos with a drug trafficking theme can be traced to 1931 and another one in 1932. They were very different from the current corridos, even different to those of Los Tigres del Norte in the 70’s.

Edgar Morin, PhD in anthropology from the UNAM and author of ‘La maña’ points out that the narco-corrido is not something homogeneous as it also has a series of nuances with the literature component; the composer describes the acts, he condemns them or to a degree becomes apologetic; they also tell the story of a reality that oftentimes is not told and that the government tries to hide; and many of the corridos are made to order on behalf of someone that wants to become known. Ramirez-Pimienta has studied this type of music since the 90’s when he was a graduate student at California State University-Los Angeles. He affirms that the narco-culture, and within this, the narco corridos which are related with the economic context of the country.

“After its origin, there was a gap of over 20 years in which it was almost impossible to find them: between the 40’s and the 60’s. During the period referred to as the “economic miracle,” there is no record of them. The genre’s rebirth is at the beginning of the crisis starting in the 70’s and it boomed with the Tigers del Norte, with corridos that were even innocent such as Contrabando y traicion and La banda del carro rojo.”

During the 80s, when Rafael Caro Quintero was a dominant figure in the narco world was the first transformation of the contents of the songs. There was a change in which the corridos were about a hero; it was no longer about trafficking, but also about money, luxuries, the consumption of drugs and alcohol, and women. A hedonistic.

Although Narco Corridos were born in the 30s, their boom wasn’t until the 70s when this decade started to experience major violence. The 70’s witnessed the Tigres del Norte achieved fame followed by the 80’s when Rafael Caro Quintero was one of the most important figures in the Narco world and it reached its climax during the Felipe Calderon Presidency with the war against el Narco with thousands of executions and shootouts.

In December of 2006 when Felipe Calderon declared war against el narco, far away from achieving major security, the strategy caused countless executions, shootouts, beheadings, and disappearances, leaving thousands of victims throughout the country. With this, el narcorrido quickly reflected the new reality and the “Movimiento Alterado” was born. Movimiento Alterado consists of hyper-violent, explicit, lyrics about beheadings, hangings, and “pozoleados” (people dissolved in acid).


According to Carlos Ramirez Pimienta, “The cartels are at war with each other and against the state

and the music reflects it.”

Even songs such as Pacas de a Kilo and Jefe de Jefes discreetly make references to the complicity that exists between authorities and criminals:

“Los Pinos** give me shade/my ranch gives me pacas de a kilo” which according to the Tigers del Norte lead singer, Jorge Hernandez, the lyrics are referencing an economic arraignment with the President and or his collaborators. For narco corridos singer and composer Lenin Ramirez, the government wants to blame narco corridos for the violence, although in reality it’s the government’s fault.

**Los Pinos is what the presidential palace/home is called in Mexico just as the Whitehouse is called in the US.

“It’s a cultural affair, ingrained not just in the people from Sinaloa, but in the entire country and the government tries to blame the musicians that compose and sing narco corridos and tries to ban them. They criminalize them because they have to blame someone although the responsibility of employment and lack of good salaries and armed people in the streets belongs to the authorities.”

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Note from Chuck: Narco-corridos are a beautiful form of art that informs the people of what’s going on around their country. During revolutionary times, corridos were used to keep the troops and citizens updated. As the article mentions, in a country where the government and the media sometimes censor the reality of what’s going on, corridos (and blogs such as BB) come in and tell the stories that they refuse to tell.

I grew up listening to corridos all my life and could tell the difference from the corridos then and now. Music is a beautiful thing that has the power of taking you back down memory lane. I must also admit that corridos have the magical power of transforming ordinary people and making you feel if you were the protagonist of the corrido, even if it’s only for the duration of each song. I still remember going on patrols, having an energy drink, and playing my favorite corridos right before hitting a house or going on a dangerous call.

For those of you in the Military or Law Enforcement, can you relate to listening to corridos before going on a mission?

75 comments:

  1. Do Narco corridos singers have to recieve approval to sing about a specific drug lord ,hitman or Cartel ?

    Some narco corridos singers sing about different cartels for example CDS and BLO is that approved?

    Do Drug Lords pay for corridos to be written about them ?

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    1. All I can say, tucanes have sang for just about everyone and they're still around

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    2. Yes most of the time they have to get their original compositions "autorizadas" usually by checking in with someone connected to or the main person just to make sure they aren't writing some bs or something they don't want people to know. I play in a norteño and we've had a couple of corridos authorized and have friends who have as well

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  2. Here is all you have to know inthe late 2000s is when corridos went to shit

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  3. Well corridos made for sinaloa are not fake they do go down figthing
    Arturo beltran , ramon arellano, Phoenix antrax , chube antrax, el dos letras , and the list goes on but like in every state theres brave man and man who are not simple as that , also chuck good post brother

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    1. I agree with you hermano for me its stupid when mexicans figth over cual estado is mas chingon we all hermanos at the end

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    2. Well they all had no other choice but to go out fighting forvt heir lives and in most cases they don't even get to squeeze the trigger before the marines or contras shoot them down.

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    3. only pussys fight over what state has bigger balls

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    4. Most sinaloa corridos are fake though. Good rhythm but lyrically suck. We are all Mexican but sinaloa claim that they are the toughest,smartest,strongest and bravest. They put themselves on the spot and other people talk shit when in their corridos they are the baddest but in real life they do the opposit. people like chapo, anthrax, el vicentillo, damasos, but they all for cought with their pants down. Chapo didn't have his bazukas and 500 Talibanes protecting him the 3 times he got captured. Just like antrax have been getting their shot kicked in every plaza they go to. Don't let me start on vicentillo...

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    5. There are some hermanas as too, like juan grabiel, las Adelitas that love themselves nothing better than the military even in a fake uniform from the dollar store, el soldado predida, las marinas marinelas, Peeero no son Nuestras hermanas, you can have them to your epn fan boys club.

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  4. Pacas de a Kilo, best song ever next to Clave 7 n Valente Quintero.

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    1. I agree on the Valente quintero song. I like that type of corridos about brave men who right or wrong would defend their honor.

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    2. Pacas de a kiló is arturos corrido

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  5. I`m currently a security officer majoring in Administration of Justice with plans to become a police officer then move up to detective. Corridos are a BIG part of my life. There's not a day I go without listening to them. Corridos are like rap or heavy metal.

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    1. Sounds to me like part of your mind is on the right track while the other part of your mind will eventually lead you into a path of crime. Mark my words.

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    2. @718pm you can listen to what ever...but if I was you I would stop doing it...why because it affects your image and credibility..if you manage to get a interview and a opportunity for a background check with a law enforcement agaency they would look at everything including social media they would talk to your neighbors .last thing you want is to be perceived as a wannabe narco with a bad image..do what ever you want..just some friendly advise.

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    3. "Corridos are a Big part of my life"
      Stay in school kid! Fuckin' drum machines, some ignorant poetry and any fuckin' 4th grade dropout is chairman of the board. A quote from Chritopher Moltisanti saying real shit
      How are do you plan on becoming a Law Enforcement Officer when you get influenced by this shit? The Law is to protect and to serve the people because the Law is from God. There is only one real good corrido called "El Jefe de Nadie" true intro. Drug dealers are cowards and lazy and drug abusers are weak while crooked politicians are greedy

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    4. Calm down 11:45, being a good detective means having a different understanding of the whole criminal culture. Would you prefer he doesn't study aspects of his craft?

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    5. Relax theres nothing wrong with having a taste on music wether is good music or fucked up music. I met a cop in Lobg Beach CA who had a bluetooth speaker (cop cars dont have cd players) and he was bumping Los Alegres Del Barranco. I have a friend who graduated from the Riverside Sherrif Department Academy and he along with other of his buddies some graduates some cops had a party to celebrate... and guess what?... There was a conjunto Norteño singing Corridos, and there was Coke available for those that asked

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    6. That's right. Listening to corridos does not make you a criminal and will not disqualify you for a career in law enforcement. People with a healthy mind know how to distinguish between reality and fiction. It's like saying that you'll become a killer simply by playing video games. Corridos (not just narco-corridos) are deeply ingrained in the culture. As 7:52 said, a good and effective officer and detective must have a very good understanding of the criminal element.

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    7. I have been in Law Enforcement for 23 yrs. I have listened to corridos all my life. To say you will be influenced by corridos is like saying you can't watch most of the movies being produced now in days because you will be influenced by them. If you are that mentally weak maybe you need to re-evaluate your life.

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    8. @752,1113,715,718
      Its not about listening to music penedejos its about what you make people think. People think you glorify that shit. Pinche bola de mamones if you want to listen to that put some headphones on dont be a mayate and bump that shit not everyone wants to hear your music especially these musicians who play these new corridos nowadays

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    9. Cops are the craziest, wildest when they party. They become the loud coked up corrido singing drunk they arrest on weekends at 3am.

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  6. No mention of Don Paulino Vargas or Chalino Sanchez????

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    1. Chalino Sanchez's career was short but legendary as the creator of the genre narco-corridos. It was through his music that Mexican Americans throughout the US felt a connection to their parents' music from the old country. Soon Hispanic kids from cities like Bell, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, South Gate, Cudahy, Compton, Long Beach, and Paramount were playing Chalino tapes and dressing like Sinaloan cowboys. Even American born Eses began trying to speak more Spanish and get in touch with their Mexican ancestry. More importantly, Chalino's music can walk a listener through the birth and later the wars between CAF and CDS after the Godfather assigned the plazas. First, at one time all Sinaloa traffickers got along well, partied together, baptized each other kids and worked side by side moving product. All the major cartels except Gulfo were led by people from Sinaloa. Chalino was a gunslinger, bodyguard and personal chauffer for Rigo Campos Salcido, a cousin of El Cochiloco, who were both killed by CAF. Chalino mother's family were Felix and his distant cousins were the Felix Torres brothers, Javier and Manuel of CDS. Chalino wrote corridos for members of both the CDS and CAF when he was locked up in a Tijuana prison. He befriended Coquio Castro(CAF), Aurelio Sanchez Quintero (CDS), Manuel Coronel (CDS) and many more mid level people at that time. Then like all servants he was told to choose a master. Obviously, he was a true Sinaloense for life. El Chapo himself states that the war with the CAF started when they killed his right hand man Armando "El Rayo" Lopez. Well guess what, Chalino wrote a song about his brother, Beto Lopez. In a scene right of Scarface, Chalino sang, "Me acuerdo en una occasion, en un lujoso restaurant, tres tipos muy bien armados lo quisieran liquidar, se tramaron a balosos, Beto les pudo ganar." Furthermore, it was Chalino who invented writing narco corridos for a commission. Now Chalino wrote over 100 songs himself but he only mentions the mafia a handful of times. He knew it was a death sentence to go against the CAF who were the dominate cartel of his time. The final verse in Chalino’s corrido was sung on May 16, 1992, only four short years after his career began. He had accepted an engagement to return to Mexico and the Sinaloan capital Culiacan. The people of Sinaloa wanted their beloved folk hero to return home and they were willing to pay $20,000 to hear him perform. But Culiacan can be a dangerous place, especially for a valiente like Chalino. His murder did not silence Chalino but it turned him into a folk hero. Since his death more than 150 corridos have been written and sung about Chalino. This is more than those written for the Mexican revolutionary hero Pancho Villa.

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    2. Don Paulino Vargas told a story to journalist Sam Quiñones about the time he met Chalino. According to Sam Quiñones, Don Paulino was told that Chalino wanted to meet him and sure enough Chalino pulls up to his home in Sinaloa with a couple of guys and with his trademark escuadra on his hip. Don Vargas was taken a bit back given Chalino's reputation as a tough guy. Chalino was their to asking for a song written by Don Paulino. Don Paulino liked Chalino's demeanor and personality and granted him the request. The song, Mario Portillo, was sang by Chalino in his Alma Enamorada album. The place were the story takes place is El Alamo cerca de Baridaguato. The hometown of Mr. Mayo Zambada.

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    3. Is there a chance you can explain more into chalino corridos for CAF and CDS and the war? Great info from both of you.

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    4. I would love if BB would give me the opportunity to explain more in detail given that I researched the phenomenon that is Chalino extensively during my years in college while completing my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Sociology.

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    5. @ 11:53 let chat about this....I am very interested in having you author an article or multiple part article. email me, chivis.martinez@hushmail.com

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    6. Nice copy paste 10:28, but a lot of false info.

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    7. 6:49 you don't say what is false or not, or how it can be quickly debunked, either.
      Pero ahi andas de caliente

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    8. 10:28 responds...Although, some of the info provided in post is well known and documented, my input is more anecdotal and esoteric coming from first hand knowledge of the singer's relationships. In layman's term, only people in the loop understand the double meaning of his music. Although not from Sinaloa, my grandfather had a small farm in el Valle de Culiacan were he lived for 40 years. I spent many summers at the farm and was introduced to his music by my uncles around 1990. I can still picture my uncles being giddy at the dinner table talking about how fast this guy kept putting out tapes. Myself, I hated the music and would always change it to gangster rap which would pissed them off. It was only by a chance relationship with my uncle's brother in law that I was given access to people in the life. My uncle 's brother in law was a "District Manager" for MZ and also had a reputation as a valliente. I can vividly recount his face glowing when he talked about him as if he was some type of God. It was through this relationship that I was schooled on who Mr. Sanchez really was and his uncanny ability to write corridos. Let's not forget that it was these unsavory characters that sought Chalino out not the other way around. I could of easily been brought into the life myself but I choose to go to school. Simply put, a life of hiding and watching my back was not for me so I distance myself from this relationship over time. He was eventually killed trying to get away from the police about 10 years ago in Culiacan. I encourage all BB readers to do their due diligence and listen to some of Chalino's music relating to the people mentioned in the first post. By the way that is just a small sample and insight into the life.

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  7. I'm Mexican and a veteran of The Marines. I don't like the new corridos but chalino, los originales de San Juan and a few other random corridos for the simple fact that they were not exageraded like these new age ones. I like to drink beer here and there and enjoy the corridos but never to hype me up for action.

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    1. Semper Fi Perro Diablo have you heard El Corrido de Joey Zasa a.k.a Sinaloa?

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    2. San Juanes are crappy now. Sorry.

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    3. 7:54 yes they got old but they got good corridos from the 90's

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  8. With an AK-47 and a bazooka on the neck/ blowing off the heads. (Wow) thats all I have to say LMAO!

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    1. Don't laugh some of these cartel members pack serious heat. There's a picture of a Juarez cartel member packing a red-eye manpads.

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    2. Right like they've never caught these guys with RPG's or AK's or even left other sicarios or police or even military shot the fuck up. OK keep laughing buddy, but unfortunately this is the reality in Mexico.

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    3. I get pumped up when i listen to corridos no lie this music is awesome y so de durango arriba la sierra

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    4. O no its Cartel Los Typo and their fast finger sicarios don't spacebar me to death, like I don't know that what forum are we on loco.

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    5. I think Mr Nate Woods is laughing becuase the lyrics are so...dull.

      zero meaning, just pointlessly violent

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    6. Escapate con un palo, nate turner!
      Don't suffer us, we'll martyr ourselves for you, arrivederchi.

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  9. Lets put it down respectively here, the creme de la creme corridos were always dedicated to the Tijuana Cartel.

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  10. Bullshit! "Narco-corridos are a beautiful form of art that informs the people of what’s going on around their country." I totally disagree with this phrase in that narco-corridos are actually a form of glamorizing worthless criminals into some type of heros. Narco corridos brain wash many kids and even adults into thinking they too can live a glamorous life of crime only to realize they are in too deep to turn back to reality. I would much rather read about how billionaires got their money legally then hearing about how El Chapo and the other criminal scumbags made their money illegally.

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    1. Not the current ones, the movimiento alterados corridos are more fiction than reality. The good part of today's corridos is the music but not the lyrics. Anyone can pay to have a corrido made about them. I was referring to the original corridos during revolutionary times that served as a messenger type. Thanks for being a borderland reader!

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    2. The ugliest the better, narcocorridos are the voice of a people that has "hambre y sed de justicia".
      --The words chosen by luis donald colosio, "being hungry and thirsty for justice" are bad, that why he got killed...

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  11. Not alll new corridos are bad like you dustheads say. You can still find some quality stuff in artists like grupo 360, Los alegres del barranco, hijos de Barron, regulo caro etc etc.

    The general direction of the genre has gone to hell though, the music used to tell stories of poor young boys growing up to be wealthy men. Now the majority of songs are written about nothing.

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  12. El Mojado Fracasado de Los Norteños de Ojinaga. Es vieja esta rola pero siempre me a gustado escuchar la. - El Sol Perdido

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  13. The only corrido I ever listen to was la letra de Don pisto big belly pisto

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  14. All these narcos wear fake desinger you can go to downtown la and at the alleys just ask nicely.
    Fake it till you make it or just keep faking it if you made it

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  15. I am Mexican and a Veteran from the U.S. ARMY, and I can say that it did help when conducting raids and going on missions....

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  16. OMG. Try Norteña Romanticas, Güeyes.

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  17. Rap music for the urban areas of the world is a fair comparison of how this music generates and reflects how the artist sees the world around them.

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  18. They need to re-write some of these corridos because the way they make them seem is like they are men of steel but in reality their deaths end up so cowardly hiding from marines...Like a good corridor would be "Soy el numero uno a las escondidas" lol...

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  19. Todos los cantantes de narco que an salido últimamente valen verga, cantan bien feo.. they all suck big time, im a musician and i cant believe that those guys are famous when theres way better talent out there

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    1. I totally agree with you bro.

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    2. Its radio politics who decide what to play who makes famous pepe garsa here is the god father

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    3. Well i feel sorry for the people from Monterrey or where ever pepe garza is programming because he must play a lot of lupillo and jenny rivera since he helped them reach fame. But they are bad singers, or was in her case

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  20. El gerardo ortiz la vino a cagar con sus corridos de hollywood

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  21. I like their dress !
    But their music SUCKS !!!!!!

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  22. Pa' corridos Paulino Vargas, Chalino Sanchez, Los Cachorros de Juan Villarreal, Los Tigres, Los Tucanes, Los Intocables del Norte, Los Incomparables de Tijuana, Los Canelos de Durango, Los Morros del Norte, Jose Barraza, Beto Cervantes/Explosion Norteña, Arley Perez, Los Alegres del Barranco and that's just to name a few... solo corridos autorizados nada de manguerear!!!

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  23. K-paz de la sierra ????? Them dudes play duranguens music lol not narco corridos pero pos igual de nacos.

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  24. New generation corridos are pure talk, young musicians just writing gibberish. Listen to the 90s or 80s corridos and you see the diffrence of quality.

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  25. A mi gusta el narcorap y el regueton y dos o tres canciones del komander

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  26. Chalino was the realest, he was a good corrido singer and was also involved in that life him self. If anyone knew about chalino then you know he was known as a hitman in Sinaloa.

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  27. Kpaz as corrido singers???? thats like saying Nsync as rappers LMFAO, and Cowboy hats and boots are no longer popular, only at a very small scale atleast in California. they ditched the sombrero and botas de avestruz for the ed hardy clothing, and when that was over it was estilo italiano with tight dressing shirts. ahorita quien save cual moda sera.

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    1. @11:18 LA moda es motor cross Como fox y metal mulisha tambien ESA de Hurley ponte all dia

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    2. If you listen to corridos you are frown upon within the law enforcement community you are suppose to be better than that plus it insinuates that you bealive and live by the lyrics and maybe corrupt or involved

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    3. 8:24 there are lots of rebels in Law Enforcement, not everything is lovey dove there, and they have every right in my book to their music, before they run away to the USSR.

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  28. Here's a narco-corrido about two Santa Barbara (CA) cops:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Js7si4tX494

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  29. Well, as much as I like corridos, theyre just like rap in the sense that they mostly (now more than ever)depict more in favor of the criminal element in the song; You can honestly say that they most singers use it for the "good of the people" to announce what is not reported; That may have been how it started but that's not how it is (for the majority) nowadays; Until we the people(including myself) decide to stop accept, play & listen to criminal favoring corridos, maybe we can put become part of the solution, and not a contribution (in a sense), to the problem of all this drug business. Just being honest!

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    1. @12:10 Thank you for writing these words. Knowing that there are still souls like you in this crazy world gives me hope for our future.

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  30. me encanta corridos. besides loving corridos i love this thread. it is a wealth of info for putting together play lists and adding to collections. thanks to all, no matter how pendejada the contribtion... there are no bad ideas. time for a juice box and gogurt now.

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  31. What about el compa negro? Perfect example how the corridos transcend race and genre.

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