A mesmerizing mixture of traditional Cuban music and East Coast-makes-peace-with-West Coast grooves, Paris-based Cuban hip-hop trio Orishas is unparalleled when it comes to documenting the splendor of heartache. On their latest release, Emigrante, the group maintains the nostalgia for la patria that was a highlight of their 2000 debut, A Lo Cubano, but they've now expanded into a universal examination of the émigré consciousness. Their real strength lays in their lyrics, a much-needed antidote to the rap-lyric crap offered in every language for the past decade. Yes, they offer nonsense (shouting out foods on “Guajiro”) and tenderness (MC Yotuel's paean to his son on “Niños”) as respites from the activism that makes Emigrante vital, but the best song—and the reason why I love these folks—is the powerful “Desaparecidos,” a slow, seething condemnation of despotic regimes with the liberating line “The guilty know what I'm talking about.” Despite such a beautiful denunciation of totalitarianism, this wasn't enough for the Cuban-dominated Miami Herald, which (according to my Orishas source) threatened to nix a reporter's story on them because Orishas supposedly isn't anti-Castro enough. Maybe Orishas can include the Miami Cuban cabal on their next meshing of the bad and the beautiful—as part of the bad, of course.

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