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Latinx Actors Are Not Here For Chicago's Whitewashed 'In The Heights' Rendition

The Latinx community has questions that need answers. 

Before Hamilton, esteemed actor and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda created the Tony Award-winning musical In The Heights. The Broadway production set in the predominately Dominican-American neighborhood of Washington Heights naturally featured a predominantly Latino cast, but a Chicago rendition of the acclaimed show isn't playing by the blueprint.

Latino performers have been vocal about their frustration surrounding Chicago's Porchlight Musical Theatre's decision to cast a white actor, Jack DeCesare, as lead in a city that is 28 percent Latino and home to an array of professional Latino theater companies. DeCesare will take on the role of Usnavi, the indisputable star of the show originally played by Miranda during In The "Heights' tenure in New York City's prestigious theatre district, a grand opportunity that many Latino performers were excited to claim as their own.

"With [In The Heights], people felt excited, we felt like we had to show up and audition. It was important to be in a show that is from us, by us, with our own voice," Chicago-based actor Tommy Rivera-Vega told NBC Latino. "We were excited about it and then seeing that lead role go to someone who was not Latino, we realized that it was not an equal playing field. How can a white person act Latino better than a Latino?"

Many have joined Rivera-Vega in voicing this question, while deeming the theatre company's choice as a careless decision that promotes the deeply-rooted practice of whitewashing that often dilutes stories created by and for people of color.

"What seems to be Porchlight's problem is that they are taking the universality of Hamilton and trying to apply it to [In The Heights]," Princeton University theater professor Brian Herrera said. Heights is a universal story too, but told specifically through Latino voices. Trying to get to universality by skipping the specific voices misses the whole point. There is a reason why Heights was told with Latino voices in the first place."

Amid the controversy, the Porchlight Artistic Director Michael Weber released a statement to NBC Latino. "We are saddened that we have upset our colleagues, we acknowledge their concerns and we share their desire to help move the entire industry to a place of both better ethnic representation and more effective casting processes."

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B-Real, DJ Muggs, Sen Dog, Eric Bobo of Cypress Hill attend a ceremony honoring Cypress Hill With Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame on April 18, 2019 in Hollywood, California.
Tommaso Boddi

It's About Time: Cypress Hill Receives Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame

Cypress Hill doesn't always get the credit they deserve for their impact on hip-hop history, but they've been honored forever with a revered star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

With a career of 30 years, the legacy of the four-man group of B-Real, DJ Muggs, Sen Dog, and Eric Bobo (along with former member Mellow Man Ace) includes six platinum albums and 90s zeitgeist songs like "How I Could Just Kill A Man," "Insane In The Brain," and "Hand On The Pump." They released their self-titled debut in 1991 and the chart-topping follow-up Black Sunday two years later,  and have continued creating ever since, releasing their ninth and latest album Elephants On Acid in September 2018. Cypress Hill are considered West Coast rap legends, and the first Latino rap group to have multiple gold and platinum records. Anchored by Muggs' gloomy, gritty production and B-Real's nasal, charismatic rhymes, Cypress Hill is as much a part of rap history as anyone.

The group's ceremony included speeches from Latino comedian George Lopez and fellow West Coast rap legend Xzibit, who said 'it's about time' before detailing the group's illustrious career.

Xzibit pointed out Cypress Hill not only brought Latino representation in an industry that largely lacked it, but that they were staunch marijuana advocates way before today's growing legalization.

"The Grammy-nominated group showed us stoned is indeed the way of the walk. Long before the days of legal dispensaries and medical marijuana, Cypress Hill were advocates of that sticky icky icky oooh wee!" Xzibit shared. "...Cypress Hill are pioneers in their own right. Their accomplishments and accolades reach deep in the roots and history books of hip-hop, and today is another chapter in that saga. Yo B-Real, Sen Dog, Muggs, Bobo: you are our Rolling Stones, Ungrateful Dead, you are the West Coast Public Enemy."

Lopez insisted that out of all the 2,600 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, "there are none more important than the one we're about to unveil for Cypress Hill. There's a lot of actors, there's a lot of comedians, there's a lot of entertainers who are on this (Walk of Fame). But there's only one cypress hill, the first Latino hip-hop group. But to everyone who lives the American dream, not the last Latino hip-hop group to ever be on the Hollywood Walk of Fame."

Cypress Hill's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is unveiled pic.twitter.com/cNtpIUd8Xg

— Variety (@Variety) April 18, 2019

Xzibit says "it's about time" that Cypress Hill gets their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame pic.twitter.com/DHap9UkzXq

— Variety (@Variety) April 18, 2019

George Lopez says there are 2,600 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but "none more important than the star we are about to unveil for Cypress Hill" pic.twitter.com/wuaakjKp6u

— Variety (@Variety) April 18, 2019

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Cypress Hill To Make History With Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame

After 30 years in hip-hop, Cypress Hill is due to make history with their latest accolade. The multi-platinum selling group is set to become the first Latino American hip-hop collective to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The induction ceremony, presented by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, takes place on April 18 in front of Greenleaf Restaurant located on Hollywood Blvd.

George Lopez and Xzibit will help unveil the star alongside Rana Ghadban, president & CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. The free ceremony is open to the public and will be live streamed via WalkofFame.com.

“We are proud to honor the first Latino American hip-hop recording group,” said Ana Martinez, Producer of the Hollywood Walk of Fame said in a press release. “They have been successful as a group for three decades and we know they will continue their success for many years to come.”

Cypress Hill, comprised of B Real, Sen Dog, DJ Muggs, and Eric “Bobo” Correa, is noted as the first Latino-American hip-hop group to have platinum and multi-platinum selling albums with more than 18 million records worldwide. In the early 1990s, Cypress Hill became the first rap group to have two albums in the Billboard 200 thanks to the success of their self-titled double-platinum debut and their sophomore effort, Black Sunday. The album went on to sell more than three million copies and spawned the rap classic “Insane in the Membrane.”

Cypress Hill released their ninth studio album, Elephants On Acid, last year. Following the Walk of Fame induction ceremony, the group will perform at the famous Whiskey a Go Go club in Hollywood.

 

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Join us for our induction to the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

A post shared by Cypress Hill (@cypresshill) on Apr 9, 2019 at 11:36am PDT

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Miguel

Miguel Drops Spanish-Language EP 'Te Lo Dije'

In an ode to his Mexican heritage, Miguel has released a five-track project that is the Spanish/Spanglish version of his 2017 War & Leisure album. Te Lo Dije features collaborations with fellow Spanish-speaking artists Kali Uchis, C. Tangana, Dante Spintetta and Emmanuel Horvilleur, as well as Mexican Mariachi girl band, Flor de Toloache.

Miguel's Spanish-language project is one that he has been teasing his fans with, hence the name of the EP, Te Lo Dije. The phrase means "I told you so" in Spanish and also happens to be the name of a song on the EP. On this collaborative effort, Miguel is mixing in his R&B vibes with his Latin ties, so for fans looking for a mixture of both, they can listen the Spanish version of his hit, "Sky Walker" featuring Spinetta and Horvilleur. Uchis can also be found on "Carmelo Duro" showing off her Colombian roots.

This is the 33-year-old artist's first Spanish-language project and he even said that he thinks he likes "these songs better in Spanish." The R&B artist took to his Instagram account to his express his excitement on Te Lo Dije, as well as give props to people who helped him through the process.

"FIRST RELEASE OF THE YEAR," he wrote. "TE LO DIJE (a selection of songs off of W&L en español)."

 

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FIRST RELEASE OF THE YEAR ! TE LO DIJE (a selection of songs off of W&L en español) I want to thank my cousin @yeyasmiles and @flordetoloache, @kaliuchis and @c.tangana and everyone that helped me translate these songs 🙏🏾. I think you might like these better in Spanish. Enjoy . Love you

A post shared by Miguel TV 📺 (@miguel) on Apr 5, 2019 at 9:22am PDT

Make sure to listen to Te Lo Dije here.

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