1960's - 1980's

Soon a plethora of problems began emerging in the Bronx. Decrepit buildings were left to burn, while neighborhoods like Charlotte Street, once a symbol of working class aspirations, deteriorated. At the same time that the Bronx was changing, so was the music scene. The Palladium closed in 1966, signaling the end of an era: in the Bronx, boxer Carlos Ortiz’s Club Tropicoro closed, along with the borough’s famed Tropicana. While mambo was losing its venues, the late 1960s saw the rise of Latin bugalú, which was popular with young Latinos. Bugalú, a playful fusion of Latin, jazz and R&B musical genres with English and Spanish lyrics, was an interplay between Black and Latino cultures, as they lived side by side in neighborhoods throughout the City. Some of its major contributors came from the Bronx, including Pete Rodríguez (“I Like It Like That”) and Hector Rivera (“At the Party”).

The borough’s social ills only worsened. In 1976, the worst year for the fires, the South Bronx reported over 35,000 fires of all kinds. Engine 82, Ladder 21 on Intervale Avenue became the busiest firehouse in the nation. Outside of war, there is very little precedent for the kind of destruction that took place in the neighborhoods that became known as the South Bronx. Latin music once again went through a transition. What became known as “salsa”-- the same Afro-Cuban based music as mambo but with urban, grittier instrumentation and arrangements--reflected the tensions and problems of living in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods. The leaders in this genre were the Fania record label, which was founded by a former lawyer and cop from Brooklyn, Jerry Masucchi, and a Dominican musician who grew up in Mott Haven, Johnny Pacheco.

Amidst all the social and economic problems, a musical genre was born here: hip hop. The Puerto Rican, Black, Jamaican and other Afro-Caribbean communities all influenced the different threads of hip hop culture. DJ Kool Herc from Jamaica played his “breakbeats” spinning with MC Coke La Rock, who rapped in the style of the Jamaican sound system toasts. Grandmaster Flash (of Barbadian descent) was another pioneer with his group the Furious Five.  He and his assistant, Grand Wizzard Theodore, created and refined “scratching.” The Bronx River Houses were now the home of DJ Afrika Bambaataa, who made major contributions to hip hop. Where mambo music had its home in the dancehalls and clubs, now that these places were gone, hip hop was born and performed in the streets.