When J. Lo Was Hip-Hop


By Jada Gomez-Lacayo and Jesús Triviño

Back in the day, Jennifer Lopez was more hip-hop than any around the way girl LL Cool J ever loved. Why wouldn’t she be? At 47, she’s only a few years older than hip-hop and was born and raised in culture’s birthplace—the Bronx, New York. Lopez’s first foray in entertainment came via dancing, more specifically hip-hop dancing as a Fly Girl on the ‘90s Fox comedy variety show, In Living Color. And her choreographer was the one and only Rosie Perez—one of hip-hop’s first wifeys. A few years earlier she was “fly” she made a quick cameo on Yo! MTV Raps as a backup dancer to MC Hammer. Yes, more hip-pop than hip-hop but you get the point.

Even as a Living Color regular with no speaking parts, Jenny landed a gig as one of Janet Jackson’s coveted backup dancers. J. Lo’s appearance in Ms. Jackson’s sleek “That’s The Way Love Goes” video, showed the dancer in a different, romantic light. Next thing we know Lopez portrayed our beloved late Tejano legend, Selena Quintanilla, and her star became a meteor.

Once her Hollywood career was on an upwards path, J. Lo began to explore music and it was heavily hip-hop-influenced. Her work with then-boyfriend Puff Daddy led her into recording studios with Big Pun and Fat Joe, who she’d often reunite with throughout her career. Her Kangol hats, fresh abs and sneaker game reminded us that she still had plenty of urban bravado.

Yet, her relationship with Diddy ended in controversy with the Club New York shooting. Keeping it real got way too real for La Lopez and it seemed as though she’d go straight pop. Yet, you can take the girl out of the Bronx but not vice versa. One of her biggest hits, “Jenny from the Block,” wasn’t only a reclaiming to her hip-hop cred but it also featured a few bars from wordsmiths Styles P and Jadakiss. And, of course, you have her hip-pop remixes with Ja Rule, “I’m Real” and “Ain’t It Funny.” Still, since then it’s only been glitches of hip-hop—a Pitbull feature here an (meh) Iggy Azalea feature there.

But every once in a while we get a taste of hip-hop J. Lo. Just last year, as the host of the American Music Awards, the queen opened the show with a stunning performance of the year’s biggest hits, including choreography from Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” It’s moments like these that make us lament, “Yo, remember when J. Lo was mad hip-hop.”

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