In the late 1980s and early 1990s, most Latin rap came from the West Coast of the United States. Cuban-American artist Mellow Man Ace was the first Latino artist to have a major bilingual single attached to his 1989 debut. Mellow Man, referred to as the "Godfather of Latin rap" and a Hip Hop Hall of Fame inductee, brought mainstream attention to Spanglish rhyming with his 1989 platinum single "Mentirosa". In 1990, fellow West Coast artist Kid Frost further brought Latinos to the rap forefront with his single "La Raza." In 1991, Kid Frost, Mellow Man, A.L.T. and several other Latin rappers formed the rap super group Latin Alliance and released a self-titled album which featured the hit "Lowrider (On the Boulevard)". A.L.T. also scored a hit later that year with his remake of the song Tequila. Cypress Hill, of which Mellow Man Ace was a member before going solo, would become the first Latino rap group to reach platinum status in 1991. The group has since continued to release other gold and platinum albums. Ecuadorian born rapper Gerardo received heavy rotation on video and radio for his single "Rico, Suave". While commercially watered-down, his album enjoyed a status of being one of the first mainstream Spanglish CDs on the market. Johnny J was a multi-platinum songwriter, music producer, and rapper who was perhaps best known for his production on Tupac Shakur's albums All Eyez on Me and Me Against the World. He also produced the 1990 single Knockin' Boots for his classmate Candyman's album Ain't No Shame in My Game, which eventually went platinum thanks to the single.
2012 and 2013 marked the rise of teen rappers such as Earl Sweatshirt and a corresponding rise by teen Latino rappers. In Texas, a group called Sur Lado Entertainment from the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border with Mexico began producing ethnically unique hip hop tracks. Their single "Un Million De Palmas" focuses on Hispanic identity in America.
On the East Coast, Latin artists such as the Beatnuts emerged in the early 1990s, with New Jersey native Chino XL earning recognition for his lyricism and equal controversy for his subject matter. In 1993 Mesanjarz of Funk led by the Spanish/English flow of Mr. Pearl became the first rap group signed to a major label Atlantic Records. In 1994, Platinum Producer and DJ Frankie Cutlass used his own label, Hoody Records, to produce his single “Puerto Rico”. The single exploded onto the underground club circuit to become an instant classic. “Puerto Rico,” a ready-made anthem for the Latino audience—who embraced it enthusiastically—paved the way for Latin Hip Hop artists just starting to carve out a niche in America’s music scene. In the late 1990s, Puerto Rican rapper Big Punisher became the first Latino solo artist to reach platinum sales for an LP with his debut album Capital Punishment, which included hit song Still Not a Player. Other Latin artists on the East Coast would follow and receive a great deal of support from Latino consumers including rappers such as Cuban Link and Immortal Technique. In Miami artists such as Don Dinero, A.B. Junior, Pitbull and Qba Libre have been successful with rhymes in Spanish and English as well.
Latin rap (as well as its subgenre of Chicano rap) has thrived along the West Coast, Southwest and Midwestern states with little promotion due to the large Latino populations of those regions. During the '90s, Southern California Chicano artists, such as Kid Frost, A.L.T., A Lighter Shade of Brown, B-Real, Psycho Realm, Gunter, Delinquent Habits and Jonny Z received mainstream success. More recently, Texas artists such as Chingo Bling, Juan Gotti and South Park Mexican have enjoyed steady sales, and have headlined a number of successful Southwest tours. San Diego artist Lil Rob opened doors for Chicano rap by receiving mainstream attention for his singles "Summer Nights" and "Bring Out the Freak in You". Mav of Sol Camp and MC Magic are the most successful rappers to come out to the Southwest region. Baby Bash also had a huge impact with his single "Suga Suga". Artists Sinful of Tha Mexicanz, and Kemo the Blaxican have continued to improve the popularity of Spanglish rap on the West Coast.
Jonny Z is considered to be a pioneer of Latin hip-hop, due to him being one of the first Latinos combining Spanglish lyrics with freestyle, salsa, mambo, and regional Mexican banda. He scored four Billboard Hot Dance singles between 1993–1997, including one of the greatest Miami bass songs of all time, "Shake Shake (Shake That Culo)". Besides bass music, he also recorded the Chicano anthem "Orale". The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States Volume 2, Page 301 states: "A new style of Latina and Latino hip-hop was created in Miami and Texas by the bass rappers DJ Laz and Jonny Z, who mixed Latin styles with bass music". Some Chicano rappers have even began to create their own subgenre. "Soul Rapper" Conivan has created his version of Chicano rap by fusing oldies and hip hop on his latest project "Analog Flo". Latin rap, and Chicano rap continue to develop into larger enterprises.
The constant migration of people from one country to another has greatly influenced the dispersion of cultures and music across the globe. The latter form of music has been a hit especially in countries with a large number of immigrants to the United States, which were only popular among Hispanic and Latino audiences. For example, Mexico has a growing hip hop scene since 1992 starting in Cd. Juárez Chih. with groups and rappers such as D.N.3 Feat. Raúl Panther G. (DJ Panther), Team-O and Aztlan in México City with Caló specialized in rap house and the list it keeps growing among the years with Akwid, Control Machete, Bocafloja, Cartel De Santa, Eptos Uno, Bonnevilla, MC Aese, Romo One, Aleman, C-Kan, Don Aero, Zimple, Santa RM, MC Davo, Smoky, UnderSide 821, W Corona, Adan Zapata, Thug Pol, Santa Grifa, Maniako, Toser One, Zaiko & Nuco, Griser NSR, Gera MXM, Charles Ans, Dante Storch and Molotov who have produced millions of views on YouTube. In Spain, rappers Mala Rodríguez, Nach, El Chojin and Porta have a growing fan base that ranges from Spain to Latin America. Similarly, the movement has spread to Puerto Rico, a country where many of its residents have moved to New York, Miami, and Chicago over the years. Latin rap, which was very much derived from black hip hop, was jumpstarted by a wave of rappers that included Ruben DJ and Vico C. Ruben DJ's hit, La Escuela, (The School) and Vico C's hit, La Recta Final, (The End of the Road) received considerable radio time during the late 1980s. In addition, Latin rap in Puerto Rico has had a substantial impact on the genres (rap, and Latin rap) and relate a certain message to their respective audiences. Puerto Rican rap emerged as a form of cultural and social protest within the Puerto Rican context. This is similar to the way American and Jamaican youth used rap and reggae/dancehall as a means to communicate their feelings on social, cultural, and political issues. In essence, Puerto Rican rap became the voice of the Puerto Rican youth in which they use dancehall and rap music as methods of expression for the Jamaican and working-class U.S. youth counterparts as they made it in France too since 2003 "1492 Army".
There are many hip-hop scenes in Latin America, including a growing rap movement in Buenos Aires.
Latin rap has also surfaced in the UK with a group called Cultura Londres which includes Richie Londres of Sol Invicto and Eric Bobo of Cypress Hill in addition, Latin Rap also surfaced in Australia with Maya Jupiter.
A music scene, similar to the early underground gangsta-rap scene, has emerged in northeastern Mexico (Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas and Coahuila), where the musical phenomenon of hip-hop is being co-opted by the influence of organized crime and the drug war in the region.
Mexican Narco-rap contains lyrics similar to those of a narcocorrido (drug ballad). However, unlike corridos, which relate to rural regions of Pacific Mexico (and which are generally linked to the Sinaloa cartel) narco-rap emerged in the urban area of Tamaulipas, on the border with Texas, a turf currently under armed dispute between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.
Derived from the constant presence of "halcones" ("hawks", cartel spies) and cartel-convoys circulating the streets of the region, young people have been involved in the local narcoculture, and narco-raps express the reality of life on the streets in cities ruled by drug cartels.
Some of the main exponents of the genre are Cano y Blunt, DemenT and Big Los.
In the mid-1980s, freestyle music was initially called Latin hip hop. This dance music genre, not to be confused with improvised freestyle rapping, was dominated, at the time, by electro funk beats and vaguely Latin melodic and percussion elements, over which Latino vocalists sang melodramatic pop vocals, usually in English even though it was started by Nuyorican natives and African-Americans primarily. Freestyle was primarily popular among Latinos in the New York City and Miami club scenes, but achieved mainstream pop success with hits by The Cover Girls and Exposé, among others.