Although hip hop was formed during the late 1960’s in the Bronx and has roots in traditional Jamaican music, there is no doubt its influence has traveled across the globe. Nearly

every country in the world brings its own unique flavor of rap, mixing and re-mixing old familiar elements with foreign. Swedish rap, anyone? Ultimately, hip hop music tells a story that is distinctly individual and yet also reflective of a greater narrative, which is part of what gives it such wide appeal (well, this and a great beat!). Hip hop is without a doubt a powerful tool for expression and storytelling.

With so many great works making their way to the United States, it’s clear to see that hip hop is continuously evolving. Here is a small sampling of artists whose work has made it here to the U.S. that we recommend giving a listen to.

Mala Rodríguez

Also known as "La Mala," Mala Rodríguez rose to fame in Spain in the late 1990's, and has since won a Latin Grammy and had a song featured on the Fast & Furious soundtrack. She brings influence from flamenco music, and her songs often deal with issues related to poverty, racism, domestic violence and female empowerment.


"Oppan gangam style!" The South Korean rapper brought K-Pop worldwide in 2012 and currently holds the Guinness World Record for "Most Viewed Video Online."


K'Naan is a Somali immigrant rapper, and used listening to American hip hop artists like Nas not only to teach himself how to rap, but also to learn English. He has used hip hop to help raise awareness of ongoing issues in Somalia.

Calle 13

Calle 13 hails from Puerto Rico, and is well known for their eclectic blend of styles and influences, which include jazz, bossa nova, salsa, cumbia and tango. Since 2008, they have won several Latin Grammy Awards.

Just like movies and books, music not only opens a window into cultures we might not have otherwise seen, but is also a great tool for learning and practicing another language. Want to learn more about global hip hop? The Byers Branch Library’s Visual Audio Club will be hosting a special presentation this Saturday, October 17 from 2-4 p.m. in collaboration with KGNU Community Radio and Youth on Record exploring immigrant hip hop from around the world as well as popular global movements.

Have a story you’re itching to tell through hip hop (or any other creative form)? Come record it at either of our two DPL recording studios located at the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library and the Central Library's ideaLAB, or visit any of our Plazas and be a part of the global narrative.

Do you have a favorite hip hop artist or song from another place? Share them with us below!

Plazas are a dedicated space for migrants from all over the world to connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s successful global community. This program engages newcomers of all ages and backgrounds with free opportunities and specialized support as they gain second-language conversation skills, prepare for citizenship, create new networks in business, and exchange perspectives across the immigrant experience.

To find a Plaza program near you, please see our events calendar.

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.