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In what is certainly one of the RNC convention's unlikeliest matchups, Puerto Rican hip-hop star Daddy Yankee and presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain brought together Latinos young and old -- and about 40 Republican delegates -- for a concert Monday night at Myth, in suburban Maplewood.
Although McCain wasn't at the concert, he and the singer appeared together last week at a Phoenix high school, where Daddy Yankee endorsed McCain, who's 40 years his senior and on the opposite side of hip-hop's liberal leanings.
The show by Daddy Yankee -- the face of Latin America's hip-hop hybrid, reggaeton -- was put together by the Hispanic Leadership Fund. The Washington advocacy group invited RNC delegates, while Spanish radio station Radio Rey gave away tickets to its Twin Cities listeners. About 800 people attended. Most delegates thought the event was a perfect opportunity to reach Latino youth, even if Daddy Yankee's endorsement was a surprise.
"I was shocked," said Texas delegate Nelson Balido, 38, who is also a fan of Daddy Yankee. "But what you're seeing is young Hispanics becoming more independent."
Balido thinks McCain will appeal to Latinos even more than President Bush did in 2004, when he received more than 40 percent of the Latino vote. Balido even had a great hip-hop name for McCain -- "MC Cain." Get it?
Daddy Yankee's endorsement angered some fellow rappers, including Fat Joe, who called him a "sellout."
Concertgoer Roberto Ruiz, 23, of St. Paul, is on the fence about McCain but said Fat Joe went too far.
"I don't think that's cool," Ruiz said. "Everybody is different."
Florida delegate Carlos Curbelo, 28, was excited by Daddy Yankee breaking ranks in the hip-hop community. It reminded him of McCain's reputation as a maverick.
"I feel a very strong parallel between the two, because McCain has taken a lot of heat from his colleagues for the positions he's taken," Curbelo said.
The scene at Myth was as edgy as any RNC party was expected to be this week, with young women in skimpy clubwear rubbing elbows with suited politicos. Almost three hours after the doors opened, Daddy Yankee hit the stage, sporting diamond-covered necklaces and a Red Cross T-shirt. (They were taking donations for hurricane relief.)
On the main floor, the young crowd screamed and waved Puerto Rican and Mexican flags. Upstairs in the VIP area, the delegates, many in suits, even danced a little.
While he didn't mention the presidential race, Daddy Yankee had his own message.
"Everywhere I go I'm the voice of the people," he said. "I'm proud to be a Latino."
Fan Guadalupe Ledezma, 18, of Blaine, said Daddy Yankee didn't represent her political views.
"I was kind of mad," about the endorsement, Ledezma said. "I'm for Obama."
Her friend Fabiola Diaz, 18, was undecided but joked about who she deemed a better candidate:
"I'm voting for Daddy Yankee!"
Tom Horgen • 612-673-7909