Wall painting at the Mission
Wall painting at the Mission.

Read in spanish / Leer en español

The Mission is a diverse place, and that applies to its people, restaurants, supermarkets, its atmosphere — and its music.

On a sunny winter Friday morning, rap, cumbia, and other Spanish music, as well as more traditional English, French, and Chinese songs, formed the background of a walking tour.

At Grand Coffee Too, a neighborhood institution and specialty coffee dealer located at Mission and 21st streets, Drake’s music plays at full volume while one of the coffee machines competes to be heard. Specifically, “Passion Fruit,” one of the Canadian hip-hop artist’s top songs from 2017, loudly broadcasts lyrics about a passionate but tumultuous relationship.

At the Latinx supermarket Evergreen, located across the street from Grand Coffee Too, Camilo’s cumbia and bachata song “Vida de Rico” was blasting: “It won’t be a rich life, but I can offer you a good time. And if the house is not enough, I’ll put a fan on you. I don’t have a dollar to give you, but I can give you all my kisses. I don’t have much, but it’s free to dance tight.”

At Papalote, a taqueria and burrito place located on 24th Street and Valencia, there is a surprising combination. On the customers’ side, the French artist Albin de la Simone plays his romantic ballad, “Ces Mots Stupides” (Those Stupid Words). On the workers’ side, in the hidden kitchen where magic is created and Papalote’s famous salsa is made, the Colombian-Mexican Margarita la Diosa de la Cumbia (Margarita, the Cumbia Goddess) plays her song “Chambacu,” named after an impoverished neighborhood in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, that disappeared in 1971. Nowadays, the word “chambacu” is more universally used to describe impoverished neighborhoods in Latin American cities.

Not only do restaurants and stores play great music in the Mission, but the streets themselves also become a stage where different genres of music mix. One such example is Vico C, a Brooklyn-born rapper and producer of Puerto Rican background, considered one of the founding fathers of reggaeton. His song “Yerba Mala” (Bad Grass), which speaks about revenge and gun violence in neighborhoods, blasts from a big radio cassette at the intersection of 22nd and Mission streets.

Meanwhile, in a cannabis dispensary, it’s Drake again; his hit song “Chicago Freestyle,” a collaboration with Giveon that launched in 2020 and talks about the Windy City, plays at full volume. The music is so loud that it functions not just as background noise, but as a client caller — a way to draw attention to the business.

These are just a few examples of the diverse and vibrant music played in the Mission, which showcases the neighborhood’s rich cultural heritage.

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Contributor, Marta Campabadal, originally hails from Barcelona. She came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to obtain her Master's degree at Columbia University. Following her studies, she worked for the data-driven newswire, Stacker. She is fond of big cities and the diversity they attract. San Francisco and the Mission District in particular have captured her heart, particularly because she can speak Spanish everywhere.

Follow her on Twitter @MartaCampabadal

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  1. San Francisco, Campabadal’s article describes the type of “noise” certain condo owners at 2235 Mission are harassing the Bissap Baobab folks over.