Most people in Latin America recognize René Pérez, aka Residente, as one half of Calle 13, the massively most popular reggaeton group. But remember when Hello Kitty was revealed to be a human girl, not a cat, and everybody shat their pants? Well, during an interview with El Gordo y la Flaca, René revealed himself to be a multifaceted artist, not
el Che Guevara some common reggaetonero.
I’m not sure anybody is going to shit their pants over Rene’s revelations, but some reggaeton fans may definitely roll the eyes:
“Reporter: Why did you stop singing reggaeton, René?
René: I was never [a] reggaetonero. People think I’m against it, but I’m not. I’m againsts the lack of creativity; when everything’s the same. And, at some point, reggaeton began to represent things that I didn’t want to represent creatively.”
Ever since he soured on reggaeton, René & Co. moved on towards other styles of music. 2014’s Multi_Viral, the last Calle 13 record, sounded more like Rage Against the Machine than Voltio. But the 39-year-old’s beef with reggaeton didn’t stop there, since he engaged in various feuds with his colleagues (more on that in a bit).
Still, René went soft on mainstream reggaetoneros during the El Gordo y la Flaca interview — at least compared to his remarks during last year’s Premios Billboard, where he called reggaeton’s brightest stars “a copy of something that’s already awful” (min 1:18):
We have strong opinions about René and Calle 13 here in Rictus, but, again, dude’s in the right: Latinos need to be cautious when it comes to praising the popularity of one single aspect of the culture. Lazy exploitations of fads can quickly turn into negative stereotypes, and that appears to be the main reason René preemptively walked away from a style of music he was already dominating:
“Reggaeton became all the same. Look at the camera, women dancing… it was all related to dancing and love. I don’t like the idea that when you come to the United States people think Latinos are all piña coladas, coconuts and palm trees, and it’s all the same.”
After years of exploring different musical genres, either as Calle 13 or Residente, René appeared to be done with reggaeton altogether until last year, when got into a tiradera and released an eight minute diss track:
“The recent clash between Puerto Rican MCs Residente (a.k.a. René Pérez Joglar), formerly of the Grammy-winning alt-urban group Calle 13, and Tempo (a.k.a. David Sánchez Badillo), who returned to the game in 2014 after serving 11 years in prison, puts a unique spin on the tradition.
Known as a tiraera, which can translate as ‘throw-down’ or ‘shoot-out,’ this battle centers not only on personal putdowns, but also Caribbean politics and the artistic value of pop-reggaetón itself.”
In the El Gordo y la Flaca interview René is asked point-blank if he would ever collaborate with Maluma, reggaeton’s current golden goose, and he’s surprisingly evasive. Instead of giving a straight answer, Residente moves on and speaks of his respect for old-school reggaetoneros, such as Daddy Yankee:
Yesterday René uploaded a picture with Bad Bunny, the young trap superstar. After all he’s said and done, many people assumed René would be above mingling with these plebes, but apparently not.
Instead, judging by his interaction with his fellow compatriot, Residente seems genuinely interested in, maybe not helping, but at least inspiring the new generation of rappers to focus on the message of their work instead of their popularity:
Pope Francis dropped the sickest mixtape ever, and nobody noticed it
Titled Pope Francis: Wake Up!, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, aka the Dope Pope, dropped the sickest mixtape the streets of the Vatican will ever produce, and nobody noticed it.
No, you won’t hear Francis doing a trap version of “Spirit in the sky.” Jorge is darker. On his street-wise LP, Sir Preach-a-lot churns out hard-ass monologues, all of which have been written and recorded with various collaborators:
“Under the art direction of Don Giulio Neroni, who also curated other albums for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, various Italian artists and producers also contributed to the music like Giorgio Kriegsch, Mite Balduzzi, Giuseppe Dati, Lorenzo Piscopo, the orchestral director Dino Doni, and former member of Italian progressive rock band Le Orme.”
Sure, Bergoglio is not producing his own tracks à la Dr. Dre, but that doesn’t make Pope Francis: Wake Up! any less incisive, penetrating, and epic — like, Cradle of Filth level of epic.
Take “Wake up! Go! Go!” — sadly, it’s not a Wham! cover — but a fine prog rock track that’s been mixed with a horn section from the middle ages. On “La fe es entera,” Francis tells his listeners that “it’s scandalous that God arrived and became one of us — it’s just a scandal. The scandal of the cross is… well, still a scandal.”
But the real scandal are the Pope’s rhymes, which are quite somber. On “¿Por qué sufren los niños? [why do children suffer?], Bergoglio, true to Catholic dogma, preaches all the hard truths, such as “this world needs to cry more.” Why? Because Catholics mustn’t have any happy thoughts without feeling terrible about it. Doing so is like pounding ten rusty nails into Jesus’ already-mangled appendages.
Perhaps not sonically, but thematically Pope Francis: Wake Up! makes Bauhaus’ “Stigmata martyr” sound like “Despacito.” Not all of it, of course. “Pace! Fratelli!” sounds like an Enya-penned track that’s been produced by Giorgio Moroder, but sung by castrated monks.
Letters to Rictus: “My girlfriend supports #MeToo, but loves reggaeton. She’s tripping, right?”
Doña Rictus, my girlfriend is smart, young, fun-loving Latina. She’s college-educated, has a good job, pays her taxes, and comes from a relatively conservative family, like most Latinos.
She’s cultured and politically active. Earlier this year she participated in the Women’s March and, when she’s not going to design fairs, or some indie rock concert, she’ll digest all the lefty publications.
Then she gets drunk. After she sips on the Devil’s nectar, she turns into a Sábado Gigante model who’s been hypnotized and asked to sweep the floor with her ass. She’ll scream “¡Hasta abajo!” and “¡Dale con todo!” and other shocking phrases our Bernie Sanders-voting friends always reel from.
As a progressive, and as a woman, she’s obviously very supportive of the #MeToo movement. But we’ve gotten into arguments over how reggaeton has always been at odds with true feminism. She’s not a silly Maluma apologist yet, but I’m afraid she may turn into one soon, and that’s a strain our relationship can not handle.
– Yo También Quiero Que Te Respetes
*Takes off reading glasses*
Curiously, dear Rictus reader, NPR’s Alt-Latino published a podcast about this subject earlier today. In it, the participants discussed the advances “el género” (reggaeton) has made towards being less misogynist.
Most people will probably agree that old-school reggaeton is, without a doubt, extremely misogynist. New reggaeton has been sanitized for mass consumption. It’s less offensive, but calling it “feminist” would be like calling Don Francisco “entertaining.”
In fact, besides a few female performers, such as Ivy Queen, women still have almost no representation in reggaeton (see #7 here).
Some disingenuous people have been trying to pass “Despacito” as an achievement for women because it was co-written by a woman, but the harsh truth is that Luis Fonsi’s song is still about a guy who aggressively hits on a girl, and the lyrics leave a lot to be desired:
“Si te pido un beso, ven dámelo (If I ask you for a kiss, come give it to me)… Quiero, quiero, quiero ver cuánto amor a ti te cabe (I want to see how much of my love you can fit in)”
But talking about misogyny in music — or life, really — remains an uncomfortable subject. Even Roxanne Gay, a very smart, popular, and beloved feminist, has conflicting feelings when it comes to enjoying hip-hop, reggaeton’s first-world cousin:
“It’s really difficult. You hear some hip hop, and it’s just such great music, or great lyrics, or a great beat, and it grabs your interest. Then you pause and you listen to the lyrics, and they’re really damaging, or unnecessarily misogynistic. And you’re like, ‘What do you do?’
If you’re so principled that you decide that I’m going to have a zero-tolerance policy, the reality is that you’re not going to be listening to anything.”
I do have an idea, mijo. Wisin, a popular reggaetonero, revealed that women used to make up over half their audience, even when their music was at its most offensive:
“In the early days [of Wisin & Yandel], our lyrics were much more explicit and a lot of times it came across as offensive to women, who found it degrading. But women still made up about 60 or 70 % of the people buying our music, not just physical albums but digital sales.”
Considering those high numbers, it’s very much within the grasp of Latinas to influence the music industry through their buying power.
So fuck misogynist reggaetoneros. Next time your girlfriend gets wasted, begins to mop the floor with her butt, and starts shouting those aggressive phrases the Bernie Bros don’t know what to do with, put on some Mula, not Maluma.
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