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Calle 13’s René Pérez, aka Residente: “I was never a reggatonero”

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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):

The rapper does have a point: Latin American music is very rich, and the drawbacks of reggaeton’s popularity among the world, not just Latin America, are a serious problem within the music industry.

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:

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6 Comments
  • Daniel Morales

    Es una patadita de ahogado. René es tan inconsecuente para la música que sólo le queda asociarse con artistas populares para figurar.

  • Yo diría que ya intentó figurar — recordemos su colaboración con Shakira — pero ahora está intentando hacer cosas que realmente le llaman la atención.

    A veces no se explica de una manera clara, pero si le doy la razón en que repetir la misma fórmula (reggaetonera, en este caso), es poco creativo.

  • Sandra Trevino

    I really like what he’s doing as a solo artist and I enjoyed their socio-political/tongue-in-cheek approach to music via Calle 13 and do consider that it was primarily reggaeton with other elements that made it fun and super bailable. I find a lot of his writing powerful (that song about the FBI, ufff) and some of it hilarious (like this diatribe against Tempo). That he says now that he wasn’t a reggaetonero is interesting but I get it, especially after watching his documentary, “Residente.” If you haven’t watched it, please do as it reveals things about him and his process of creating music that you may be surprised or even offended by. (I’m not sure how I feel about, for example, a scene where he asks some singers to “feel” the war they went through – more or less – in order to get more emotion into their singing, como que eso me parecio icky). Anyway, esto de Bad Bunny… y nuevas colaboraciones… who cares? Everyone’s gonna do it. Dude sells out stadiums and isn’t even on the radio. That’s something any artist wants to aspire to, no? #daledondale I think people wanna work with him and not the other way around.

    Maybe we’ll catch a collab w/Cardi B next… one can only dream. Ha! 😉

  • I agree René is talented dude. He’s smart, funny, and those traits really shine when he’s not taking himself too seriously. When he does take himself seriously, his insecurities turn him into a manbaby (see the Tempo tiradera, which was funny, but also his bickering with Ivy Queen).

    Thing is, it seems disingenuous to say he was never a reggaetonero, which is why that fight with Tempo sprung up in the first place. Tempo is not as smart or funny, but that dude had a point: René got warm and cozy with other well-liked reggaetoneros (Voltio, Tego, etc), blew up making reggaeton songs, and then moved on to other sounds. So when he says “I was never like that,” even though he clearly was, I can see why it pisses off people.

    Plus, what’s he even ashamed of? The first Calle 13 record is still the best one. I definitely respect his decision to move on past a fad, but it makes more sense to say “I grew out of it” than “I was never liked that.”

    As for the collaborations, yeah, no big deal. He should go crazy. I just thought his meeting with Bad Bunny was funny because, as seen on that Billboard video, he was bad mouthing all these fools about a year ago. I guess he made his peace with them.

  • Sandra Trevino

    True! I think Rictus should interview him and find out the nitty gritty! OMG if he does a trap song — #deadandnotinagoodway

  • We’d talk to him, though I’m not sure he would talk to us. I think José did interview him once for his old TV show.

Music

Radio interview: Rictus talks reggaeton, its commercialization, and Maluma’s ample hips

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Rictus is making waves, kids. That’s why a few days ago I was invited to speak a bunch of nonsense on LO MÁS, a radio show hosted by Carlos Celis on Mexico City’s Image Radio 90.5 fm.

Pictured: Carlos Celis

Carlos is a label owner and well-known journalist with bylines Rolling Stone, among other many other publications. We engaged in a fun conversation about reggaeton’s popularity, it’s commercialization, sanitation, the repressed sexuality of musical Latin America, rappers in drag, and Maluma’s ample hips, which definitely don’t lie:

Maluma performing @ Dolce &Gabbana fashion show in January, 2018.

The interview is in Spanish, but, if you haven’t done so already, you may want to read two Rictus articles before cue up the audio because the conversation is centered around these: 1) Why 6 of YouTube’s top 10 music videos of 2017 are in Spanish, explained, and 2) Hate reggaeton? You’re probably racist. It’s all you listen to? You may have terrible taste in music.

Ready? Listen up:


 

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Culture

Ana Gabriel, the Mexican singer: “I’m better off being asexual, just like the angels”

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Keeping up with my coverage of vintage popstars only your tía and I care about, Ana Gabriel, one of the best selling Mexican singer-songwriters, finally opened up about her sexual orientation — sorta.

It’s nobody’s business, really, but since she often wears Hillary Clinton-like pantsuits, has never publicly been seen with a significant other, and has a deep, raspy voice, curiosity over Ana Gabriel’s sexuality have been floating around for decades.

Certain ambiguously-worded songs from her beloved catalog, such as “Simplemente amigos,” are some of the best-known gay torch songs in Latin American.

It’s all in the lyrics:

“There’s not much we can reveal to others, other than ‘we’re only friends and little else.’ Yet, nobody really knows what happens between us after we feign our goodbyes. I’d give anything to make our love known; to tell them we love each other uncontrollably behind closed doors. We wake up holding each other, and with a desire to keep loving one another, but the reality is that they’ll never accept our love.”

Ana Gabriel could be talking about her gardener, but it’s easy to see why such obscure lyricism would resonate with old-school gay audiences, many of whom grew up in largely homophobic Latin American countries.

But in October of 2015, while performing in Monterrey, Mexico, Ana openly addressed the old hearsay — somewhat awkwardly —and told her fans she considers herself “asexual.”

She also used the word “umbrella” as a double entendre, for some confusing reason:

“Why do they always ask the same question? They have not seen me with a man, but also not with a woman. At this age I have to nab someone older and without an umbrella. That way I’ll be turned around. I’m better off being asexual, just like the angels.”

For those of you interested in decoding the full message, someone caught the last part of Gabriel’s proclamation on video (FYI: the audio is super shitty).

Ana Gabriel deserves our collective respect not just because she’s a talented singer and a songwriter, but because she’s made an impressive career based solely on her talent, and not on her looks. In macho Latin America, that kind of thing is unheard of — especially for women (just ask Amandititita).

Now, enjoy this amazing melodramatic video, a favorite of many dragqueens, Latina tías, and Yours Truly (I’m a combination of both dragqueen and Latina tía):

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