The New Boricua Wave
Fifteen years ago, the música urbana scene in Puerto Rico was being shaped by a small circle of reggaeton artists — chief among them Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Tego Calderón, Ivy Queen and Wisin y Yandel. Meanwhile, the last five years, Puerto Rican rappers and reggaetoneros have ushered the Latin trap sound into the mainstream, with its booming 808 drums, moody soundscapes, gritty lyrics and throaty vocals.
Artists like Anuel AA, De La Ghetto, Bryant Myers and Arcángel are credited with being the architects of Puerto Rico’s Latin trap scene. Having collaborated with such pop icons as Drake, Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B, Bad Bunny and Ozuna stand as the genre’s poster children, the embodiment of its crossover potential.
So who will be Puerto Rico’s next big export? And will they stick to the trap and reggaeton spaces, or venture into other musical milieus? Well, here are some of the new acts shaping the future of the island’s música urbana scene.
Alex Rose: In March 2018, Alex Rose introduced the world to his R&B-inspired sound via the EP Sexflix. Cuts like “Déjate Llevar” borrowed heavily from smooth R&B hits, using pre-existing musical arrangements as a framework — in this case Mario’s “Let Me Love You” — but Rose didn’t just cover these songs using Spanish lyrics. He also added Latin trap elements like sinister-sounding drum loops and Auto-Tuned vocal effects to lend his tracks a hazy vibe. Sure enough, fellow traperos took note. The video for the remix of Rose’s single “Toda” featuring Cazzu, Lenny Tavárez, Lyanno and Rauw Alejandro has amassed more than 600 million views on YouTube.
Rauw Alejandro: Born Raúl Alejandro Ocasio Ruiz in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 26-year-old singer Rauw Alejandro has the type of velvety voice and swagger-heavy delivery that’s sure to incite lustful thoughts — particularly when paired with smoldering, trap-adjacent R&B tracks. And, unlike many of his peers, Alejandro is a top-notch showman, busting out dance moves that will ignite comparisons to Usher and Chris Brown — all while crooning about romances and flings using not-so-veiled sexual innuendo. Alejandro just dropped the EP Trap Cake, Vol. 1, featuring the yearning-filled “Cubierto de Tí” and the hot and sweaty “Al Mismo Tiempo.”
Jhay Cortez: At the age of 18, Cortez was already receiving critical praise for his work, scoring a Latin Grammy for his role as a songwriter on Tito El Bambino’s 2011 Invencible. Word soon spread about Cortez’s songwriting skills, and he went on to pen such hits as Ozuna and Natti Natasha’s “Criminal,” Yandel’s “Mi Religión” and Daddy Yankee’s “Otra Cosa.” Eventually, he met J Balvin’s go-to producer, Sky Rompiendo El Bajo, and wound up flying to Colombia, where he recorded the braggadocio-filled trap cut “Están Pa’ Mi” alongside Balvin. He recently released his album, FAMOUZ, a testament to his own versatility. For example, the breezy, island-flavored reggaeton track like “Cuando Bebe” even incorporates a nod to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.”
Rafa Pabön: A graduate of San Juan’s Escuela Libre de Música, 23-year-old Rafa Pabön knew from an early age that music was his calling. The Cupey native made his debut on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart in May 2019 with Dalex’s “Pa’ Mi,” and he’s poised to repeat the feat again soon. Songs like “Tarde,” featuring Rauw Alejandro, “Dos,” featuring Myke Towers, and “Ya No” point to Pabön’s mission: to introduce more fusion-heavy, genre-defying reggaetón songs, each featuring a sancocho of rhythms.
Lunay: Born in Corozal, Puerto Rico, 19-year-old Jefnier Osorio, a.k.a. Lunay, started his career by uploading freestyle rap songs onto his social media pages. Eventually, they caught the attention of in-demand reggaeton producers Chris Jeday and Gaby Music, who signed the budding artist to a management deal in 2018. By the end of 2018, Lunay’s name was on everyone’s lips thanks to his appearance on Ozuna’s “Luz Apagá.” Most recently, Lunay released the catchy reggaeton tune, “Soltera,” which takes the fun-loving spirit of old-school reggaetón and gives it a fresh update. The song’s brand new remix, featuring Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee, is sure to keep the public going loony for Lunay.
Myke Towers: Michael Torres, 25, is nothing if not persistent. As a teen, the Río Piedras native hoped to gain the public’s attention by uploading both original Latin hip-hop tracks and freestyles onto SoundCloud. His strategy paid off. In 2014, he was featured in Remezcla’s mini-documentary and long-form essay, Trilligan’s Island — Puerto Ricans Are Blowing Up Latin Hip-Hop. The exposure led to a number of collaborations and, by the time he released his first mixtape in 2016, Towers was announcing the end of his rookie season — hence its title, El Final del Principio, which translates to “The End of the Beginning.” Since then, he collaborated with Farruko on “Si Se Da,” which has amassed over 179 million views on YouTube. His latest single, the steamy, laid-back, trap-meets-R&B cut “La Playa,” should be one of Summer 2019’s anthems.
Catalyna: Representing for the ladies in Puerto Rico’s male-dominated urbano scene is 20-year-old Catalyna, the first artist signed to Yandel’s Y Entertainment label. Born in Moca, Puerto Rico, and raised in Orlando, Florida, Catalyna has been dropping back-to-back bangers since Yandel introduced her as his protégé in 2018. In her debut single, 2018’s “Mírame,” Catalyna proved she could spit fire, flaunt her soaring vocals and exude the as much swag as her male trapero peers. More recent singles like “Alma Desnuda,” featuring Colombian rapper Farina, and “Cama Ajena” lend a pop sensibility to trap and reggaeton beats.
Lyanno: Although he started out in the reggaeton realm, Edgardo Cuevas Feliciano, known to the world as Lyanno, found his niche after foraying into R&B in 2015, releasing the well-received “Fruto Prohibido.” Drawing inspiration from The Weeknd’s alternative, experimental R&B sound, Lyanno has developed a similar mold-breaking sound. His ever-expanding catalog includes the electronica-tinged, smooth reggaeton single “No Tiene Novia,” featuring Noriel; the wistful, trap-and-R&B hybrid “Pa’ Ti,” featuring Lary Over; and the sensual “Pa’ Que Vuelvas,” which fuses reggaeton with a glossy R&B sound.
Dalex: Pedro David Daleccio Torres, otherwise known as Dalex, is the epitome of a team player. Each of the tracks on his 2018 EP La Nueva Ola features an up-and-coming musician from Puerto Rico or Panama — Alex Rose, Rauw Alejandro, Lyanno, Rafa Pabón or Dímelo Flow — thereby shedding light on all the fresh new talent in the urbano scene. Now, with the May 2019 release of his debut album, Climaxxx, the Philadelphia-born and Juana Diaz-raised singer is keeping the masses satisfied with his stirring, emotive vocals and his fusion-heavy sound, which blends bouncy R&B with splashes of catchy reggaeton and hard-knock Latin trap.
Lary Over: Known as the Joker of Trap, Lary Over takes pleasure in bringing a mischievous and outlandish vibe to Puerto Rico’s urban music landscape — hence his distinctive look: green hair, over 75 tattoos on his neck, face, arms, fingers and chest; and quirky fashion sense (white heart-shaped sunglasses, flamboyant scarf-print shirts and neon-colored sweatshirts). His debut album, 2018’s El Wason BB, brought us such jams as the “Solo” remix, featuring Amenazzy and Farruko, which incorporates a dancehall vibe thanks to the sample of Kevin Lyttle’s “Turn Me On.” He’s kept the party going ever since on dem bow tracks like “Súbete.” His latest cut, “Amores,” shows Over’s more sensitive side while staying true to his subversive, eccentric, roguish DNA.
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