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LEON, Mexico — I am at a live performance in Leon, the most important metropolis within the Mexican state of Guanajuato — a area with a wealthy, however tragic historical past. The land surrounding this live performance was as soon as the epicenter of world silver manufacturing within the 18th century, when tens of hundreds of Indigenous households have been pressured to toil in its lethal mines.
Quick ahead a few centuries, and the descendants of these those that stored the worldwide financial system churning for therefore lengthy at the moment are gathering to be entertained by a musical legend.
The Puerto Rican rapper, Residente, is acknowledged for being a groundbreaking, genre-bending artist. However he is also referred to as a frontrunner in Latin American political thought who’s properly versed within the area’s historical past.
“He has a little bit little bit of all the pieces: Enjoyable lyrics and a extra political facet, however he is capable of mix them very properly,” says long-time fan Abraham Morales on the live performance.
Residente has been making hits for greater than 15 years; first because the vocalist for the hip hop group Calle 13, and now as a solo artist. He is bought thousands and thousands of albums and holds the document for many Latin Grammy Awards with 27.
At live shows like this one in Leon, Residente’s followers sing alongside to each music, from the most important hits to essentially the most obscure, middle-of-the-album songs. His cult-like following retains him on the live performance path, despite the fact that he hasn’t dropped an album since his solo debut in 2017. I requested Residente the place he sees himself proper now.
“I am writing for enjoyable,” Residente tells me. “I am bored with touring. I just like the individuals. I hate flying.”
“Typically I benefit from the live shows and typically I do not take pleasure in them in any respect.”
Residente, 44, says he is reached a reflective level in his life. This shines by means of in his 2020 single “René.” In it, he discusses the killing of his childhood finest pal by the hands of Puerto Rican police, his struggles with melancholy and alcohol, and his current divorce.
“No person believed that it was going to be a success as a result of it is eight minutes,” Residente says. “And it went viral and everybody favored it and everybody was listening to it, and it is eight minutes — and it is simply me over a piano.”
“René” grew to become a shock smash for Residente – its music video has greater than 260 million views on YouTube. It was imagined to be the primary music off of his new album, however then the pandemic hit, and issues obtained delayed. As of now, he is hoping to launch this new album by the tip of the yr, and to do a correct tour in 2023.
Whereas a few of Residente’s current music is autobiographical, he has additionally begun battling rival rappers in extremely publicized duels.
“However then I discovered, man, I am not going to be all my life answering to all these individuals,” Residente says.
However he is not following his personal recommendation. Simply final week, he responded to a diss observe by fellow Puerto Rican rapper, Cosculluela, by releasing his response two days later. At time of publication, “Cosquillita” has almost 8 million listens on YouTube, simply three days after the music was launched.
Though battling rappers is a scuffle that Residente completely enjoys, most of his power has been expended on a lot bigger opponents — social phenomena in Latin America, notably financial inequities, political persecution, and the customarily hostile position that the US has performed within the area.
“That is Not America” continues on this custom by questioning the US’ adoption of the phrase “American.”
“Everyone seems to be American on this continent,” Residente says. “And it is how they took the phrase and made it for them,” he provides. “It is like one other manner of colonization.”
The video for “That is Not America” gorily depicts the violence inflicted by U.S.-backed regimes in Argentina, Chile, and Colombia, in addition to the CIA-directed demise squads who massacred complete communities all through Central America.
Word: This music video consists of graphic depictions of violence that some would possibly discover objectionable.
“All of the issues I am presenting are the collateral damages that the U.S. created in Latin America,” Residente says.
Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory and Residente’s house nation, is all the time on the forefront of his thoughts when he writes and performs. Because of this, he says he is obtained demise threats and that he was even banned from acting on the island.
“I do know I opened a door for artists to say issues,” Residente states. “I mentioned to Luis Fortuno, ‘He is a motherf*****,'” Residente asserts, talking of Puerto Rico’s former governor. “I obtained censored for 4 years. (Dangerous Bunny) mentioned the identical factor per week or two in the past, and he was a hero. However on the time that I mentioned it, perhaps individuals weren’t prepared for that.”
Ezequiel Becerra/AFP through Getty Photos
Right now, it seems that Puerto Rico is prepared. After a long time of registering simply 5% or much less of gubernatorial votes, the 2 independence-minded events on the island mixed to succeed in almost a 3rd of votes within the 2020 normal election.
And if current viral movies of protests on the island are any indication, the nationalist motion solely appears to be gaining momentum. I requested Residente whether or not he thinks he’ll see the day when Puerto Rico is an unbiased nation, one thing he is yearned for all through his grownup life.
“I feel so,” Residente says. “Now greater than ever, it is proper there, knocking on the door.”
Whether or not or not that day does come, Residente appears decided to maintain pushing for it. Within the meantime, his followers will proceed to sing alongside.