Cuban Urban Music: Popularity and Rhythm
“Soy negro, soy feo, pero soy tu asesino, no es la cara ni el cuerpo, es mi palón divino (I’m black, I’m ugly, but I’m your killer, it’s not about the face or body, but my holy d…)”. This was one of the most repeated choruses in Cuba in the last few years. The lyric is rude and the rhythm is catchy. The song, by reggaeton singer Chocolate Mc, has never been broadcasted by Cuban radio stations or television; nonetheless, it has been played throughout the country, since it was spread by means of the so-called “package”, a weekly terabyte of entertainment content, which is copied by Cuban people in pen drives and external hard drives and has been used by most of Cuban urban music representatives as their main socialization platform. Traditional record companies and TV shows screen video clips are now off the picture. The bet has been placed on freelance recordings and “package carries” do the rest.
Surviving in this “musical ecosystem” is not easy at all. Distribution matters are complemented by internal quarrels among artists. These arguments have been given labeled as “rough critics” and they come out as songs used to publically air personal differences among these musicians. The “rough critics” have also gone into the social networks realm. The access to Internet is still limited in Cuba, but artists know that they are followed in these spaces, both on the island nation and overseas, so they use live broadcastings to (especially on Facebook Live) in order to criticize their colleagues, with the hardest language. These quarrels, which are not positive at all, are put together and analyzed by such Youtubers as Adrian Fernandez and Cristian Mas Duro. Those videos are later included in the weekly package and that’s how “offline” Cubans have access to these polemics.
Despite difficulties, lack of understanding and disunity, urban music has gained momentum in Cuba and a significant number of projects have been launched in the country, with proposals ranging from trapton, a mix of reggaeton, hip hop and rap, to the fusion of typical Cuban sounds with more contemporary rhythms. In this “musical stew”, PanamericanWorld now proposes an approach to five artists that were very popular in the last few years, with an outstanding international scope.
YOMIL Y EL DANY
Roberto Hidalgo (known as Yomil) and Daniel Muñoz (Dani) have worked as a duo over the past two years, but they have already recorded six albums in this short period of time and they are ranked among the most popular urban musicians in Cuba. Their bet on trapton has given them a unique sound. They were nominated to the Latin Music Billboard Awards in 2017, in the Latin Rhythm Albums Artist of the Year category. They didn’t win the prize, but being nominated was undoubtedly great since they had never performed on an international stage. According to Yomil, their albums entitled “Sobredosis”, “M.U.G” and “Ambidiestros” are marketed at the main digital stores and they have strengthened their position in the world Top Latin Album Chart.
Yomil and El Dany had their first European tour in 2017 and gave three concerts in the United States. The first one, hosted by Miami University’s Watsco Center, was highly advertised and surrounded by polemics as tickets were sold for up to 900 dollars. Back in Cuba, the duo is working on new projects.
His name is Ramon Lavado, but he has been known as “El Chacal (The Jackal)” for a long time. His duo with Baby Lores, as part of Clan 537, was a key movement to his visibility in Cuba and, in 2009, the artist decided to go solo. He later joined another famous representative of Cuban urban music, Yakarta. Such popular songs as “Besito con lengua” and “Bruto” came out of that relation; although the duo did not have a happy ending in 2016. Chacal has put several of his songs within the people’s favorite. “Ay mi dios”, authored by him and performed along with Yandel and Pitbull, was sung throughout Latin America and “Amor”, featuring IamChino and Wisin, was also very successful.
“Hasta que se seque el Malecón” opened the door for Jacob Forever into the international market, although this urban artist had been already acclaimed by the Cuban audience for his work with Alexander Delgado as a member of Gente de Zona. They separate their work in 2013 and Jacob spent two years testing different musical formulas (including a duo with Dani), but he was once again acclaimed with his “El inmortal” album.
Invicto, launched in 2017, can be considered as his best work to date. It included different artists, such as Puerto Rican Farruko in “Quiéreme”, a song that was pretty well positioned in Latin American rankings.
Michael Sierra, known as “El Micha”, has been one of the top representatives of Cuban reggaeton over the past decade. He has collaborated with the main artists of this genre in the country (from Baby Lores to Insurrecto) as well as salsa bands (from Charanga Habanera to Paulo FG). His peculiar voice and charisma on stage (he looks like a strong basketball player) have turned him into one of the most renowned figures of urban music. In 2017, he signed a five-year contract with U.S. Rottweilas record company.
Since the age of 17, Jose Manuel Carvajal, presently known as “el Taiger”, has been performing on stages, championing reggaeton. He was a member of Los 4 band, when he was called “El Príncipe”. After walking away from that band, he created his own project in 2011: “Los Desiguales”. His music was accompanied by a different dressing style. The singer defined this style on his Facebook profile as “Fashaton”. In 2016, he decided to migrate to the United States and signed a contract with Rottweilas record company, owned by Jaime Cosculluela, and produced his latest album “Engagement”. His “La Habana”, featuring Pinto “Wahin” & DJ Ricky Luna, is included in the soundtrack of “Fast & Furious 8”, a part of which was filmed in the Cuban capital.