Trap music dominates in rap right now, regardless of language, and each month Cultura explores the Latin side of hip-hop's hottest sound.
After the kind of transformative year Latin trap just had, 2018 seems primed to top it. With the likes of Bad Bunny and Farruko settled into the Billboard Hot 100 with their Spanish language bars, the rewards recently reaped by hip-hop artists such as 21 Savage and Migos are clearly no longer exclusively reserved for those who rap solely in English. After 2017 smashes “Despacito” and “Felices Los 4” effectively disproved industry conventions about genre divisions on any sort of linguistic basis, we can assuredly expect increased major label attempts to garner more so-called crossover hits with their Latin imprints’ rosters, gracias a Dios.
Though the number of viable trap en español contenders run in the dozens, Arcángel clearly came out the gate this month eager for an early lead. The New York born, Puerto Rico raised rapper appeared on no fewer than nine different January singles as either a lead or featured artist, including tracks with Dillon Francis, Jaudy, and the presently incarcerated Anuel AA. On the would-be signature earworm “Austin Baby,” a robotic pitched-up voice persists with reciting the title ad nauseum in between laidback verses over a woozy beat. Also released through Pina Records via Sony Music’s distribution arm, “El Granjero” emphasizes the grit in Arcángel’s throat as dramatic staccato keys and subwoofer rattling bass open up for it.
Among this latest batch of bangers are the EDM-adjacent “Ven” with Quimico Ultramega and the R&B-infused “La Cabaña” with Jay Menez. All the while, Arcángel showcases his somewhat nasal, Weezy reminiscent voice like it belongs with every hip-hop idiom—because it so clearly does. On El Nene La Amenaza’s “La Chanty” remix, he glides over a beat not entirely unlike Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle.” That laidback delivery manifests as a tremendous flex over harder edged trap like “Rojo” and Flow Mafia’s ominous “El Favorito De Los Capos” remix.
One sound notably absent from Arcángel’s prodigious month is the one he’s best known for. Most who know his name by now know him for his reggaeton discography, having famously partnered previously with De La Ghetto in duo form before venturing properly into solo work. Like so many others who found success in the 2000s with the format, he hasn’t exactly left it behind for trap so much as shrewdly set it aside as the opportunity to thrive in a broader field.
If anything, Arcángel’s veteran status both in reggaeton and as one of Latin trap’s progenitors may prove advantageous. Being so seasoned could give him a proverbial leg up on the hungry competition, many of whom have yet to demonstrate their commercial prospects. Two of Arcángel’s albums have already charted on Billboard’s Top Rap Albums, Sentimiento, Elegancia & Maldad in 2013 and Los Favoritos towards the end of 2015, both of which earned RIAA Latin Gold certifications back in December. He’s helmed or otherwise appeared on 19 singles that made the Hot Latin Songs chart, with recent entries like Chris Jeday’s “Ahora Dice” (with J Balvin and Ozuna) and “Tu Sabes Que Te Quiero” with Chucho Flash buffering hits spanning over a decade.
His reggaeton powers remain undeniable, but Arcángel’s abilities on the trap front could possibly overshadow them this year if his 2017 efforts were any indication. Surrounded by some of the most formidable rappers in his class, he gave “Tacos Altos” its instantaneously memorable, sexually charged chorus, a useful skill for anyone vying for a Hot 100 placement. His multiple tracks with Bad Bunny including “Me Acostumbre” and the “Soy Peor” remix burst with the same muted, moody energy of Gucci Mane’s recent wins. His knack for the sound so evident, Arcángel likely won’t need stunt casting a la “Despacito” Bieber or “La Modelo” Cardi to finish 2018 with an epic banger for the masses.
Los Favoritos Del Mes:
A.CHAL - "Love N Hennessey (Remix)"
Peruvian-born with a Queens raised rep, the up-and-coming R&B singer levels up his already bilingual single with refreshingly icy takes by 2 Chainz and Nicky Jam, together making a clear play for the charts.
De La Ghetto - "Sé Que Quieres"
Sufficiently smoked out, El Jefe Del Bloque doesn’t mince words about what he and his seldom heard-from romantic companion are getting up to on this steamy single.
Messiah - "Bien De To’"
About as far from a Latin trap newcomer as you’ll find, the hardened Dominican spitter demonstrates his acumen for the form he arguably invented, dipping both savvily and effortlessly here between English and Spanish.
Natti Natasha and Bad Bunny - "Amantes De Una Noche"
A readymade pop anthem along the lines of Becky G’s “Mayores” and Rihanna’s “Work,” the chopped dembow mingles with the singer’s vivid hook and the rapper’s baritone drawl to ensure dancefloor domination.
Ozuna, Bad Bunny, Wisin, and Almighty - "Solita"
Effectively an “All I Do Is Win” for the trap en español set—with a familiar sounding and booming beat to match—the boys cover the spread for DJ Luian and Mambo Kingz with boasts of seductive prowess on this thuggish ode to infidelity.
Gary Suarez is a writer in New York. Follow him on Twitter.