As Latin Trap Thrives, A. CHAL Is The One To Watch In 2019

With reggaeton and dembow now firmly established on the charts, the Peruvian singer-songwriter is primed for a breakout year on the back of his debut EP, 'Exotigaz.'

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Dec 28 2018, 3:45pm

Trap music dominates in rap right now, regardless of language, and each month Cultura explores the Latin side of hip-hop's hottest sound.

A. CHAL wants what we’re having. Already fairly tall to begin with, the Latin trap vocalist stands awkwardly on a wooden chair to address the influencers, tastemakers, and industry types gathered here at Baby Brasa, a somewhat luxe Peruvian spot occupying the downtown Manhattan space once held by Sex and the City fave Sushisamba, his frizzy mop of black hair threatening the ceiling. "I would’ve come here anyway for the food," he says, eyeballing the appetizers on the tables below.

For a release event marking the Exotigaz EP, A. CHAL’s first Epic Records project longer than a single, the assembly of predominantly Latinx players feels markedly different than the usual hip-hop music setup. Then again, how could it not? After all, when one of the biggest songs of 2018 was a Spanglish single led by a Dominican rapper from the Bronx, the idea of a Peruvian hip-hop act raised in Queens having next can no longer be dismissed outright. We’re through the looking-glass here, people, and nearly two years after "Despacito"—still ceaselessly charting at Billboard—there’s more than enough quantitative evidence that Latinx artists command a formidable domestic listenership both within and outside of Spanish-speaking communities. Reggaeton and dembow crossed over onto the Hot 100 enough times in the past twelve months that both the jargon and, indeed, the very notion of crossing over feel wholly antiquated.

As DJ Snake’s "Taki Taki" with Ozuna and Bad Bunny’s "MIA" with Drake prove genuine hits that will likely endure into the winter months, 2019 seems primed for someone like A. CHAL to break out. Of course, being signed to a major label certainly doesn’t hurt his prospects. Even before the release this month of Exotigaz, his earlier single "Love N Hennessy" landed enough radio pickup to appear on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Rhythmic Songs, with the track featuring on the latter chart for 14 total weeks. That small victory coincided with his Epic signing this spring, though the track first dropped almost a year prior and received remix treatment with 2 Chainz and Nicky Jam verses this January.

A bilingual affair, its ratio of English-to-Spanish varying from song to song, Exotigaz makes a strong case for A. CHAL’s ability to roll with the likes of Anuel AA and J Balvin stateside. Opener "Type" sports the same rhythmic swing as Rae Sremmurd’s "Guatemala," albeit with added hypnagogic production traits. He switches up his flow between detached rap monotone and deeply engaged R&B urgency on "Dejalo," a subdued slapper that recalls OVO Sound’s mellower offerings. Those Partynextdoor vibes continue through "Indigo Girl," though later cuts like "Pump Fake" and the bassbin testing "Exotica" negate copycat claims. Over a mere six songs, he showcase a range that positions him well for getting to that next level.

Anyone doubting A. CHAL’s connection to Latin trap need only peep the handful of cuts he dropped ahead of Exotigaz. Previously featured on the Future-helmed Superfly cinematic reboot soundtrack back in June, his "La Dueña" returned last month as a revised standalone with rapper Darell, best known for his role on this year's Hot 100 charting urbano posse cut "Te Boté." This month, he features on Fuego’s "Dancin," the latest from the seasoned urbano artist whose discography boasts work with Pitbull and Rick Ross. Both tracks fit seamlessly into the trap en español movement, hardly diminished by his pop potential.

As the appetizers are cleared, making way for a spread of faithful and fanciful Peruvian entrees, A. CHAL finds his place at the head of a table, finally getting a taste. Surrounded by his overt supporters and those who, on at least some level, have a stake in seeing a young Latinx artist thrive, one hopes the rest of the country develops an appetite for him in 2019.

Los Favoritos Del Mes:

Amenazzy and Noriel - Dios Bendiga

With a touch of blasphemy, the Caribbean duo give thanks and praise to the Almighty for their good fortune, both in spite of and due to bad behavior, while giving murderous side eye to those praying for their downfall.

Juaco, Dvice, and Sou El Flotador - Corazón Negro

Established traperos Dvice and Mr. Fly cap a prolific year of solid singles together and apart by bestowing their respective cosigns on Juaco for this opaque banger.

Meek Mill featuring Melii - Wit The Shits

The Philly rapper showed love to Latin trap by putting his former Maybach Music labelmate Anuel AA on “Uptown Vibes,” but it’s this Championships deep cut with boisterous Harlemite Melii that cements his urbano ally status.

Menor Menor, Mr. Perez, and Myke Towers - La Solicitud

Two of Carbon Fiber’s hottest upstarts tack on one of Puerto Rico’s most consistent spitters to tell the tale of a bizarre love triangle Rashomon style.

Tali Goya - Check

Formerly of the Billboard Tropical charting duo Tali & Messiah, the Washington Heights bred Dominican fills his latest solo one-off with drug and gun talk well suited to the sparse, ominous beat.

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