Tego Calderón Modified Reggaeton With His Afro-Boricua Pleasure

The primary time I heard “El Abayarde,” I believed, “Who is that this dude straight dropping fireplace lyrics on these reggaeton beats?!” Till then, reggaeton had been (a minimum of to me) social gathering music. It was my favourite beat to shake my ass to, and it stuffed me with pleasure to know that this style had, in some half, blown up resulting from Puerto Rican artists. As a Boricua, I cherished that every one these up-and-coming lyricists had been making their means stateside due to an infectious dembow beat the world could not resist. However to have somebody spitting socially aware lyrics — speaking about police brutality, inequality, racism, and authorities corruption — was one thing new. Tego Calderón was the one who introduced this consciousness to the world of reggaeton.

It is sensible that Calderón took on this mantle. Santurce, Puerto Rico (the place Calderón is initially from), has a protracted, proud historical past for Black Puerto Ricans. In addition to Calderón, Santurce additionally gave us Roberto Clemente and Arturo Schomburg, to call a couple of different notable Afro-Boricuas. However earlier than Calderón grew to become a reggaeton pioneer, he struggled to get into the sport. Although he was crushing the competitors on native televised hip-hop contests in PR, most well-known producers discovered his lyrics and magnificence exterior the mainstream. He rapped about Black pleasure and Africa whereas others had been spitting bars concerning the combi completa. In 2000, Eddie Dee, a profitable rapper who got here up within the ’90s, featured him on his second album, “El Terrorista de la Lírica,” and the remainder would quickly be historical past. Now universally thought to be among the finest to have ever carried out it — the GOAT — it is simple to hint Calderón’s affect to at present’s hottest artists, together with probably the most vital international pop star on the earth: El Conejo Malo himself.

It would not be a stretch to say that with out Calderón’s afro, dreadlocks, and outspoken socially aware lyrics many years in the past, we would not have Unhealthy Bunny difficult gender norms and calling out the corrupt authorities on songs like “El Apagón.”

It would not be a stretch to say that with out Calderón’s afro, dreadlocks, and outspoken socially aware lyrics many years in the past, we would not have Unhealthy Bunny difficult gender norms and calling out the corrupt authorities on songs like “El Apagón.” In actual fact, with out Calderón, it is inconceivable that Unhealthy Bunny may have received artist of the yr on the MTV VMAs, as he mentioned, “with out having to alter my tradition, my language, my tongue, my slang.” Calderón’s lyricism and commentary on being Black and the Black roots of reggaeton made him a legend.

“I began to do music from a black beat,” he told NPR in 2008, “in order that blacks can really feel proud being black.” That unabashed pleasure in his Afro-Boricua roots and his embrace of Black id itself was not widespread in Puerto Rico or Latin America on the time of his rise. Calderón credit his dad and mom and the way he was raised with nice pleasure: ” . . . thank God my dad and mom are individuals which might be pro-black and are additionally for the independence of Puerto Rico.” And although artists like Don Chezina, Wisin y Yandel, and Plan B had turn into massively fashionable on the earth of reggaeton by the ’90s, Calderón was undeniably one of many forefathers of the mainstream transfer of reggaeton from underground home events to Energy 105. His breakout hit “Cosa Buena” grew to become one of many first reggaeton movies to get mainstream play on Telemundo. Calderón helped legitimize the burgeoning style of music often known as reggaeton and shortly grew to become one of many bestselling Latin American touring acts, bringing all his Black pleasure and aware callouts of injustice with him.

Tego Calderon during Lifebeat Presents Reggaeton Explosion at Spirit in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

Sadly, what hasn’t modified because the time of Calderón’s come-up is the difficulties that Black and dark-skinned artists from Latin America nonetheless face in touchdown the identical sorts of alternatives and advertising as their lighter-skinned counterparts.

Sadly, what hasn’t modified because the time of Calderón’s come-up is the difficulties that Black and dark-skinned artists from Latin America nonetheless face in touchdown the identical sorts of alternatives and advertising as their lighter-skinned counterparts. Myke Towers is without doubt one of the reggaetoneros arguably following most intently in Tego’s footsteps. He received the 2021 Billboard Latin award for best new artist, and his critically acclaimed second album, “Lyke Myke,” was nominated for 3 Latin Grammys. But he’s nonetheless not on the receiving finish of the sort of advertising {dollars} and promos that he deserves.

Simply take a look at the top-selling reggaeton artists of the previous couple of years to see who’s getting pushed and marketed the toughest. And the truth is that the reggaeton panorama is fairly whitewashed lately. Given the style’s roots within the Black Panamanian neighborhood and Puerto Rico’s caserios, it is egregious that the style lately is dominated by principally white Latinx expertise. This erasure is intentional, and so is the refusal to acknowledge the start of reggaeton in Panama’s Black communities. A music style as soon as missed as “de la calle” and too vulgar to ever turn into mainstream is now driving nearly all of music streams world wide. With mainstream acceptance comes all the company affect, and it is lengthy been widespread to see colorism rear its ugly head within the music trade (and never simply in Latin genres).

But it surely’s not all dangerous information; artists like Towers are making waves with their aware lyrics and Black pleasure. And Sech has been on a sold-out tour, holding up his Panamanian pleasure and reminding everybody concerning the roots of reggaeton. Sech and Towers are bringing it full circle and honoring Calderón’s legacy by reminding us who we’re and why we love reggaeton a lot.

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