meta-scriptDrill Music Is On The Rise Around The World. Can Latin Drill Take Over Next? | GRAMMY.com
Graphic featuring photos of (L-R) Nexiio, Davinci, Hotllywood, DJ Chirrix, Catore, Chucky73
L-R: Nexiio, Davinci, Hotllywood, DJ Chirrix, Catore, Chucky73

Source Photos Courtesy of UFF Records, NarxFilms, and LatinDrill.com

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Drill Music Is On The Rise Around The World. Can Latin Drill Take Over Next?

Latin drill was recently one of the most overlooked movements in Latin music. Now, everyone from J Balvin to Rauw Alejandro are exploring and expanding the emerging sound, launching the nascent subgenre from underground circles to mainstream audiences.

GRAMMYs/Jul 13, 2022 - 04:31 pm

Earlier this year, Rauw Alejandro, one of Latin music's hottest new superstars to break onto the global Latin pop stratosphere, debuted Trap Cake, Vol. 2. Although the Puerto Rican artist regaled that the charting EP featured more of an underground vibe reminiscent of his earlier SoundCloud days, the release saw the singer/rapper return to harder sonic terrain, a notable difference from his 2021 pop-glimmering, breakthrough album, Vice Versa.

Among the nine-track EP stands the revved-up single "Gracias Por Nada," or "Thanks for Nothing," a snarling kiss-off that captures an equally brutal yet quickly emerging sound: Latin drill. Released in February, the power-chord-heavy track has since gone viral: The song's official music video counts more than 14 million YouTube views to date. Moreover, it reaffirmed the rising microgenre's entry into the mainstream arena.

Latin drill, the Latin trap counterpart bolstered by sinister verses stacked over ominous sliding basslines, was recently one of the most overlooked movements in Latin music. It is now permeating popular culture, with underground artists and superstars alike exploring and expanding the gritty art form.

Over the past year, a handful of international artists and producers have launched Latin drill from underground circles to mainstream audiences. Latin GRAMMY-nominated rapper Eladio Carrión delivered one of the most grueling Latin drill numbers to date last summer. Leading with dramatic, dissonant piano keys, "Tata (remix)" brings forth a coalition of drill, trap and reggaetón G.O.A.T.s working as one. Carrión, a Jester-turned-trap star, enlists two pioneers for the remix: reggaetón icon Daddy Yankee and Brooklyn drill pioneer Bobby Shmurda — his first major collaboration since his release from prison last February following a six-year sentence for conspiracy and weapons possession. The hard-hitting track also features Colombian reggaetón ambassador J Balvin, who raps on the original version.

In May, 2020 Latin GRAMMYs Best New Artist nominee Cazzu stepped into Latin drill territory with the premiere of her deep, booming track, "Jefa," the first single off her new album, Nena Trampa. The song comes equipped with gunshot sounds while the Ledesma native raps about reclaiming her status as the top Argentine trap villain.

The relentless rise of Latin drill comes as drill music, named one of the most important rap subgenres in the last decade, continues to dominate the rap scene and wider pop music landscape around the world. In April, GRAMMY-winning rapper Cardi B revisited her early drill sound on "Shake It," a "sample-driven drill posse cut," per Pitchfork, from Kay Flock and featuring Dougie B and Bory300. One month prior, in late March, Chicago rapper Lil Durk, who's associated with the rise of drill in the U.S. in the early 2010s, topped the Billboard 200 chart with his seventh album, 7220, which features the drill-powered "Ahhh Ha." That same week, rap superstar Nicki Minaj released "We Go Up," a collaboration with Fivio Foreign, the latter of whom, it is believed, is poised to take drill music mainstream.

Outside of American audiences, drill continues to expand around the world, with regional scenes cropping up in South Korea, Australia, Ghana, Kenya, and beyond.

Today, artists and industry leaders alike are taking notice of the Latin drill movement, which is staking a formidable presence stateside and across the world.

"[Latin drill] could be [the next big wave] if more artists keep making the drill sound,"' J Balvin told GRAMMY.com last October. "We are happy that we were one of the first ones that, let's say, elevated drill in Spanish," he said of the aforementioned "Tata (remix)." "Bobby [Shmurda] is one of the drill kings, and we did our homework of finding him. He was such a nice person. And also Daddy Yankee, he is the G.O.A.T. Eladio Carrión opened up the floor for us so it was really cool."

In 2021, rap newsletter Cabbages predicted the potential rise of the Latin drill wave in the U.S. charts, noting how English-language drill tracks like CJ's "Whoopty" had already broken through. "It stands to reason that Spanish-language drill will inevitably have its inaugural entry [on the Billboard Hot 100 chart] too this year," Gary Suarez wrote. "More and more Latin acts will continue to try their hand at it or otherwise make it their own."

With all this global momentum happening at once, can Latin drill become the next wave? The movement is already picking up speed worldwide.

Listen to GRAMMY.com’s official An Introduction To Latin Drill playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Pandora. Playlist powered by GRAMMY U.

From The Bronx To Bogotá: The Beginning Of A Global Movement

For decades, Spanish-language rap and reggaetón reigned over música urbana, streaming- and sales-wise, until Latin trap made its way in the mid-2010s. "There came a time when [reggaetón] started to decline, and artists picked up interest in the next thing. Latin trap became huge in the hands of Puerto Rican artists like Bad Bunny and Anuel AA," explains Catore, co-creator of the eponymous Latin Drill, a content-aggregating site à la WorldstarHipHop boasting a rapidly growing international social media fan base.

In 2016, Anuel AA's "Nunca Sapo," Bad Bunny's jaded opus "Soy Peor," and the raunchy "La Ocasión," the latter a star-studded track by De La Ghetto, Arcangel, Ozuna, Anuel AA, DJ Luian, and Mambo Kingz, solidified Latin trap as the top contender in the Latin pop canon. Yet just prior, N.Y. Dominican artists like Messiah and Lito Kirino were setting the framework for Latin trap, helping the genre launch to global acclaim.

That's where New York-dwelling Dominican trap and Latin drill come in, led by key players like Moreno ITF, Pachino Escobar, Kapuchino, and the rest of the rappers of Jalapeño Music Group; Chucky73 and his Sie7etr3 crew, including the likes of Fetti031 and Dglo73; and the UFF Records gang repping Nexiio, Davinci and Hotllywood — all laying the groundwork in neighborhoods like the Bronx and Harlem.

From Puerto Rico to Spanish Harlem and across the Atlantic, ascending Spanish-language rappers are now embodying the drill style, which originated in Chicago. "Aside from Chicago, when it comes to Latin music, I feel that the most authentic drill music is in New York City," Fabian Santos, founder of New York label UFF Records, or Until Forever Free, asserts.

"The movement is growing more and more," Catore says. "I believe that today we are in the era where reggaetón and Latin trap are in transition, and we are going to really start to see what real Latin drill is."

Read More: 5 Latinx Rappers To Know Now: Santa Fe Klan, Chucky73, J.I., Yoss Bones & BIA

More Than Just Spanish Rhymes

In the spirit of Latin culture, Latin drill's rising stars retain a tinge of revelry in some of their music and videos. Just take Chucky73 and Sie7etr3, a group that occasionally flaunts Nerf guns instead of calibers, acts jaunty while wearing ski masks, and features some jubilant perreo for good measure. Combine this with verses loaded with Dominican street slang referencing themes like hitmen culture, life in the streets, and their hood hustle, Chucky73's music testifies proudly that Latin drill has arrived, as evidenced in his hit song, "Mi Ciudad." (His new Reencarnación EP, which dropped last month, features the drill-heavy “4 por 4,” featuring Skinny Flex.)

"I started to make rap music when I was 12, but then I moved on to Latin drill. My influence was Chief Keef," explains Chucky73, who moved to NYC from the Dominican Republic when he was 8. "I come from a small block in the Bronx, and that's where everything started."

Just a few blocks away, another troupe of drilleros is wreaking havoc. Charged with menacing basslines and maniacal organ riffs, "Demons" by Dominican upstarts Nexiio and Davinci, or "Brujería" by Hotllywood, are recent examples of the Latin drill style pervading New York City.

"The way [some of my artists] connected was through prison," says UFF Records founder Santos, who manages Nexiio, Davinci and Hotllywood. "I don't want to talk about their criminal history, but they've taken their music as an outlet to be able to elevate themselves into a better space. They pour their heart into all their songs, whether it's about betrayals or just being out in the Bronx communities where a lot of things happen. New York is where the melting pot is, and where artists get influenced and start off. That's why Anuel AA used to come to Uptown, and a lot of other major artists picked up on it. It's not like they mean to take over drill music they were influenced here, and they have a bigger platform."

It's arguable who made the first Latin drill track, and whether New York Dominicans were the first to invent it. Often regarded as Latin trap pioneers, Anuel AA and Ozuna jumped on the Latin drill sound via the 2021 Spanish-language remix of CJ's viral hit "Whoopty," giving the genre significantly wider exposure throughout the Latin music circuit. Earlier Latin drill is also accredited to Puerto Rican trap stars Jon Z and El Dominio for their 808Melo collaboration, "Los Chavos Cayendo."

Some, however, speculate whether the essence is preserved. "Lots of [Spanish-speaking] rappers are doing drill today, whether they pertain to the scene or not," points out Catore, who has Venezuelan roots and was reared in London and is now based in A Coruña, Spain. "They don't go around shooting people, or selling drugs, like Natti Natasha, who sings drill on a Jon Z remix." 

Read More: 5 Women Essential To reggaetón: Ivy Queen, Natti Natasha, Karol G, Ms Nina & Mariah Angeliq

Still, even some of the most visible heads of the New York drill scene share Latin roots: CJ is Boricua and the late Pop Smoke, who took Brooklyn drill global, was half Panamanian. In fact, it's arguable that they helped catapult the genre fully toward Hispanophone territory.

"I dare to say that Pop Smoke helped create Latin drill," Catore claims. There is some truth to this statement, as Pop was the source of inspiration for many rising Latin acts today. All in all, it's clear New York artists are the first to solidify and mobilize the nascent genre.

Making Drill Their Own Latin Sound

The connective tissue bonding drill and Latin music may not be as culturally distant as one might think. Drill's origins and evolution — from the streets of Chicago to the U.K. to New York and beyond — reflect a shared lived experience between the subgenre's creators and the Latin artists adding their own spin to the sound today.

First coined by the late Chicago rapper Pacman, drill music emerged in the early 2010s in the South Side of Chi-Town and quickly propelled into the national mainstream in 2012 via genre pioneer Chief Keef's definitive debut single, "I Don't Like."

From the jump, the subgenre's bleak lyrics reflected the lives and experiences of those running the streets at their most dangerous hours, telling stories about retaliating against their enemies. In fact, the same year when drill music exploded, in 2012, Chicago became the murder capital of America, according to the FBI. "Everybody knows about the cases of people in Chicago dying from gunshots. It's usually people involved in that life, that culture, the culture of drill," Latin Drill site co-creator Catore says. "To drill someone is to take a knife and shank somebody, or take a gun and shoot somebody. It's slang for killing. It's drilling."

Along the lines of the original English-language version, Latin drill is steeped in nihilism, reflecting a grim outlook that mirrors the dark realities of those living them firsthand. "Latin drill is the shooter's version of their come-up — the hunger," Santos explains. "Historically, Latin trap has always been about hustling, making good money, and being the top dawg. A lot of people get that confused with Latin drill, [which] is talking about the violence around them — the mission."

New York Dominican rapper Davinci concurs. "Drill is about the person who does the dirty work; it's dirtier and more personal. We live by it," he says. "It's basically a warning, like, 'What would I do or be capable of?' That's why drill sounds darker."

"The drill is always gonna have a deeper sound. Trap is more hype," Chucky73 echoes. "Drill has a more thug vibe. It's more underground, and the lyrics are more violent."

While storytelling is essential to the genre, Catore says that it's not meant to glorify violence. "We want people to stop killing each other. We want to help save them," he asserts. "We also understand that music is art. And like a good Hollywood movie or a good action book, it might be about murder. So why can't we listen to someone sing or rap about murder? That's where we're open-minded."

Editor's Note: Following the killings of numerous drill rappers, police and government authorities in the U.S. and the U.K. have linked crime and gun violence to drill music in recent months. Artists leading Brooklyn's exploding drill scene are today fighting to show there's more to drill than violence and guns.

Read More: Rhyme & Punishment: How NPR's "Louder Than A Riot" Podcast Traces The Interconnected Rise Of Hip-Hop And Mass Incarceration

In the same vein, some U.S.-based Dominicans are chronicling a portion of their own brutal reality in rhymes: their struggle with their undocumented status. Some Latin drill artists rap about growing up Dominican, coming to New York, and battling with immigration, as heard on "Tírale" from Hotllywood, who's based in Corona, Queens.

"The way [my label] started was me wanting to help one artist who was incarcerated due to immigration laws. He was in the custody of ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] during that time," Santos recalls. "When he was released, I helped him get in the studio, letting him know the potential and opportunities if he took this music career seriously because this kid has a lot of talent."

Sonically, Latin drill expands on the roots of its American counterpart, often branching out into new fusions. In fact, artists and producers shaping the New York Latin drill scene are looking toward their roots to infuse the sound with their native rhythms. Davinci has lately been concocting a new iteration of the style he's calling "drillbow," which, as the portmanteau implies, combines drill with Dominican dembow. "Hotllywood and Davinci thought of the concept as a way to connect to their island, sharing the stories of their battles living in the U.S.," Santos says of the rising fusion sound.

The Next Chapter In A Growing Global Movement

With artists keeping it real to their own experiences — recounting their crimes, doing time, or slanging through tracks — and telling their true-life stories via this new beat, Latin drill is fast becoming a global movement, further boosted by streaming services, including a rapidly growing scene on SoundCloud, and social media outlets. "To be honest, I was going crazy to see my first million [streams]. I celebrated 73 in the hood, we came out and threw a little block party," Chucky73 remembers. "I was hype because I was able to make music. It just happened out of nowhere, I wasn't expecting it. I'm not even going to lie to you, I cried."

Davinci, who's gaining momentum on YouTube, still can't believe the Latin drill movement has reached these heights. "I didn't trust it until I saw this is literally what my life is about," he says. "For now, I'll leave it with God."

Santos is thrilled by the response his UFF Records artists are receiving in their communities. "I see people taking pictures with them, showing them love within their area, and listening to their music," he says. "One of my artists said he felt great when he went to the store and his music was playing without the owner knowing he was going to come by. That motivates them so much to go harder."

Then there are channels like Catore's Latin Drill site, co-founded by DJ Chirrix. The online hub is helping to generate the next international breakthrough in the movement. It has already spotlighted Colombian drill with Drizie Drizie, and even New Zealand drill as evinced in "Vida Loca" by newcomers Tanboymiguel and Lord Seez. To further expand the movement, they're forming a collective of producers to build their own beats for upcoming artists via Latin Drill Beats.

"I see two differences in drill: one in the culture and essence, and the other in the music. What I am most interested in is the music, but let's never forget its essence," Catore asserts. "If the music sounds good, and it has a drill beat, then let's say it's drill. It doesn't matter where the artist is from, and if what he raps about is fiction or true. In the end, the music is what you'll hear." 

Santos sees a new direction for Latin drill in New York already forming. "It is being converted into more of a flow and the beat itself. People who listen closely will see what's going on, that it is a struggle," he says. "There's too much shit going on, too much violence. The New York Police Department hasn't been the friendliest, either. [Our artists] were living in chaos in New York. That's why we work together. We realize that this is bigger than just [the artists] and their platforms — we can take it to a whole 'nother level."

Latin Music's Next Era: How New Festivals & Big Billings Have Helped Bring reggaetón, New Corridos & More To The Masses

Photo of Carlos Vives wearing a black shirt, black leather jacket and a silver necklace.
Carlos Vives

Photo: Natalia Gw

news

Carlos Vives Named The 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year: What To Know About The Latin Music Icon

Vives will be honored at a star-studded gala leading up to the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs, which this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Latin GRAMMY Awards.

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 01:53 pm

The Latin Recording Academy today announced that 18-time Latin GRAMMY winner and two-time GRAMMY winner Carlos Vives will be the 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. He will be honored at a star-studded gala leading up to the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs, which this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Latin GRAMMY Awards.

The heartfelt tribute concert will honor Vives' celebrated career, which spans more than 30 years as a multifaceted singer and composer, and will feature renditions of his renowned repertoire performed by an array of notable artists and friends. In addition to his achievements in music, the 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year gala will honor Vives' continued commitment to environmental and social initiatives.

Details about the coveted event, which takes place during the 2024 Latin GRAMMY Week in Miami, will be announced at a later date.

An architect of Latin music's ongoing evolution and global expansion, Carlos Vives is one of the most respected artists in Spanish-language music around the world. He helped pioneer a new Latin American sound, redefining traditional Colombian vallenato by incorporating pop and rock. The first Colombian to win a GRAMMY Award, he boasts more than 10 billion streams on digital platforms, 20 million albums sold, and enduring hits like "La Gota Fría," "Pa' Mayte," "La Tierra Del Olvido," "Fruta Fresca" and "Volví A Nacer."

Vives has become an ambassador of Colombian and Latin American culture around the world, and his commitment also transcends the musical realm. In 2015, he created the Tras La Perla initiative to promote the sustainable development of Santa Marta and its ecosystem.

In addition, he created the Escuela de Música Río Grande to offer artistic experiences to children and young people and founded the record label Gaira Música Local to promote new Colombian talent. As part of his ongoing commitment to music education, Vives has been a strong advocate and generous supporter of the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation since its inception and sponsored its annual Prodigy Scholarship in 2018.

"Carlos Vives is one of the most prolific and beloved artists of our time, whose commitment to Latin music and support for the new generations truly personifies the values of our Academy," Latin Recording Academy CEO Manuel Abud said in a statement. "We honor him as our Person of the Year for his vast contributions to our musical heritage and for his many philanthropic initiatives."

"I am honored and moved to have been chosen as the 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. It is the reward for an authentic journey, for a wonderful team, and, above all, it is the recognition of the musical spirits of our Latin American diversity," Vives said in a statement. "These spirits taught us to love and enrich our language, to take care of it, and to respect it in order to exalt humanity with it."

The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honors musicians and their artistic achievements in the Latin music industry as well as their humanitarian efforts. The past honorees are Laura Pausini (2023), Marco Antonio Solís (2022), Rubén Blades (2021), Juanes (2019), Maná (2018), Alejandro Sanz (2017), Marc Anthony (2016), Roberto Carlos (2015), Joan Manuel Serrat (2014), Miguel Bosé (2013), Caetano Veloso (2012), Shakira (2011), Plácido Domingo (2010), Juan Gabriel (2009), Gloria Estefan (2008), Juan Luis Guerra (2007), Ricky Martin (2006), José José (2005), Carlos Santana (2004), Gilberto Gil (2003), Vicente Fernández (2002), Julio Iglesias (2001), and Emilio Estefan (2000).

Net proceeds from the Latin Academy Person of the Year Gala will go toward the charitable work of the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation.

The 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year gala will take place days ahead of the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs, which take place Thursday, Nov. 14, in Miami at Kaseya Center, in partnership with Miami-Dade County and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB). The nominations for the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs will be announced Tuesday, Sept. 17.

This year, the Latin Recording Academy will introduce two new Latin GRAMMY categories and a new field: Best Latin Electronic Music Performance, housed within the new Electronic Music Field, and Best Contemporary Mexican Music Album (Regional-Mexican Field). These additions also include several changes, including additional category amendments, to be added to the 2024 Latin GRAMMY Awards Process.

8 Essential Latin Electronic Releases: Songs And Albums From Bizarrap, Arca & More

Álvaro Díaz Embraces Love Lost On 'Sayonara'
Álvaro Díaz

Photo: Waiv

interview

On 'Sayonara,' Álvaro Díaz Embraces The Sadness Of Love Lost

Known for his vulnerable style of reggaeton, Álvaro Díaz’s sophomore album ‘Sayonara’ says "goodbye to the happiness you thought you found."

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 01:29 pm

Álvaro Díaz has a twinkle in his eye — he knows he’s onto something special.

"It’s crazy that it’s an alternative album, but also the most reggaeton I’ve ever made," Díaz says of his recently-released sophomore album, Sayonara. "It’s both worlds. I have my fingers crossed that people are going to love it."

Díaz, who is 28, has been making music since he was a teenager. A constant creative force, he grinded for years as an independent artist, building a solid fanbase in Puerto Rico before breaking into the wider Latin urbano scene with 2021 debut, Felicilandia, which layered fresh pop melodies onto playful reggaeton and trap beats, exploring the euphoria of love.

Notably darker and much more experimental than its predecessor, Sayonara marks the end of that "happyland" feeling. 

"My story with ‘Felicilandia’ ended in heartbreak," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I was just writing about my life. It’s like a nightmare when you can’t stop thinking of that person. The usual Puerto Rican [reaction] to a breakup is like,'Don’t worry, let’s go to the streets!'"

The first half of the record soundtracks this feeling of party and abandon. Perreo tracks like the Feid-featuring dancefloor banger "Gatas Sandungueras Vol.1" nod to old school reggaeton, while Diaz and guest Tainy twist into ravey house beats on "Fatal Fantassy."

With an assist from Spanish indie pop star Sen Senra, "1000Canciones" marks a turning point in the album’s mood. It’s slow, reflective and poignant, with unashamedly heartfelt lyrics. "I went to the streets, and played 1000 songs that reminded me of you / even though I knew it was late / I took my phone to call you," Diaz sings in Spanish.

Lovingly nicknamed "Sadvarito"by fans, Diáz’s vulnerability stands out amidst a reggaeton scene dominated by party hits and swag. Even the biggest hits on Felicilandia— "Lori Party" and "Babysita </3" — were tinged with heartbreak; and fans will be reassured to see his signature fragility thoroughly embedded in Sayonara.

"It’s just how I feel, sometimes I feel empty, sometimes there’s a lot to say," Díaz says of the album’s changing moods. 

At the end of the album, Díaz considers trying to get back with his former flame ("Quizás si, quizás no," featuring Quevedo). But, he soon realizes it won’t work: "You know it’s not the same — it’s just me saying 'Sayonara,'" he says. 

GRAMMY.com spoke with Díaz over Zoom about why reggaeton is the perfect heartbreak genre and how ‘Sayonara’ is his most experimental work yet.  

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Sayonara **comes three years after your debut, Felicilandia. There are some similarities in the two albums’ artwork, but we can see something’s gone a bit awry/**

There’s an explosion at the left of the Felicilandia artwork. We were predicting what was going to come. I’m a fan of when artists do these little things, merge album covers, or make songs that live in the same universe. 

Felicilandia is the way to find happiness, Sayonara is saying goodbye to the happiness you thought you found. 

When you’re with a person you create a world together. But, todo se fue a la mierda. That world has gone. On [the artwork for] Sayonara, I’m looking ahead, but you don’t know my intention. I could try to save everything, or I’m just taking the last look. 

The track ‘‘Gatitas Sandungueras Vol. 1’ feat. Feid, has dark undertones, even though it’s a song about partying.  How is the track related to the album’s main theme of overcoming heartbreak?

Me and Feid put everything into the song. It’s based on the story of missing her: you’re blind; you’re trying not to think about her.  

Feid is like my duo, we always talk about making projects together, and our fanbase likes it when we work together. He couldn’t be out of ‘=Sayonara —he was in Felicilandia singing a sad song, and now he’s singing a party song, so it’s a total contrast. 

Same with Rauw Alejandro, who is on the track "BYAK," and was also on Felicilandia single "Problemón."  It’s special to have Feid and Rauw on both albums. We didn’t want to repeat what we did before, we wanted to go in another direction. 

The album mixes a lot of different genres, but reggaeton is definitely at the foundation of Sayonara. What artists were your core inspirations?

The selection of the sounds, and the beats, reminds me of the golden era of reggaeton in the 2000s. We even used the old Fruity Loops software, and searched for inspiration in [LunyTunes & Tainy 2006 album] Mas Flow: Los Benjamins, or the [2003 compilation album], Blin Blin. All those albums that changed your life in Puerto Rico. That’s why the reggaeton tracks have 2000 vibes, it’s what I listen to. 

You’re known for making an emotional brand of reggaeton. When did you first explore reggaeton’s potential to be more vulnerable?

My fans’ favorite songs are my most heartfelt songs. Maybe my most played song on Felicilandia is "Problemón," but on tour, the song people go crazy for is "Babysita." It’s a song I recorded in my house, but it’s bigger than all my other tracks. 

So, I know how the people who follow me connect with me. The way I talk about heartbreak speaks to a lot of people; it’s more relatable than how other people sing about it. They call me "Sadvarito," so it was always a challenge to find a way to bring that Sadvarito energy to reggaeton. 

What is your favorite reggaeton heartbreak song?

Damn, there’s a lot. It’s hard. 

My favorite reggaetoneros growing up were Zion & Lennox, they were my GOATS, and most of their songs are heartbreak songs. So, Zion & Lennox, "Solo Una Noche." 

There’s also a song on [Luny Tunes-produced 2005 compilation album] Mas Flow 2 which is my favorite ever: "Es Mejor Olvidarlo." That’s my jam. I used to blast that when I was little. I didn’t know heartbreak then, but I felt that.  

So you can cry to reggaeton?

You definitely can! Old school people may say you can’t, but, ey, reggaeton be having feeling. It will make you feel a type of way in a club. It could change your mood completely.

Connecting with fans is everything to you. On Sayonara, how are you hoping to reach people?

I have a really hard time saying goodbye. There’s a phrase: la esperanza es lo último que se pierde, I’m one of those types of guys; the last one who loses hope even if my world is going to pieces. I want to make her fall in love, like on the track "Quien te quiere como el nene." It’s saying I really love you, I want to fix things. 

The point of the album is for people to see what chapter they’re in. I’ve never been able to reach the last track, to finally be able to say Sayonara, but I know I will get there! 

One woman who listened to the album said it’s awesome to hear a man’s perspective — you go out and party, and then you miss her. She said, usually, for girls, it’s the other way around: you miss him at the beginning, then you go out to party. It gives it realism, boys really be like that. I love it when real life and music come together. I really hope people find themselves in the songs.

"Quien te quiere como el nene" is one of the more experimental tracks on the album, and unexpectedly goes into a drum and bass rhythm. How did that come about?

I did that whole beat with my mouth! I had it in my mind. I had the bass, but it needed a sound there. I don’t know why but I started making these sounds. I sent a demo to Tainy and asked, "Do you think you can do this?" Obviously, he can, he’s Tainy. Alongside Manuel Lara, my main producer, they took it to the next level. They are a dream team. 

You break from the reggaeton beat a lot in the album — "Fatal Fantassy" is very house. Tell us about these electro elements.

I like to experiment with different sounds. It’s harder for me to do reggaeton than do experimental things. Different tracks just come naturally. Tainy and I were listening to the album after we had 60 percent of it ready, and we felt like it was missing energy, it needed a bit more uptempo. So we did three sessions and came up with those ideas. 

I made a playlist with everything I want to do in the album, so I could say "I want a riff like this." I like to take a lot of ideas and work them little by little. My process is different to a lot of my friends who go to the studio and make three or four songs a day. I really like to feel like what I’m creating.  

You’re in Japan right now, and this album frequently mentions Japanese words, people and culture: from "Sayonara," "Kawa," "Majin Buu" and "Yoko." How did Japan influence you?

Japan is really important in this album, the names, the creation. I didn’t want it to be obvious, but it’s there, in the minimalism, the names, It’s magical for me to be now in Japan and listen to the album. I can say, damn this song feels like Toyko, this one feels like Osaka. Now I’m in Kyoto, and I feel "Quien te quiere como el nene" is definitely a song for this city. 

I’m a cinematographic guy, I create songs with movies on mute. I recreate the vibe, how I feel it would sound. Even movies filmed in Japan, like ‘Lost in Translation’—I watched that a lot and was inspired by that. That feeling of being lost, of not knowing what’s next. 

"Majin Buu" is one of the most heartfelt tracks on this album, and references a "Dragon Ball Z" villain. Why do you draw on that character?

It’s a 2024 alternative love poem! He’s a bad guy, but I flip and use it in a good way. 

I like to play with names, most of the time I have the name of the song. I knew I wanted to make a song with Majin Buu but I didn’t know how it was going to sound. The same day I made "Majin Buu," I made the track "Yoko."

Speaking of "Yoko," do you relate to the person who has been painted as the bad guy?

Definitely. When I watched the Get Back documentary about the Beatles on Disney+, I remember seeing Yoko every single moment beside John Lennon. They were inseparable until his last day. All the Beatles had a family, they all had wives, but it was Yoko who was next to John at every moment. 

It was a romantic way to say, I want you by my side like Yoko was with John Lennon. 

You're very close to your fanbase. Is there anything that artists can do to stay grounded with their fans? As you’re getting bigger, how do you manage the relationship with fans?

Fans made me. Especially during those years when my project didn’t have the light it deserved, my fans were there for me. It’s important for me to have a healthy relationship with them. 

I always try to put myself in the shoes of a 16-year-old and think what things could he say to me to make me fall in love with this project?, or what did this artist do that made me a superfan? I try to create experiences. In the run-up to releasing Sayonara, we did listening parties with 15 fans in different parts of the world, with exclusive merch. Seeing the reactions of the people is important for me. 

I’ve been making music since 2012. Some [artists] don’t know the hustle; they get big after two to three years. But [success] is not given, it’s earned. I get the rockstar mentality, but that’s not me. It’s impossible for me to lose touch with the fans. 

[Sayonara] is a celebration for me and for the fans. I want to do small shows in Puerto Rico, places I played when I was started. I love the shows where you can feel people’s emotions. When you get big, you kind of lose that. But to me, that connection is magical, I never want to lose that.

Kenia Os Unveils Her 'Pink Aura': How The Mexican Pop Star Let Her Feminine Energy Shine

Grupo Frontera Press Photo 2024
Grupo Frontera

Photo: Eric Rojas

interview

Grupo Frontera On 'Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada' & Fully Expressing Themselves: "This Album Was Made From The Heart"

With their second album, regional Mexican music stars Grupo Frontera aim to honor their roots while showing their wide-spanning musical interests. Hear from some of the group on the creation of the album and why it's so special to them.

GRAMMYs/May 16, 2024 - 08:12 pm

In just two years, Grupo Frontera have gone from playing weddings in their native Texas to joining Bad Bunny on stage at Coachella and performing on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." No matter how rapid their rise to fame has become, the Texas sextet has held the same ethos: celebrating their Mexican heritage while embracing the American culture they were born into.

Embracing that balance has helped them transcend cultural barriers with their modern take on regional Mexican music, which incorporates a wide range of musical styles. That holds true on Grupo Frontera's second album, Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada, out now. 

With bright accordion lines and a high-energy blend of urbano party anthems, cumbia-inspired ballads, and forays into pop, the album is a masterful display of the group's mixed cultural background. It retains the same Latin cowboy spirit of their first LP, 2023's El Comienzo — which had roots in the norteño genre, a traditional style originated in Northern Mexico — while tapping into the music they grew up listening to in the States, like hip-hop, corridos tumbados, and country music. 

While El Comienzo introduced Grupo Frontera as loyal traditionalists, Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada aims at speaking to younger generations. It's a fitting approach for the group, whose ages range from early twenties to early thirties across its six members — Alberto "Beto" Acosta, Juan Javier Cantú, Carlos Guerrero, Julian Peña Jr., Adelaido "Payo" Solis III, and Carlos Zamora — that also speaks to their evolution amid their whirlwind success. It's proof that they aren't afraid to create music that is completely true to them — and that's exactly what makes Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada special.

Below, Cantu, Guerrero, Peña, and Solis speak with GRAMMY.com about their cultural roots in South Texas and the making of Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada.

The last two years were a very prolific time for Grupo Frontera. What was it like to create Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada after everything that's happened to the group?

Adelaido "Payo" Solis: Last year we were working a lot, playing four or five concerts a week, and that didn't give us time to structure El Comienzo as well as we wanted to. Now we made time to record all these different types of songs. It was amazing to have time to work on the album cover and all the songs the way we wanted to, and have everything set in a certain way to represent the new album to its highest potential.

Between 2023 and this year, were you able to take any time off to work on this new record, or was it done in between touring?

Juan Javier Cantú: There were times when we were touring El Comienzo that we would record before the people got inside the theater. We would record onstage. We'd be like "Wait, don't let the people in — 20 more minutes, we have to finish this session!" That happened with our new songs "Quédate Bebé" and "Nunca La Olvidé."

Solis: It's a little bit of both because those were recorded live, but then two months ago, we locked ourselves in the house for a good four or five days, and out of that came, like, 15 more songs.

You mentioned that, for this new record, you had more time to work on the order of the songs. What's the general feeling behind this track list? Starting with "F—ing Amor."

Solis: The general feel of this album is literally the album's name, Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada [which loosely translates to "pretending everything is OK"]. Since we had more time to think about it, we tied many things to that name, to that phrase.

Everyone, at some point, has pretended everything is OK when in reality, it's not. You can see it in the album cover — the truck is on fire, but our character, who represents Grupo Frontera, is sitting in the car as if nothing is wrong. So the idea — and I know everyone experienced this — is that when you get in your truck, you can play our record and you can drop the act. You can stop pretending everything is alright. You can get in your feelings.

So the way it's structured, starting with "F—king Amor," is that you don't want to know anything about love, then in the middle, you have "Ya Pedo Quién Sabe," which says "maybe I miss you," and then by the end, "Quédate Bebe" [which translates to "Stay Baby"]. So it is a ride, an experience, which starts with you being hurt, or left behind by someone, and you being sad about it, then slowly wondering how is she doing, then saying "I miss you," and finally "stay with me."

Cantú: More than anything, we are playing with genres. In this record, you have our traditional cumbias, country music, and then songs like "Desquite." So that was also the goal, for people to know more about our music and the music we like.

Solis: Each member of Grupo Frontera listens and plays different styles, so starting from that, we each had a big say in the genres we wanted to play and styles we wanted to record on this album. 

More than anything, we were thinking of new generations. The Latinos of newer generations that don't speak Spanish, or don't get to come back often to Mexico or the countries where their parents are from. They don't want to hear just cumbia, so in our album, we want to make all these styles for them to find, in our songs, the genres that they like.

You mentioned that each of you has different styles and genres you brought to the new record. How did you work in the studio to generate these new sounds?

Solis: Grupo Frontera doesn't really use a lot of computer sounds, most of the music we play is through our instruments. We used to work on our songs starting from guitar and voice only, but now because we had more time to work on things, we each took a song and would listen to it for days. Then we'd meet again as a group and work on it in the studio: everyone's opinion counts, and no one's opinion takes precedence over the other. That's how, slowly, each new song took shape.

When you talked about the moment in which you get in your car or truck, and finally get to stop pretending everything is alright — does that car culture come from your upbringing in Texas?

Julián Peña: That culture is definitely from where we are from, from the Valley [the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which spans the border of Texas and Mexico], where there are a lot of troquitas tumbadas [lowered or customized pickup trucks]. You'd hear la Raza zooming by, blasting our songs, with the bass booming, from their trucks. So it's kind of like a relief, your safe space.

Like the album's title says, "pretending everything is fine"... you're pretending to be fine and then once you get in your car and you pass yourself the aux, you turn that up and you start bawling, or feeling whatever you're feeling. Then the album's over, gotta get back to work, clock back in, and go back to pretending everything's fine. It's like an escape that we know many people have, it has happened to all of us; you go on a drive to decompress, turn the music up, let it all out, and feel better. That's what we wanted to capture with that image.

What songs did you each play when you needed that kind of moment?

Cantú: When I broke up with a girlfriend, around 2012, my go-to was Drake.

Peña: Mine was "Then," by Brad Paisley. I was just sad and going through a country phase. [Laughs.]

Solis: I would listen a lot to a song by Eslabón Armado called "Atrapado."

Cantú: When I feel a little trapped by this street lifestyle I go, "I Should've Been A Cowboy"! [All laugh.]

I read some of you grew up raising cattle, or come from families of farmers and ranchers. What aspects of that lifestyle do you miss, in contrast with being in a city like LA, and actively involved in the music industry?

Solis: Juan had his ranch around General Bravo [a municipality in Mexico], and I was born in the States, but I would go every weekend to Mexico, to my parent's ranch, where they had cattle. I know Juan can relate to this — when you are at the ranch and play a song, and can sing out loud without anyone around listening or judging you, that's a really nice feeling. When you are on stage, in the industry, you're not singing only to yourself, but to make the audience's day better. So no matter what you're going through, when you're on stage, your job is to make people happy.

Cantú: Going to a place — like a ranch, an open space — to disconnect, it's like a reset. I feel a lot of people have not experienced that, they don't know the power that has.

Through your lyrics, you adapted old love songs and romance to modern times. Some songs even mention emojis, DMs and texting. Do you have any favorite emojis?

Solis: Oh man, I love the black heart emoji because it can mean many things. A dead heart, or that you're not feeling anything. It can mean your heart is broken and needs mending to go back to being red. I think it's super cool.

Carlos Guerrero: I like the thinking face emoji.

Cantú: Sometimes he uses it out of context and we don't know if he's thinking, or he's mad. [Laughs.] For me, the one I use the most is the "thanks" [praying hands emoji].

Peña: I like the heart hands emoji. Like "Hey what's up," and throw a heart hands emoji.

Going back to your music, what's your favorite part of making songs?

Solis: I'm not sure if we all have the same answer, but for me, my favorite part about being able to sing, record and write these songs is to sing them with all the feeling in the world. And that is amazing, to be able to let that out.

Cantú: The simple fact of creating something and getting to test it out, seeing people sing it, it's like, Wow, we made that.

Peña: Yeah, that you do something and then put that out there right and you're like, I wonder if this feeling is gonna get translated the way we want it to. And then, like Juan said, when people go to concerts, and sing it back to us, or we see people post stories of them singing it and going through it. It's like, we made that! We got that point across, and it feels good for all of us.

How do you navigate being an American band with a cross-cultural upbringing?

Cantú: It's really cool. We were lucky to go to Puerto Rico, Colombia and Argentina, to collaborate with artists like Arcángel, Maluma, Shakira, and Nicki Nicole. That helped us understand their culture and meditate on what it means to be Latino, not just Mexican. Latino identity entails so many cultures in one, and even Mexican identity is vast. Latinos are from everywhere.

How was it to collaborate with all these other artists, and open your group to collaborate with them in Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada?

Solis: Basically, we are like a group of brothers. We sometimes spend 24/7 together. We see each other every day, and we spend all our time together on the tour bus and at home, even when we don't need to see each other. So when we collaborate with other artists, like Morat, Maluma, or Nicky Nicole, they sense that vibe — we carry that with us. I feel that carries through, to the point where we can all have that vibe together.

When we are collaborating with other artists, it feels as if it was a friendship that has been around for a while. Like, have you ever felt or had that friendship where you can go like a month without seeing each other and when you see each other is like you had seen each other? That's basically how it is when we collab with other artists.

I know it's hard to pick a favorite song from the new album—

Solis: It's not that hard! My favorite is "F—ing Amor."

Why?

Solis: Because before Grupo Frontera started, that was more the style that I listened to. I got into the music of Natanael Cano, Iván Cornejo, and others. I grew up listening to old cumbia songs that my parents played for me, but in high school, I started listening to new stuff and new genres, so I think that's why my musical style is more versatile. So "F—ing Amor" is more Sierreño, has more bass, and the congas and percussion; the vibe of that song reminds me of how, in high school, I would drive my truck listening to Natanael Cano. 

Peña: Mine is "Echándote De Menos." Ever since we recorded it, it has that rhythm in the middle where we all drop, on that note… I like all of them, but that one, in particular. 

Cantú: I have to go with two. When I first listened to them, "Los Dos," our collaboration with Morat, and "Por Qué Será" with Maluma. That song, when they first showed it to me, I felt chills down my back.

Guerrero: Mine is "Los Dos," with Morat, because we liked Morat before being with Frontera.

Cantú: To make a song with them is an achievement for us because our big song ["No Se Va"] was a cover of theirs. So making a song together is pretty cool — not many people get to do that.

Solis: We had people tell us that we were stealing their song! We get that Morat is some people's favorite group but we were like, bro, it is our favorite too, that's why we did that song!

What is your dream for this new record?

Solis: We were talking about this yesterday in the van. We don't want to expect anything out of it — success, or big numbers — because this album was made from the heart. We are just so happy and proud to be releasing it into the world.

Guerrero: I just hope that people like it, because, as Payo says, we explored a lot of different genres, so we hope people dig that. We put our best into it.

Cantú: I want what Payo and Carlos said, but also, to go to Japan to play our songs.

Peña: I want what the three of them want, but for people to really connect and identify with the songs. Even if they connect with one or three, what I want for the album is that — to connect with people.

Meet The Gen Z Women Claiming Space In The Regional Mexican Music Movement

Luiza Lian singing
Luiza Lian

Photo: Filipa Aurélio

list

5 Artists Leading A New Wave Of Latin Trip-Hop & Downtempo: Céu, Natalia Clavier & More

As Latin GRAMMY winner Mon Laferte embarks on a U.S. tour of her new, trip-hop flavored album 'Autopoetica,' get to know five acts who are also fusing traditional Latin rhythms with downtempo beats.

GRAMMYs/May 6, 2024 - 01:54 pm

The explosive Latin music scene is moving in many directions: from brassy corridos tumbados to pounding perreo tracks. Yet another, slower movement is quietly brewing: Latin trip-hop and downtempo. 

Trip-hop originated in the 1990s and typically refers to downtempo music with a degree of electronic experimentation and an elusive sense of eeriness. While it's a contentious term that has been shunned by the very artists’ whose sound it was coined to describe (Portishead’s Geoff Barrow once tweeted "call it anything else but that";), it has been widely embraced in Latin America, which has imprinted on the genre since it’s infancy.

In 2001, the Franco-Argentine act Gotan Project poured tango into trip-hop musings to create their seminal record La revancha del Tango. Brazilian bossa nova has also featured heavily in the peripheral trip-hop scene: London-Brazilian outfit Smoke City’s 1997 Flying Away was awash with the rhythms of Rio de Janeiro. 

Latin GRAMMY winner Mon Laferte recalls listening to the sounds of Portishead in the 1990s, gazing out the window of her Chilean home in portside city Viña del Mar. "I loved Beth Gibbons’ voice," she says. "I remember the television was showing a Portishead concert, and I thought, Who is this captivating voice?"

That interest has followed Laferte throughout her career. On 2023's Autopoetica, Laferte brings back the Latin twist on trip-hop — drawing on traditional styles that have been a staple to her previous catalog (bolero, salsa, cumbia), then blending them into a downtempo electro canvas. "40yMM," a song that navigates the ups and downs of turning 40, begins with atmospheric strings, whispered vocals, and slow, pulsating beats, before unexpectedly branching into a rhythmic salsa. 

Laferte is one of a new wave of artists exploring the boundaries of traditional Latin styles through poignant, reflective experimentation — whether it be pasting a hypnotic double cumbia beat onto a trippy electro soundscape, or combining regional folk guitar with shuddering synths. Read on for five artists who are at the forefront of a new wave of Latin trip-hop and downtempo.

Karen y Los Remedios 

Hailing from Mexico, Karen y Los Remedios is a Mexican trio that makes "existential Cumbia." Their 2023 debut album, Silencio, is a gorgeously dark exploration of the realizations that occur through silence. On "Cartas Marinas," Ana Karen G Barajas asks "What would your voice be without mine?/What would your hand be without mine?"; her profound, prophetic tone that chills the spine.

The trio, formed by Barajas, guitarist Guillermo Berbeyer and producer Jonathan Muriel (Jiony), first met on projects under Jiony's Mexico City label, VAA, which specializes in electro, techno, funk and traditional Latin sounds. The trio eventually teamed up to put out two EPs, cumbia-driven
Botanas, Vol15, in 2020, and lo-fi hip hop effort Recuerdos de Expiación in 2021.

Federico Aubele

Singing with shivering stillness, Federico Aubele’s music is soft, pensive and haunting. Mixing jazz, trip-hop and folk, the Argentine is signed to ESL Music, which is headed by U.S. electro act Thievery Corporation. His musical footprint is similarly global: Aubele released his debut album, Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, in 2004 while living in Berlin, and then spent time making music in Barcelona, before settling in New York.

His latest album, 2023's
Time Drips On My Bed, is a meditative reflection on the past inspired by his early life in Buenos Aires, a city he grew up in, but is at once a stranger to. His music is informed by Latin classical guitars, nodding to the tango and folk styles present in Argentina, and mixing in contemporary electronic elements to hone his eclectic and exploratory style. 

Luiza Lian 

Signed to international independent label ZZK Records, Luiza Lian is a Sao Paulo-based musician who toys with experimental techniques, bouncing basslines and erratic vocal arrangement. On the latest album, 7 Estrelas | quem arrancou o céu?, she uses voice manipulation to explore themes of reality and deception, holding a mirror up to a consumerist world to question where our real values should lie. 

Lian’s deep mediations on the record translate to an immersive live show that has won awards in her native Brazil. With frantic projections, flashing lights and costume design that form part of the stage backdrop, she creates a deliberately disorientating and harrowing mood, encouraging viewers to join her reflection on humanity. 

Natalia Clavier

Like Abuele, Buenos Aires vocalist Clavier is another protegee of the Thievery Corporation and spent a large part of her early career as the band’s lead vocalist. Clavier kindled a love for singing as a child after listening to her grandmother’s jazz records and eventually grew to love electronic music after discovering the sounds of Massive Attack, Björk and Portishead. 

After spending the first chapter of her music career as a session and live vocalist, Clavier released her debut album,
Nectár, in 2008. She's since crafted a body of solo work that combines hushed, jazzy vocals with gorgeously downtempo tracks. Her most recent album with Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton, 2023’s Corazón Kintsugi, combines Bossa Nova, dub, and trip-hop into a rich soundscape. 

Céu 

Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças, known as Céu, is a Sao Paulo musician whose music veers into a particularly dub vein of downtempo. 

Since releasing her first self-titled album in 2005, Céu has worked with a mixture of jazz, reggae and samba, her blissfully smooth vocals weaving between the genres. The self-titled album was a critical success, earning her a Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist in 2006, and a GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary World Music Album in 2008.

Céu continues to make soft, blissfully melodic music with an electronic edge. On 2024 single Coração Âncora, she teams up with producer RDD to sing a breezy, summery ode the "anchored heart," committed and assured. 

6 Artists Reimagining Flamenco For A New Generation: María José Llergo, C. Tangana, Mëstiza & More