Photo Courtesy of Orienteer
5 Latinx Rappers To Know Now: Santa Fe Klan, Chucky73, J.I., Yoss Bones & BIA
Though New York may be the birthplace of rap, the genre has deep roots in Latin America. Today, musicians with ties to Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and beyond are offering proud representation to Latinx rap fans.
At no other time in recent mainstream consciousness has hip-hop mattered like it does today. After all, most streamed and chart-topping artists in the Western Hemisphere today are rap stars. The Kanyes, the Drakes, the J Balvins, and the Bad Bunnys — yes, reggaeton's lyrical structure is on par with hip-hop, and Latin trap is a subset of that. With reality TV shows like "Love & Hip Hop" and "Sisterhood of Hip Hop," and monolithic brands betting on the genre — we're checking you out, Red Bull Batalla de los Gallos — the art form originally born in the Bronx has traveled far and wide. Even in the genre's birthplace during the '70s, New York-dwelling Puerto Ricans were at the helm of it, thus eventually taking their creative stylings back to their island where it received the tropical treatment by the likes of Tego Calderon and Vico C. Through mixtapes and bootlegs, and Latin immigrants mobilizing with their music, the genre continued to take on new configurations in their respective points of destination. (Never mind the recent streaming explosion!) Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and beyond, these countries boosted some of the most outstanding rap movements in history. All that's to say, hip-hop has deep roots in Latin America, and Latinxs' love of language helped make Latin hip-hop a prolific stronghold.
By no means is this a complete list of artists to watch, as there are constantly new Latinx rappers on the rise: Eladio Carrion from Puerto Rico, who straddles drill and old school hip-hop; Cazzu co-leading the Argentinian Trap wave; Aczino, one of the greatest wordsmiths freestyling has seen as of late; and Colombia's Nanpa Básico delivering some of the most gorgeous and poetically inclined hip-hop bars. We can't fit every great new talent on a list, but we can certainly start here:
Santa Fe Klan
Mexico is teeming with worthy rap stars — a bubbling scene that deserves its own listicle (e.g., Alemán, Gera MX, and Neto Peña, to name a few). Yet one of its most riveting players goes by Santa Fe Klan, and comes charged with a captivating flow and a love of roots. Hailing from the neighborhood of Santa Fe in Guanajuato, the 21-year-old lyricist first cut his teeth with Seguimos Radicando (2017), and reached further fame with the heady, autobiographical outing Bendecido, an ode to gratitude for his uncanny trajectory. His star rose higher as he took a turn to cumbias on Santa Cumbia, where he displayed his sonidero swagger and accordion-playing prowess while continuing to deliver hard-hitting cuts about the come-up and life in the hood. Already snagging collaborations with the likes of Run The Jewels, M.I.S., and Nanpa Básico, it's only a matter of time before the tatted rapper reaches further international appeal.
Fact: You can't really walk around New York City without hearing someone blast a Chucky73 track from their car. Equipped with a nimble flow and sardonic wordplay, the Dominican-born rhymester has been wreaking havoc in his homebase of the Bronx and beyond, along with his rowdy crew,the Sie7etr3 gang. Before rising to the rap stratosphere, Adel Mejia got his first taste of rapping before hitting the teenage years by taking cues from Chicago drill pioneers like Chief Keef. Combining trap, dembow, and debauchery for good measure, the 21-year-old released two albums in 2020, including the slang-heavy De Chamaquito Siempre Cabezu, and a slew of viral uploads making the rounds on streaming platforms.
New York continues to be an indisputable focal point for hip-hop, and Brooklyn rap sets the bar high with historic rap schoolings that continue to creatively fuel generation after generation. Inspired by the likes of Big Pun and Biggie, J.I., formerly known as J.I the Prince of N.Y, is a 20-year-old Boricua rapper whose star keeps ascending since he made his first public appearance in season two of "The Rap Game." Blessed with a warm timbre that can turn icy in an instant via melodic aggressions, J.I made his proper debut in 2019 with his Hood Life Krisis series. He became an overnight sensation with leading number "Need Me," which boasts over 100 million views to date on YouTube alone. He's gained the approval of his music heroes like Jadakiss, and continues to be an intoxicating force in the SoundCloud streaming-sphere.
A frequent collaborator of Santa Fe Klan under the same Rap Trap label, Yoss Bones (née Jesica Yocelin Martinez Montiel) is bringing a fresh feminine perspective to the Mexican rap game as one of the few dames of her scene. With her fiery rap verses and sultry R&B, the Guanajuato native tackles troubling topics about societal inequalities. Although she began to sing first at a very young age, Yoss Bones found her sweet spot maneuvering with lyrical dexterity and ease. She began to make her online presence known in 2018, and the 25-year-old artist has since accumulated millions of views across her YouTube channel. Some dope collaborations feature prominent heads like Pato Machete and Lefty SM.
BIA first entered our global consciousness with her wild hit feature on J Balvin's "Safari," also starring Pharell Williams and Sky — a sultry tropical banger that's nearly approaching 1 billion streams. But before that, Bianca Miquela Landrau starred in the TV series Sisterhood of Hip Hop and consequently became Pharell's protégé. Seamlessly mixing a rich, bilingual set of trap, rap and reggaeton, her sly, ear-grabbing sound is an ever-expanding universe. As an Afro-Puerto Rican and Italian performer, the Boston-bred rapper displays an all-encompassing appeal while becoming a major source of representation for an eclectic set of audiences. Among her many collaborations are Nicki Minaj, Lil Jon, and Kali Uchis. Later this month, BIA is poised to drop For Certain (Deluxe).
Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Rap
From TikTok challenges to a rise of the Dirty South, revisit some of the biggest trends that rap's rising stars and heavy hitters brought in 2021
After a social injustice-battling, pandemic-stricken 2020, rap returned this year with a much-needed dose of bangers and star power.
This year was mostly dominated by extravagant albums released by rap's elite, as well as impressive entries from promising up-and-comers. As fans inched toward a place of somewhat-normalcy, rap once again provided the backdrop to our collective moments at concerts, music festivals and get-togethers.
While it may have been easy to get lost in the year's rapid-fire releases, there were a few artists whose songs and albums either started new trends or advanced old ones. Below, find eight lyrical, sonic and cultural trends that appeared in rap this year — and may just continue in 2022.
Florida rappers Yungeen Ace, FastMoney Goon, Spinabenz and Whoppa Wit Da Choppa got fans’ attention with "Who I Smoke." The ruthless diss track went viral for its head-turning sample, Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles," as well as its golf-inspired music video.
The quintessential 2001 pop song and sunny golf course video are a stark contrast to the song's graphic lyrics, which shed light on longstanding gang beef and gun violence in the rappers' Jacksonville community. Shock value is nothing new to hip-hop, but the song's disruptive juxtaposition, anchored by an admittedly infectious beat, opened new doors.
Foolio, one of the single's targets, continued the trend in his response track, "When I See You," which samples Fantasia's song of the same name. While sampling an R&B hit is a classic rap maneuver, the 2006 song’s contrast with Foolio’s particularly vicious lines made "When I See You" another unexpected offering.
Beginning as a forceful subgenre in Chicago, New York City and U.K. rap scenes, drill has been steadily creeping its way into the mainstream since the 2010’s.
Polo G, a Windy City native known for his somber, auto-tuned bars, carried drill further into the mainstream this year with his third studio album, Hall of Fame. Unlike its volatile predecessor, Polo uses a more melodic form of drill to wear his heart on his sleeve, making the sound more accessible to mainstream audiences.
Of course, the 22-year-old isn't the only rapper to capitalize on the growing trend. G Herbo's 25 and Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow's Still Sleep? also furthered drill this year, with Migos even dabbling in the subgenre on Culture III.
"Beat Box" by SpotemGottem was already picking up steam in 2020 with a remix by Pooh Shiesty — but in 2021, remixing the bass-heavy track became a full-on trend.
Rappers have long put their own spin on another artist's song, but "Beat Box" snowballed into a frenzy of derivatives like rap fans haven't seen in a while. After its first 2021 remix by DaBaby, "Beat Box 3," the song got new life with versions by Latto, Polo G, Renni Rucci, Lil Yachty, Calboy, Deante' Hitchcock, Dreezy, NLE Choppa and more.
The remix sensation shone a light on up-and-comer SpotemGottem, also giving hip-hop's competitive nature and borrowing culture an opportunity to thrive.
Pop-rap crossovers enjoyed chart-topping success this year, one prime example being Lizzo and Cardi B's "Rumors." The larger-than-life collaboration — which arrived with an equally extravagant video — peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Songs Chart, proving pop-rap collisions are a trend that is here to stay.
Rap and pop were this year's most popular genres on the app, a trend that doesn't seem to be slowing down going into 2022. Beginning with Erica Banks’ "Buss It" and continuing with fiery tracks like "I Am" by Baby Tate and Flo Milli, rap music once again dominated viral dances and challenges on TikTok.
One artist whose music has become a comfortable fixture on the app is Coi Leray, whose song "TWINNEM" elevated the #MeganKneesChallenge. Though the challenge was initially inspired by Mouse On Tha Track's "Knees Like Megan" (an homage to Megan Thee Stallion's indisputable twerking skills), the pulsing beat of "TWINNEM" helped the tune become the second soundtrack to the challenge.
Old Classics, New Hits
Recycling old classics into new hits is a typical win-win in hip hop, and it proved to be a successful formula again this year. Several 2021 rap hits were powered by nostalgic samples, such as Polo G's "Bad Man (Smooth Criminal)," borrowing Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal"; Drake and Young Thug's "Way 2 Sexy," sampling Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy"; and Moneybagg Yo's "Wockesha," using DeBarge's 1983 track "Stay With Me" — a song famously sampled “Foolish” by Ashanti, who was featured on a remix of "Wockesha."
While City Girls' "Twerkulator" first reached fans as a viral TikTok leak, the Afrika Bambaataa-nodding track emerged as one of the best sampling rap songs this year. Plagued by clearance issues, the song — which samples Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" and interpolates lyrics from Cajmere's "Percolator" — didn't appear on City Girls' 2020 album, City on Lock. However, its official release in May of 2021, along with a Missy Elliott-directed music video, gave the twerkable anthem potential and served as the Miami duo's comeback hit following the release of their album.
While Atlanta and Houston have often stolen rap's southern spotlight, Kentucky and Tennessee-born players came through in a major way this year. Gritty street tales told with southern swagger resulted in albums like Moneybagg Yo’s A Gangster's Pain, EST Gee's Bigger Than Life Or Death, Pooh Shiesty's Shiesty Season and more.
A Gangster's Pain by Moneybagg Yo was a particular win for the southeastern region, earning the Memphis native his first-ever platinum-certified and Billboard 200 No. 1 album.
Women-powered collaborations have been a hip-hop mainstay for decades, but they arguably hit their commercial stride last year with the viral successes of songs like Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé's "Savage (Remix)" and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP."
As female rappers continue to stake out more of their deserved territory in the genre, the trend continued this year, whether through raunchy raps or friendship-celebrating singles. One of these releases was BIA's "Whole Lotta Money (Remix)" featuring Nicki Minaj. Peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, the collaboration showed the potential for when a female rap veteran offers a helping hand to a burgeoning star.
Honorable Mention: Posthumous Albums
Though posthumous albums are not a flash-in-the-pan hip-hop trend, they were once again a somber necessity this year after the loss of several genre pillars. Always a bittersweet listen, posthumous efforts like Juice WRLD's Fighting Demons, Pop Smoke's Faith and MF DOOM's Super What? were a way for fans to hear what artists were working on and enjoy what they wanted us to enjoy.
One posthumous album that perfectly accomplished this was DMX's Exodus. While some posthumous works have been criticized for lacking completion and content, listeners could tell that Exodus was DMX's vision.
All but one collaboration, "Money Money Money" featuring Moneybagg Yo, were recorded prior to Dark Man X's passing, and the body of work he was so excited to release was pushed forward by his longtime friend and collaborator Swizz Beatz. With Exodus, a truly genre-shaking death was honored by a fitting and respectful tribute, which could influence future posthumous efforts for years to come.
Source Photos Courtesy of UFF Records, NarxFilms, and LatinDrill.com
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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."
Photo: Maria Gabriela Stempel
Global Spin: Singer-Songwriter And Producer Ferraz Offers A Minimalist, Soulful Performance Of "Espérame"
The singer-songwriter, DJ and producer pulls from a variety of different styles to create his own signature blend of Latin R&B — and in this performance of "Espérame," he leans into his soul influences.
Venezuelan singer-songwriter, producer and DJ Ferraz draws from various elements and sonic styles to create his signature blend of R&B. And in "Espérame," one of the tracks from his 2021 album Fino, he leans into gentle, lilting soul.
In this episode of Global Spin, Ferraz delivers a laid-back live performance of his song. Flanked by his gear and set against a plain white backdrop, the singer accompanies himself on electric guitar.
This minimalist, self-contained performance proves that Ferraz can create a sound-world all his own. Ferraz incorporates elements of Latin folk-rock and bossa nova into his performance, with classic R&B rhythms kicking in in the chorus.
Funk, house and hip-hop further influence Ferraz's music-making process, coming together to form a style of R&B both versatile and pliant.
As one of the singer's more reflective and laidback tracks, "Espérame" exemplifies his easygoing, luminous vocal delivery — a signature element of even his bouncier tracks, like 2022's "Seratonina."
Ferraz debuted in 2019 with his Rumbo album, and continued to grow his sound and style with the release of Fino two years later. Most recently, he put out Remixes FINO, a collection of reimagined versions of the songs from his Fino project.
Press play on the video above enjoy Ferraz's soulful "Espérame" performance, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Global Spin.
Photo: Donald Stampfli/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images
11 Essential Brazilian Albums: From Bossa Nova To MPB
The South American giant has always boasted a voracious appetite for assimilating foreign influences into its own, vibrant cultural stew. From samba and bossa nova, to Música Popular Brasileira, here are 11 essential Brazilian albums for your playlist.
You would need at least 500 albums to delineate a comprehensive aural snapshot of Brazil — one of the most passionate nations in the world when it comes to creating and consuming music.
From the foundational samba and its cosmopolitan cousin, the bossa nova, to the fertile movement of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), the funky axé and the rich fields of Brazilian rock, metal, hip-hop and electronica, the South American giant has always boasted a voracious appetite for assimilating foreign influences into its own, vibrant cultural stew.
Leaving aside the more obvious choices — we assume you’ve already heard "The Girl from Ipanema" once or twice — this list focuses on 11 legendary LPs that distill the essence of Brazilian music.
Sylvia Telles - The Music of Mr. Jobim (1966)
When we think bossa nova, the name of Elis Regina comes instantly to mind, especially because of the classic Elis & Tom LP that she recorded in 1974 with genre architect Antonio Carlos Jobim. Before Elis, however, there was another singer who summed up the frothy lightness and poetry that make people fall crazy in love with the bossa.
Born in 1934, Sylvia Telles had an unforgettably jazzy and mercurial voice. This, her last album, was recorded in 1965 expressly for the American market and includes definitive renditions of standards like Dorival Caymmi’s "... Das Rosas" and Jobim’s exhilarating "Samba de Uma Nota Só." Telles has been unjustly forgotten by everyone but bossa collectors because she died, together with her boyfriend, in a car accident in 1966. She was 32.
Roberto Carlos - Roberto Carlos (1969)
A misunderstood genius, Roberto Carlos is widely known as the Brazilian equivalent of Julio Iglesias. Before he went pop, he was part of the jangly jovem guarda movement in the late ‘60s, as South America fell in love with the Beatles and the Stones.
This transitional album finds his songwriting partnership with Erasmo Carlos (no relation) in full bloom. From the feel-good sunlight of "Do Outro Lado da Cidade" and the defiant funk of "Nao Vou Ficar," to the torrid balladry of "Sua Estupidez" (made famous by Gal Costa in an epic live version), this 1969 masterpiece pulsates with an indelible sense of nostalgia. Some of these songs were included in the film Roberto Carlos e o Diamante Cor-de-rosa, a colorful riff on the Beatles’ Help.
Wilson Simonal - Simonal (1970)
A teen idol throughout the ‘60s, Wilson Simonal has been altogether ostracized from Brazilian cultural history due to his alleged political decisions during the ‘70s — a time of darkness and turmoil in South America.
This is somewhat unfair, as the man died more than 20 years ago at age 62. He left behind a prodigious discography that places his soulful vocals at the service of ballads and boleros, brassy funk and samba-rock. The brio of opening cut "Sem Essa" is worth the price of admission.
Vinicius de Moraes with Maria Creuza and Toquinho - En La Fusa (1970)
There is something endearing about Argentina’s ongoing love affair with Brazilian music. When the royalty of bossa nova — lyricist Vinicius de Moraes, guitarist Toquinho and singer Maria Creuza — descended on Buenos Aires for a season of shows at the bohemian La Fusa club, it was quickly decided that the show should be recorded for posterity.
The resulting album was taped live in a studio, then augmented with audience noise from the actual venue. Few albums have captured the disarming beauty of this music so effortlessly. The unavoidable standards (yes, even "Ipanema") are enriched with light-as-a-feather gems like Jorge Ben’s "Que Maravilha" and Caetano Veloso’s "Irene."
Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges - Clube Da Esquina (1972)
Hailing from the state of Minas Gerais, Milton Nascimento doesn’t really make records.
They’re more like a religious ritual, a celebration of sadness and joy, the flesh and the spirit. This transformational double LP was made by Nascimento and a collective of like-minded musicians, including the brilliant — if slightly esoteric — Lô Borges. There’s samba art-rock, psychedelia, Beatlesque melodies and a smoldering cascade of longing that permeates every single moment and refuses to let go. Its sequel, released in 1978, is just as good.
Chico Buarque - Meus Caros Amigos (1976)
Look up the word warmth in the dictionary and you will probably find a picture of this album, dripping analog goodness and a million smiles.
The young Buarque’s 1966 hit "A Banda" was a defining moment in the emergence of the MPB sound. By the time he released this 1976 session, he was an established master of the Brazilian groove. Every track here is a classic: the fairy tale sweetness of "Você Vai Me Seguir"; the carnivalesque swirl of "Passaredo"; the homeric sorrow of "Mulheres De Atenas." Milton Nascimento guests on the samba-with-strings movie theme "O Que Será."
Gal Costa - Gal Tropical (1979)
The bluesy voice of MPB diva Gal Costa is one of the most gorgeous sounds ever to come out of Brazil. Even though she appeared during the tropicália boom of the late ‘60s, the ‘70s was her best decade, with classic LPs such as Índia (1973), Cantar (1974) and this lavish session of tropi-pop that sold a million copies.
An eclectic song selector, Gal can focus her attention on a carnival march from the 1930’s ("Balance"), then melt hearts with a sparse ballad penned by Caetano Veloso ("Força Estranha.") Betraying subtle hints of post-disco decadence, her sultry reading of the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Dolores Duran oldie "Estrada do Sol" is haunting.
Karnak - Karnak (1994)
Brazil was missing an album matching the ambitious scope of a Sgt. Pepper’s, and it arrived with the debut of Karnak, the cosmopolitan, genre-bending orchestra of musical globetrotter André Abujamra.
So many years later, this criminally underrated masterpiece sounds as fresh and inventive as it did in 1994. It combines field recordings of citizens from all over the world with fragments of reggae, funky Afro-pop, Arabic scales, tribal drums and operatic chanting in fictitious tongues. Delirious and exhilarating, it serves up the delights of a thousand records all wrapped up into one.
Tribalistas - Tribalistas (2002)
Decade after decade, Brazilian music has always survived the decay of time by knowing when to renew itself. The life-affirming debut by MPB supergroup Tribalistas was one such sleight of hand, as was their self-titled collection of translucent songs for idealists of all ages .
Singer/songwriter Marisa Monte had already proven herself as MPB’s bright new hope through her solo work. But there’s power in numbers, and the addition of percussion genius Carlinhos Brown and the gravelly-voiced Arnaldo Antunes resulted in one dazzling song after another — and over three million albums sold.
Los Hermanos - Ventura (2003)
There are no grandiloquent gestures in the third album by this Rio de Janeiro indie-rock quartet. The songs are tuneful, emotionally direct and oddly bittersweet. Enriched by a brass section, arena favorites such as the punchy "Último Romance" and the jagged "O Vencedor" show how seamlessly the influence of Anglo rock can find fertile terrain layered into Brazil’s melting pot. Many critics have singled out Ventura as one of the best albums in Brazilian history, and it’s easy to see why.
Céu - Tropix (2016)
Originally from São Paulo, Céu appeared on the scene at the same time as a large wave of neo-bossa singers — but the sound of her 2005 self-titled album went against the grain. Jagged and unpredictable, her MPB futurism draws from dub and Afrobeat, post-disco and indietronica.
Céu’s songwriting was remarkably sharp from the beginning, but she found a state of grace on Tropix, her fourth LP. The digital beats throb and quiver on elegantly sculpted tracks like "Perfume Do Invisível" and "Varanda Suspensa," while the quiet fire in her voice ignites a delicious kind of tension — as eye opening as the Brazilian classics of the ‘70s.
Photo: Gizelle Hernandez
Ari Lennox’s 'Age/Sex/Location' Explores Online Dating, Never Settling & Old School Romance
A torrid take on hyper-passionate soul, 'Age/Sex/Location' sees Ari Lennox exploring her real-life hiccups with intimacy and growing empowerment.
During a cool evening at the tail-end of a New York summer, Ari Lennox and I are eating dinner at the Sixty Hotel on the Lower East Side. She is coming off a whirlwind of a week, partaking in the slew of New York Fashion Week festivities and the release of her sophomore album Age/Sex/Location, which dropped Sept. 9.
Amidst her busy schedule, Lennox has love on the brain.
"I'm not searching for love anymore," Lennox says, leaning in close. The singer, a self-described old soul, continues that she's fed up with the modern dating world. "But, I'm back on online dating so I feel like I am lying because I know I want love."
Over 12 tracks, the Dreamville artist explores her real-life hiccups with intimacy, longing for old-school romance, and the toil of dealing with men who aren’t good for her. While she finds empowerment in being single — no matter how lonely it may feel at times — the end goal of Lennox's self-discovery quest on ASL is to secure a lover.
ASL — an online acronym those who grew up flirting on AIM and Yahoo chatrooms might find familiar — coalesces Lennox's soulful intonations with more contemporary production and featured collaborators such as Lucky Daye, J. Cole, Jermaine Dupri and Missy Elliott. A follow-up to Shea Butter Baby, Lennox's widely-cherished diaristic 2019 debut, ASL was released alongside a surprise, R&B-forward EP called Away Message.
ASL is three years in the making and the result of significant collaboration. "There were definitely a lot of intentional sessions with the family," Lennox says, name-checking Theo Croker, Elite, Summer Walker and Chlöe.
This family affair resulted in a torrid album of hyper-passionate soul that pays sentimental reverence to the genre’s inception. The first single, the J. Cole-produced "POF," has Lennox harmonically damned, singing about swiping through a sea of options and major disappointments in an Erykah Badu-influenced R&B cadence.
The sensual "Hoodie" — released along with a series of visuals that includes Lennox toying with TDE rapper Isaiah Rashad, floating on top of an encased water tank with a man trapped inside — underscores Lennox’s romanticization of a man she has never spent time with.
She continues to air out her situationships in "Waste My Time," applies more "Pressure" and shows she's privy to the emotional games in "Mean Mug." Her exhaustion with romance shows in "Boy Bye" with Lucky Daye, before Lennox officially cuts it off on the funky "Blocking You."
The LP concludes with "Queen Space" featuring Summer Walker, a falsetto ode to self-worth and independence that meditates on the sacredness of their bodies, energy, and time.
Back at dinner, Lennox sardonically laments that she "just went on a terrible date the other day in New York. He was 20 minutes late and invited me to the studio before the date happened."
GRAMMY.com dug deep with the vocalist to talk about this transitional phase she is experiencing with her sexuality, new music, and the power she has rediscovered in artistic solitude.
What artistic and personal evolutions have you experienced in the past three years that led to the culmination of this hyper-soulful project?
Well, allowing collaboration to happen. I'll say working with all of these writers — Jai’Len Josey, Crystal, Nettie, Dijon styles, and J. Cole, there was a lot of collaborative effort in this project. The difference between Shea Butter Baby and ASL was me letting go of control, really, because I wrote all of my debut album.
The intro track, "POF" has this beautiful narrative about even though there is sorrow in not finding the right one, there are always more people and experiences out there. Why did you choose to start with this neo-soul track?
To me, "POF" just sets the tone. Even, sonically and musically, it is just so soulful. I'm talking my s—. People have to know, at least with this project, that I am exhausted and tired of guys trying me. The song is just so sassy and so grown and so just authentic, you know?
What about the discreet titles of your Away Message EP and Age/Sex/Location album lend themselves to who you are at your age now?
They basically represent a time when I'm seeing dating as way clearer with wisdom. More than I've ever had before and there's just less naivete. There is a lot more self-awareness of my f—k-ups and then, the why of why I'm drawn to darkness sometimes. In this music, there are a lot more times of me standing my ground and not ignoring my opinions and my worth and sense of self.
What sort of enlightenment have you achieved through the music-making process behind Age/Sex/Location?
I learned more about how to notice red flags and how to not be so quick to ignore them. I am now more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt and see them through. Now I trust my intuition way more and trust God, or whoever you believe in, to see red flags as signs. That is some precious energy that is trying to help you not get hurt.
ASL is an online acronym used for identification in virtual spaces, specifically dating sites. Was exploring the early dating world when you were growing up difficult?
Yahoo! Chatrooms is literally the beginning of my love life because it was so hard to approach guys in real life. There were guys that were into me. This guy named Ricky Davidson had the biggest crush on him and he knew I had a crush on him. Nothing ended up ever happening because I wouldn't say anything. I was really socially awkward, like really bad until ninth grade.
I started being more open and comfortable with communicating with guys, and now it's nonstop with writing and being open about dating. The title, Age/Sex/Location comes from online dating and it hasn't been the easiest, you know what I'm saying? In general, you have to be careful that you're not entertaining someone that may try to kill you.
How has your search for love in these recent months been?
My dating life is still just a heinous mess, but we are hopeful. I find myself love bombing, I guess because I do tend to love someone fast and ghost [them].
This book called Attached I have been reading is really fire; it helps me realize the different attachment styles in life. It is a science and these studies helped me feel validated that I'm an anxious person and if I'm drawn to an avoidant person, how are we supposed to not clash?I'm excited to see what a secure relationship feels like.
You have embraced your sexuality so much in this project, you talk of toiling with lovers in "Stop By" and really go there in "Leak It" featuring Chlöe. Have you felt more liberated and evolved embodying your sexuality?
Sexuality has always felt very natural and easy for me to express myself in a way. Now, I'm just being more direct about what I want. The importance of feeling safe with someone and thinking damn, what we've made was so beautiful. I don't mind if the world sees it. God forbid somebody hacks the iCloud. Well, it was a beautiful time we shared.
What values of self-love did you preach to yourself while producing Age/Sex/Location?
Communicating my concerns. Many times, I've been so docile and quiet for so long that I could keep a person around in this kind of co-dependent nature. I can't be afraid to lose any more people because the reality is, that they're not meant to be. I was being honest about how I felt and expressing it to them in a gentle way. It is nice to experience men and see their different reactions.
Some people refuse to say sorry and be accountable. Then, there are other people who are overly sorry. What I will say about the guy I went on a date with, he didn't mind apologizing. He was very sweet about the fact that he was late. But I'm not even used to someone being accountable and it was nice to experience it — that was sexy.
I love how the closing song on the album, "Queen Space," highlights how you view your own prowess and independence. How would you define a queen space?
Wow. A queen space to me is self-love and accountability. It is the protection of my own peace and, by any means, not neglecting myself to please someone else. It really is honoring my morals, my values, my mind, my body, and talking my s—t when I need to. Setting those standards and setting those boundaries very clearly because moving in life with intention is how I get through romance, relationships, and friendships.
How was collaborating with such soulful musicians on Age/Sex/Location?
It was a dream to have Lucky be so supportive and come into the studio. Same with Summer — for her to take all the time out of her day to give me an incredible verse and to take "Queen Space" somewhere that I would have never thought just gives me chills every time. I love feeling like the record is not complete until you have that certain artist hop on it. Chlöe just came into my life and was the literal completion of "Leak It."
Your vocals are really pushed on this album and, sonically, you elevated into another dimension of Ari Lennox.
Certain songs will bring certain things out of you, certain melodies out of you. I kind of just wanted to push myself like, what would a Chaka Khan do? Or, what would Adina Howard do?
If you could build out a Destiny’s Child-style girl group, who would you scout to share the stage?
Can I just join Chlöe and Halle? Or, even VanJess? There are so many phenomenal people in the game right now. Victoria Monet, Tanerélle, Muni Long, Kehlani, and more. So many legends out here doing their own thing.
If you could sit down and share champagne with any soul artist who passed away or is alive today, who would you love to sit down with and share some studio time with?
There is only one person hands down and that is Marvin Gaye because he was so fine. I would just love to drink wine with him in another life. I know this is inappropriate, but flirt with him and see if that would be nice or works. Or, Minnie Riperton, I would love to listen to her about how she feels about music, music theory, and life. I would just love for her to train me vocally.
What was the main song on A/S/L that gave you the premonition that this was going to be a timeless project?
It is a tie between "Hoodie" and "Mean Mug." Those records were the glue of this sophomore album for me because "Hoodie" was so natural and I was so excited about it. They are about these intense crushes I had on men that I'd never even hung out with before; I was literally talking about romanticizing romance. It is me just loving the idea of love.
Do you have thoughts about the claim that the genre of R&B will eventually disappear?
I say that those people are delusional. I'm just going to be really direct because we can't invalidate all of the phenomenal R&B artists that are contributing greatly to this genre. You know, Brent Faiyaz? There are so many legendary people and it's not like Brandy ever stopped. It's not like Monica ever stops. Jazmine Sullivan and Ella Mai are killing it.
What are you surrounding yourself with? Who are your friends? Are they only listening to trap or only listening to soft rock? Find the friends that do love R&B, let them guide you, and explore with them. Some people want to be stuck only in certain eras and you should all be inspired by all of them; both past, present, and future.