Trap music dominates in rap right now, regardless of language, and each month Cultura explores the Latin side of hip-hop’s hottest sound.
From my side of the barricade, the one separating Barclays Center’s stage left action from the wristband rainbow of backstage beggars and hangers-on, the blurred flurry came as if out of nowhere. In a fashionable flash, an entourage appeared with tornado urgency, with Bryant Myers obscured at its center. Belying that energy, the Latin trap star sat silently, slumped in a wheelchair, waiting for assistance up the short staircase to the stage for Soulfrito, a one-night event billed as a festival for both Spanish and English language hip-hop artists alike.
Myers rose in what seemed considerable pain, taking each upward step deliberately. Once announced, he summoned his strength and hurled himself towards the front of the stage, delivering opener “Ojalá” to rapturous response from the arena before him. For about twenty minutes, he ran through his singles both as a lead and featured artist, the only signs of his injuries coming from a visible limp. He soldiered on, hopping on his one good leg to match the energy of the crowd. Though his set preceded those by co-headliners A Boogie and Bad Bunny by a ways, the reception firmly affirmed his standing with Latin trap’s fanbase.
It’s incredible that Myers even made it to Brooklyn, having been the victim of a kidnapping attempt just days earlier in Carolina, roughly a half hour’s drive away from Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. Reports state that both he and his mother were taken, with a five figure ransom in mind, but that the four armed suspects apparently abandoned their captives when police gave chase. Subsequently, the duo were ushered out of the country, apparently for security reasons. As of this writing, there have been no arrests.
A common criticism levied at Latin trap pertains to a perceived paucity of the latter half of the term, the suggestion that these artists somehow lack realness for not having lived what American trap rappers have. While a myopic take given just how commercialized Atlanta’s trap sound has become in recent years at the hands of artists both inside and outside the city, the argument nonetheless has stubborn legs, largely due to how the Spanish-language strain emerged to the general public. The gloss and glam surrounding the scene’s most prominent figure Bad Bunny reaches a sort of self-aware self-parody at times, the cartoonish nature of his moniker amplified by vibrant Supreme colorways and Balenciaga bursts. While the self-professed pope of la nueva religión bops to rehashed boogaloo near the top of the Billboard charts, Myers’ narrow escape from the stuff of nightmares provides an unsettling corrective to the notion of Latin American adoption of the genre as some slick sartorial pose.
When it feels like just about every American rapper of note from the past few decades have compared themselves favorably to El Chapo, Pablo Escobar, and Tony Montana, one can’t help but take offense at the idea that Latin trap artists should adhere to a different standard of legitimacy. Anuel AA’s 2016 arrest and incarceration in Puerto Rico on gun charges assuredly make him more in line with trap culture than a lot of those here in the lower 48 spitting fantasy bars about finessing imaginary plug—stereotypically those of Latin American descent. Many have been quick to charge Latinx artists with appropriating black culture with this music, a point well taken when considering many of the scene’s current exemplars are not Afro-Latinx but light-skinned or essentially white. Yet their complexions match the profiles and images that African-American rappers have long relied on for their drug-dealer allusions, the real and make-believe kingpins with empires spanning the Caribbean to Colombia and then further down the South American continent. If anything, Latin trap could be viewed as returning the favor, these artists bringing a lived-in knowledge of cartels and capos along with them.
Something has been lost in translation, or rather the lack thereof. Latin America knows lawlessness and crime all too well. Boosters of gangsta rap, as it was once called, defended the coldness and violence of their lyricism by professing it as a window into their reality, into the parts of the ghetto where rules were different than outside of it. When that same music dipped into demonstrative boasts of wealth and hedonism, that was played off as escapism on one hand and the reward of hustling on the other. By that logic, Latin trap artists on the come-up like Myers deserve to spend their time waxing poetic—en español—about the spoils as they traverse the real life hardships of their own communities.
Los Favoritos Del Mes
Jhay Cortez and Miky Woodz – “All Eyes On Me”
The Puerto Rican trap cantante reunites with his cohort from the “Se Supone” remix for a rollicking recognition of their come up.
Darell featuring Bryant Myers – “Quiero Hablarte”
For this sexually charged foray replete with promises upon promises of pleasure, the contrasting vocal duo invoke saints while inviting sin.
Flow Mafia – “La Joyería”
His signature rasp intact, el favorito de capos himself brings an unrepentantly sinister and racy streak to this jewel-encrusted piece of trap gold.
Jennifer Lopez featuring DJ Khaled and Cardi B – “Dinero”
Jenny From The Block practically started out in music working with Terror Squad pillars Big Pun and Fat Joe, so it comes as no surprise to hear her go hard in Spanglish with the Bronx’s hottest Latinx spitter.
Pimp Flaco – “Callathe”
Those searching for that SoundCloud type rawness in Latin trap need look further than this bassbin rattling single that accomplishes a lot with very few words.