Calle 13 Cross Spanish
Rap's Musical Borders
4/17/07 - LatinRapper.com exclusive interview
While the Grammy-winning
duo Calle 13 hails from the musical hot spot known as Puerto
Rico, it would be incorrect to refer to them simply as
reggaeton artists. René Pérez aka “Residente” drops rhymes in
Spanish over an eclectic variety of beats courtesy of his
stepbrother Eduardo José Cabra Martínez aka “Visitante.”
While only a fourth of the
tracks fit the reggaeton genre, Residente's lyrical content
definitely moves beyond what's expected by painting vivid and
sometimes comical mental images with his music.
The marriage of distinct
flows with diverse beats make Calle 13 today's biggest
innovators in the Spanish rap game. Their new album "Residente/Visitante"
drops April 24th, meanwhile Residente took a moment away from
promotion to speak with LatinRapper.com in this exclusive
LatinRapper.com: Tell me a little bit about the new album,
The new album is like a new thing, its not a continuation of
the first album, its like something completely new. I think we
were affected by the traveling that we did last year to South
America, we bought a lot of instruments from different
countries over there, like Peru, Colombia, Chile. In every
country, we got something, my brother did some beats.... I
don't know if its good to call the music that he makes beats,
because its not like hip hop beats, its a mix. Its like music
and... como se dice... There's a lot of folkore and
traditional music from those countries, but he mixes it with a
little bit of hip hop and I'm rapping over it. In terms of the
lyrics, in this album its Residente, more like a biography,
autobiography. The way I'm describing things, I'm talking
about things I did during that year. At the same time, you
still have the black humor that we always use. Its more social
than the first one. We have one song about the immigrant, we
did it with Orishas from Cuba, its very nice. My brother
played the cuatro venezolano, like a small guitar but with
less strings. And we did a collaboration with Mala Rodriguez
from Spain, a hip hop artist from there, I respect her a lot.
We also did a collaboration with Tego Calderon, I like his
lyrics also. And Vicentico, he's from Los Fabulosos Cadillacs,
he's from Argentina. This album is very Latin, we didn't mix
anything. We put Latin music that we made in the first one,
now its harder, you can feel it more.
You mentioned Mala Rodriguez from Spain, who I'm a fan of,
how did you connect with artists like that, did Sony set it up
or did you contact her people?
La Mala called my cell phone, I'm a big fan of hers. She just
called me and we started talking, then we decided to do
something together. She liked our work, obviously I like her
work. I always like to meet the person before I do something
with that artist. The same way with Orishas, I met them first,
and then we made the song. They respect our work, we respect
theirs, it was very fun, it was a new experience because I
don't do a lot of collaborations. I'm very picky, I don't like
to collaborate with everyone. When I did the collaboration
with Nelly Furtado, I met her first, we talked for a while,
then I started recording. That's how I do it, with Vicentico
it was different because we wanted to work with him. I called
him, we needed a voice for that song. The Mala Rodriguez song,
we did it together in the studio, the Vicentico song we did
separately. I did the track first, then he recorded his voice.
Didn't you also collaborate with Gustavo Santaolalla who
composed the music for Amores Perros and Motorcycle Diaries?
Yeah, my brother Visitante went to L.A., he did the beat and
played the piano. He sent it to Gustavo Santaolla, we met him
eight months ago. I don't know if it was the first Billboard,
but we met him over there, then my brother sent some ideas to
him. He liked the idea of mixing tango with reggaeton, so he
collaborated with us. At first we wanted to do something
different, not reggaeton, tango with something else. I think
it was very, not something, como se dice.... Diabolico. To mix
reggaeton with tango is like a sin, you know. Something that's
supposed to be wrong, but at the end its something good.
That's why we maintained the rhythm.
How much of the production on the new album is done by your
Practically everything, you know. We collaborate with some
people, like one of the tracks that Tego Calderon is on, he
collaborated with Toy from Control Machete, a Mexican Hip Hop
group. Santaolalla, musicians from different countries. We
have a Cumbia, but this Cumbia we did it in Bogota, Colombia.
He collaborated with a percussionist over there and a guy who
played the accordion. There's a lot of live instruments in the
What's the significance of the names Residente and
Right now with the immigration thing, I think its very
important. Like our names, every time you visit a place, you
can be a resident or visitor.
But how did you come up with nicknames in the first place?
Because of our place, I used to live in Calle 13, I was a
resident over there. My brother used to visit me because his
father was my stepfather, so he became the visitante. Now we
have a lot of other meanings, because of the immigration
thing. Maybe you're a resident, sometimes a visitor, sometimes
you're well invited and sometimes you aren't.
You went to college in Georgia in the U.S., ever consider
doing songs in English?
I don't know, my English is f**ked up. I really need to know
what I want to say. If I can really translate what I'm
thinking in English really good... Like good good good, I'll
do it. But right now I'm not prepared, I have to practice, I
haven't spoken English in a while.
Do you consider yourself a rapper or reggaetonero, or do
you not even classify yourself?
I don't classify myself in anything. I think its bad when the
people call us reggaetoneros because I think we're not the
same. We play reggaeton and we do reggaeton, but if you call
us reggaetoneros, its like generalizing our music. If you
listen to our tracks, we have like three reggaeton songs out
of a 15 song album. We're more like Urban Alternative. We
don't have a name, we just do whatever we feel like, and we
want to do it good all the time. That's why we mix live
instruments and take a lot of time when we're writing and why
we travel a lot. Just to capture different things. For
example, a month ago I was traveling in South America just for
fun and just to learn more. I was with the Indians, I don't
know how you call it -
La Musica de Los Andes.
Yeah, I was in Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, the Amazon.
Different places just to learn. We know that all the travel
that we do is gonna affect our music, that's why we do it.
We're very conscious about that. We're for real with our
music, that's why we're not playing the same s**t that
Your last album won several Grammies, do you think this one
will do as well?
I think a lot of people is gonna listen to the album more
closely, because we already have three Grammies, but I think
that this album is better than the first one. The music is
very huge, the mix that my brother did. The lyrics are more
sincere than the first one, in a way. Not more sincere, its
like its more biographical. In a way you have more Rene than
Residente. You have both, you have Rene - that's my name - and
Residente, my nickname, you have both, a dualism playing. I
think its very psychological. Its huge, maybe we're gonna be
nominated for more Grammies. I don't know about for the
charts, I don't know because the album is more difficult to
put on the radio than the first one.
So this album is more introspective, is what you're saying?
Yeah, we have a song its gonna be huge because its a cumbia.
Its fun, the other songs are fun and really good, but I don't
know, the Latin community likes pop music. They like pop-rock,
a lot of s**t like that. To make a beat like Atrevete, it was
huge, but we didn't mean to do something like Atrevete. We
just did it because they told me that I have to do a short
chorus, and I wanted to do it long, so I did Atrevete, a 12
part chorus. They told me that no one's going to learn how to
sing a long song with a long chorus. So that's why I made
Atrevete, to do the opposite, and doing that, it was a big
hit. So maybe the cumbia is gonna be a big hit, I don't know
maybe not. Or maybe one of the songs that I think is bad is
gonna be a hit.
So you're making music according to what you want, not to
get on the charts?
Yeah, we do whatever we feel, and that's very important. If
everyone did that, you're gonna have variety on the radio. But
now you listen to the radio, and you're listening to the same
thing. Even the hip hop from the U.S., commercial hip hop is
the same all the time. Saying the same thing, talking about
the same s**t. Some of the hip hop artists, sometimes they do
something different, but its difficult to maintain that. To be
on the spot, and everyone listens to you, and to do whatever
you want to do is very difficult. That's why we are doing it,
its something you want to achieve.
You're experimental not only with the music but your
videos, even the low budget ones were artistic, why did you
shoot so many for the first album even if some weren't
I think we're a group that is audiovisual, we use the visuals
a lot, also for the pictures in the CDs and the album.
Everything, we're trying to maintain something with a group
concept as well, like our website LaCalle13.com, its also
graphic. I studied art, so maybe that helped me with that, I'm
always into giving criticism to people who work with me and
also I choose the people that work with me, with the videos,
pictures, everything. Sometimes I write a lot of the things in
the video, a lot of the treatment. But they are really good
directors, my friends that direct the videos, its a
collaboration. If I do the same with a director that's not
very creative, he can do it wrong.
What was your college degree in?
I studied Fine Arts in general, everything: painting, drawing.
Then I went to a computer arts school in Georgia. Over there,
I started doing computer animation, but then I got tired of
that, and I changed to the basics, Fine Arts again. I started
studying photography and film. I studied for eight years, I
mix a lot of stuff.
Do you see yourself directing other videos or starring in
movies in the future?
Maybe, I don't know about directing other videos. But I would
like to do documentary films, or writing scripts or writing
movies. I don't know, in general over here a lot of people are
offering me different art exhibitions. Maybe next year I'm
going to start doing stuff.
All your videos on Youtube have plenty of comments from the
ladies, so I'm sure they want to see you doing film
Yeah, maybe. I don't know, because I respect a lot of the
actors, my mom is an actress from theater. My sister also, I
know that takes a lot of work to be a good actor. I respect
that, so maybe I can do that. There some people talking to me
because they want me to do some films, I don't know.
Doesn't your mother make an appearance in the Tango del
She sings at the end and she's in the video.
Do you have any last thoughts for your fans?
We're gonna do a lot of albums, more and more music, and I
think this album is very important in our career. There's
gonna be the third album, its gonna be the explanation. You
know you have one plus one, and then the third album, its
gonna be the mix between this one and the first one, I think.
But this one is very important. Its very dark, the first one
is more colorful.
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