Technically speaking, you’re not meeting COASTCITY for the first time. You’ve probably encountered the duo — made up of Danny Flores and Jean Rodriguez — in some capacity before. The Puerto Rican-born multi-hyphenates have had their heels firmly planted in the music industry for more than a decade: Flores is a producer and music director who has worked with CNCO and Prince Royce; Rodriguez is a singer-songwriter with two albums to his name, and he’s also a vocal coach known for helping Queen Bey perfect her Spanish on the “Mi Gente” remix.
What’s new is their official partnership as COASTCITY, an R&B-flecked project that touts what the guys have dubbed “Caribbean soul.” In some ways, their collaboration has been years in the making, sparked after Rodriguez released his 2006 album On, composed of Spanglish R&B songs. He’d asked Flores to direct some of his live performances and the two became friends who often joined forces to make music.
“We come from the same world — somos Latinos, criados en Estados Unidos, and we’ve always had this thing about R&B, soul, and pop, so we’re always able to relate with each other’s artistry,” Flores told Remezcla.
“I always felt like Spanglish was normal — growing up in Puerto Rico and the U.S., I could do both.”
When Rodriguez started working on his third album in 2014, he tapped Flores to produce it. But as they churned out songs in the studio over the next few years, it became immediately clear that their musical chemistry could lead to something bigger. The guys took what would have been the title of Rodriguez’s album —“Coast City”— and rebranded themselves as a duo.
So far, they’ve released “Desconocidos” and “Noches y Mañanas,” two singles that weave soul, R&B, and funk with lyrics in Spanish. The music reflects Flores’ and Rodriguez’s similar bicultural experiences. Rodriguez was born in Bayamón and grew up in Orlando, where he picked up trombone and sang in choirs, inspired by musicians in his family. Flores drew inspiration from his father, a police officer who also directed salsa bands in Puerto Rico’s Carolina region. His first time onstage, he remembers, was when he played “Guantanamera” on his piano as a 7-year-old for a police academy graduation. After moving to Orlando, he also played in church and jazz bands and became interested in gospel, soul, and R&B.
Despite pulling from two distinct worlds, Flores says they try to balance the music and keep it from feeling forced together or formulaic — maybe they’ll drop in a clave intermediately or include a tambor in the percussion. The sound is subtle and fits into the current moment of Spanglish urban music spurred by “Despacito” and “Mi Gente,” two songs COASTCITY knows all too well: In addition to being Beyoncé’s “Mi Gente” coach, Rodriguez is also the younger brother of “Despacito” singer Luis Fonsi. Watching firsthand as his sibling shattered language barriers and crashed into the mainstream was inspiring, Rodriguez says, and also reaffirmed that there’s a global interest and market in the cross-cultural blend he always pursued.
“I always felt like Spanglish was normal — growing up in Puerto Rico and the U.S., I could do both…So, going through different label deals and having people not quite understand me, I hit low points where I was like, ‘Damn, I can’t be the only one who has Héctor Lavoe, Juan Luis Guerra, Coldplay, and Wu-Tang all on the same playlist.’ So I feel like right now, finally people are getting it, people are loving it,” he said.
The timing seems right for COASTCITY to swoop in and add their R&B blend to the mix. Already, Flores and Rodriguez are at their most animated when they’re talking production and sharing what other songs they have up their sleeve: There’s a Prince-inspired jam and a track with a touch of trap in the works. It helps that a more receptive audience has given them full reign to experiment and showcase how to expertly craft the fusions they’ve championed for years.
“I feel like it’s taken a long time for it to get to this time, but it happened and now it’s part of American culture because so many of us are from here — we’re the new Americana,” Flores said.
Check out exclusive BTS footage of COASTCITY’s new video “Desconocidos” here.