Née: Jonathan Resto Quiñones
Raíces: Juncos, Puerto Rico
Sounds like: Nimble staccato raps that give trap beats bite
You should listen to Jon Z because: He’s the blunted, flow-minded star of trap en español.
While accepting his award for Best Urban Song at the 2017 Latin Grammys, Residente went on the record about his distaste for the “posers of rhyme,” as he called the new crop of Latin trap and reggaeton nominees. He proposed a return to the fundamentals; “Let’s talk about real lyricism because it lacks!” The words struck a chord with rising Puerto Rican trap artist Jon Z. “When he said that we aren’t sums or numbers?” Jonathan Resto Quiñones says when asked about the declaration. “I loved it!”
“That tiro was for all the people who focus on their numbers and get along buying views,” Quiñones continues. “Almost all the big artists do it. It’s for business, you know? It’s nothing bad. There are no rules or anything. But what [Residente] said I like a lot, because ultimately, you’ve cheated yourself.”
Jon Z’s rapport with Residente was established last year when the 26-year-old artist bested the Calle 13 alum’s record for most words written and spat by an artist in a single hip-hop song. Jon Z’s flow “Super Jon Z (Residente Challenge)” clocked in at 2,019 words, outdoing Residente’s June release “La Catédra” by 119 (and Eminem’s one-time record for “Rap God” by 579.) It was a validation of the veteran rapper’s challenge laid down to the younger generation to up their artistry, and Residente tentatively approved Jon Z’s feat in a reaction video that still couldn’t help bemoaning his inconsistent rhymes.
Hip-hop purists may never be satisfied by today’s rising rappers, but Jon Z isn’t always trying to please them. His new album JonTrapVolta is a sleek trap arsenal stocked by emerging producers like Puerto Rico’s Level and High Quality, a New Yorker behind Jon Z’s “0 Sentimientos,” whose remix featuring Baby Rasta, Noriel, Lyan, Darkiel, and Messiah is one of the rapper’s biggest hits to date.
JonTrapVolta isn’t even strictly trap — the plaintive romántico of “Dime Que Pasó” falls squarely into reggaeton territory. The way Jon tells it, the genre was the best way to tell the story about love that had been on his mind. “[‘Dime Que Pasó’] talks about what happens with a relationship through monotony, when it’s not the same as before,” he says. “That’s something real and people really accepted it.”
Jon’s narrative does succeed on the matter of authenticity. His fans know the early freestyle videos delivered outside his old job at Juncos’ Grand Cheese Pizza. In some of them, he’s wearing his work uniform. He still shouts out the shop in his interviews, and has a good story about crashing a delivery car while coming up with new music. His catchphrase “Loco, humilde y real G” is not for nothing.
When talking about this origin story, he recalls being inspired by U.S. emcees like Biggie and Lil’ Wayne. Jon says his first tiradera was destined for the since-deceased Puerto Rican rapper Pucho and rode the beat to Busta Rhymes’ “Respect My Conglomerate.” Though he may be on the brink of more widespread success, Jon Z is not a recent producer’s invention.
Right now, he’s feeling upward momentum — and not least importantly, about the fate of his island (“I say that we’re rising, Puerto Rico, and that the rest of the world needs to help. Put your differences aside; we have to be united now more than ever.”) Las year, he collaborated with Ñengo Flow and claims to be in the studio churning out songs on a daily basis. He says he listens to all the beats that young producers send his way, rewarding the same kind of hunger that he no doubt recognizes in himself. “I want to be like a Bob Marley, like a Michael Jackson,” Jon Z says. “I know I’m going to make it because I’ve felt since I was little that one day I was going to arrive. I swear, I’m hungry.”
Jon Z’s JonTrapVolta is out now.