This year has seen reggaeton’s explosive resurgence in the mainstream music industry, due in part to the release of J Balvin’s long-awaited sophomore album Energía. That record crystallized a brewing Medellín-born movement dedicated to renewing one of Latin America’s most unique cultural products. As the mainstream reggaeton revival has bred a dangerous decontextualization of the genre’s roots, there’s been an emerging underground community of artists flipping the script on reggaeton conventions.
Chilean singer Tomasa del Real has dubbed that nascent movement “#neoperreo,” a broad term intended to encapsulate the artists and producers flirting with reggaeton rhythms in new and unexpected ways. Of course, the term is imperfect. As Tomasa astutely notes, “Not everyone is part of #neoperreo, but by being a new artist, there’s a desire for everything to be perfect, and for that to happen we must create a filter and an association that helps us grow every day.”
Though the vocabulary we use to talk about the genre will evolve, one thing’s for sure: this new generation of artists is more sexually and geographically diverse than ever before. Where the early 2000s wave of reggaetoneros was dominated by men, this generation is blessed with the warped Tumblr pop art of women like Ms Nina and the atmospheric perreo of Coral Casino’s Lara Artesi. Critics will point out that almost none of the artists featured on this list hail from the birthplace or home of reggaeton (Panama and Puerto Rico, respectively). But that is a byproduct of the genre’s commercial explosion, and some would say reggaeton was conceived as an international creative endeavor, traversing multiple islands and territories since its inception.
Now, reggaeton is the Internet’s canvas for experimentation with other genres. The artists on this list fiddle with industrial, ambient, R&B, and beyond, exemplifying the experimental potential of the genre.
Here are 15 neo-perreo artists you should know. –Isabelia Herrera, Music Editor
Tomasa del Real (Chile)
The Iquique, Chile reggaeton diva says the neo-perreo term first came to her in a RBMA Radio appearance on a trip to New York earlier this year. “It was natural,” Tomasa del Real said in an interview with Remezcla. “This neo-perreo movement isn’t necessarily coming out of the reggaeton sound, but rather the danceable music that different artists are creating from different locations.”
That focus on (showing up to the) function over form is evident in Tomasa’s breadth of collaborators, who range from Spanish rappers to Chilean trap squads and rising founders of Mexican reggaeton labels. She runs all these partnerships through her blinged-out, sensual, and Internet-based promotional tornado.
Tomasa says neo-perreo’s ambiguous delineations reflect the way music is made today – based on Facebook conversations, similarly shaped swag, and canny international networking rather than geographically defined communities (meat scenes, if you will).
“Perreo is simple; it’s a danceable music that, generally speaking, is reggaeton,” Tomasa says. “#NEOPERREO is a synthesis of all these new sounds, of the new consumers who include people from the majority as well as the minority, where we all come together through el gusto de bailar.” –Caitlin Donohue
In a small apartment in London’s Brixton neighborhood, a Chilean kid was making music that would later shake a club scene that he didn’t care about – like, at all. Kamixlo and his older brother, fellow producer and vocalist Uli K, would later go on to create one of London’s most hyped parties of 2016, Bala Club.
But when the two were in their early teens it was just them, and a few family visitors from Chile dropped choice tracks on the youths, which would turn out to be highly influential in their sound. From Kamixlo’s early loves of Limp Bizkit and reggaeton radio bangers came the core of the Bala Club sound, a dark industrial perreo sound that somehow sounds exactly right in this modern, Latino-obsessed nightlife moment.
Now, DJs from across the world are playing the young Chilean Brit’s tracks. Kamixlo and Uli K distilled their universe of collaborators into a debut Bala Club compilation whose beating, haunting tracks were recorded largely during prolonged after party moments with their friends like Yung Lean and Mechatok in the first six months of Bala Club’s existence. The result is the perfect picture of where the Internet-bound diaspora has been able to take reggaeton when given a bedroom studio and a SoundCloud account. –Caitlin Donohue
Rosa Pistola (Colombia/Mexico)
Sonically speaking, there’s nothing necessarily neo about this Mexico City DJ’s high-energy reggaeton sets, which come laced with salsa and trap when she’s feeling wild. Despite her love for purposefully lo-fi satanic anime and flame Internet album art, Rosa Pistola (aka Colombian-born streetwear entrepreneur Laura Puentes) has heavy respect for the old school, having played with vets like PR’s DJ Blass and Sir Speedy. On her nascent self-titled label, young artists like Los Xxxulo$ and Los Padrinos turn in party bangers mapped by producer Brun O.G., making music that sounds fresh, but not space-age Tumblr freaky like some of the other artists on this list.
So it’s not her sound, but her scope that makes Rosa Pistola “neo.” The DJ regularly turns in sets for trendy inner city DF queer parties and semi-legal Estado de México perreos tardeadas – sometimes in the same day. And surely there’s no need to reiterate that the country’s female reggaeton DJ community is tiny. Hopefully, her ubiquity in the scene forecasts an era where las morras ricas encueradas will be behind the decks and not just dominating the concurso de perreo. –Caitlin Donohue
Santa Muerte (US)
This Houston duo pays homage to the Mexican folk saint of death with a canny sense of what makes the club move. Before banding together to form Santa Muerte, charismatic producers/promoters Panchitron and Sines were moving their town’s tropical and hip-hop scenes.
But the call to mess with reggaeton and its affiliate genres proved too strong to ignore when they started their new project. After a marathon Fourth of July studio session, the two emerged with a package of debut Santa Muerte tracks, including a dembow warp of Ty Dolla $ign’s “Oh Nah” that underlined their emergence in this brave new world of goth ‘n’ grind. It wasn’t quite what we expected from the Houston club scene, which is a fact that had no bearing on its rapid acceptance by some of the earth’s top experimental electronic DJs.
A year later, Santa Muerte is showing up on the playlist of the globe’s greatest dance floors and made a big entrance into producing original music with the four-track debut of their Oraciones EP, which they focus grouped with DJs like NAAFI’s Zutzut, Asma Maroof of Nguzunguzu, and Blanco Nino before publishing the tracks in their final form. Oraciones’ first chapter is meant to be the beginning of a creative arc, a promise that the experimentations and explorations are just beginning with the místico pair. –Caitlin Donohue
T R R U E N O (Argentina)
It has become exactly impossible to avoid politics if you are a fan or practitioner of electronic music in Buenos Aires. In the aftermath of a couple of high-profile club massacres triggered by faulty exit routes in a sudden fire and bad drugs, this year, a judge banned “all commercial activity that involves dancing to live or recorded music” in an April 28 court order. It kicked off a tussle between nightlife and government for the future of the countries’ dance floors.
Into this steps the young collective T R R U E N O, whose members (Andor3, Anakta, Astrosuka, Azul De Monte, Bungalow, Epiref, Ornamenti d’Oro, Bosque Sin Arboles and Qeei) have confirmed the spread of steel-edged reggaeton remixes first brought to the city by the dark galaxy political philosophizing Hiedrah crew.
Their contribution to the neo-perreo movement is apparent after a listen to, say, Anakta’s reimagining of J Balvin’s “Ginza.” It sounds like Balvin’s mask slipped to revel a stainless steel robot grill, with metallic limbs popping to the kind of echoing beats that drive clubgoers crazy. Hopefully, the enthusiasm T R R U E N O’s regular party generates will help fortify the resistance BsAs dancers are going to need if they’re going to keep their nocturnal hangouts alive and well. –Caitlin Donohue
In Tomasa del Real’s video for the Lao and Paul Marmota-produced “Hangover,” things get too real. There are few reggaeton princesses, for example, who would be down for the shot where Tomasa upchucks a strange liquid between her sneakers while sitting on the sidewalk curb. At one point, a shirtless dime who looks like he’d be a boxer in a Matt Damon movie emerges from a back room during a verse, later to take over the track himself.
This would be Spain’s El Mini, and if neo-perreo is really about genre-hopping one’s way to universal danceability, he’s the term’s poster boy.
El Mini, or Moisturisin’ Mini as he’s credited on “Hangover,” goes by the current moniker of Pesi (not to be confused with the soft drink, although yes, a modified version of the beverage’s logo is the rapper’s new trademark). A quick look at his catalog includes broody rap and lover’s trap, though he’s better known for the role he played in pioneering Spanish crew Kefta Boyz. The group, which was born remotely in 2013 while El Mini was living in London, also included Yung Beef and Khaled. It was lauded for its incorporation of trap and reggaeton sounds, a pivot from the country’s stagnant rap scene. Check his 2016 release Drink More Pesi for more from the artist previously known as El Mini. –Caitlin Donohue
A British transplant goes home for vacation at his abuelo’s house in Colombia and the cousins come from out of nowhere like, “Yeah you make music – but where is the dembow?” Such was the predicament of DJ Florentino, who did his research and then went home to heed the word of his family in bringing a new kind of reggaeton direct to the UK’s club scene.
Florentino, the self-proclaimed “más romántico de los románticos,” regularly plays at Manchester’s innovative Swing Ting garage, grime, and hip-hop night. It should come as no surprise that the sounds that he’s putting out have as much to do with the tastes of British clubgoers as his Colombian cousins, with warm downbeats and mechanical tear drops like those on his bashment collaboration with Manchester emcee Fox on “Vacio,” released by Swing Ting on its recently released Musik EP. (The crew was also responsible for the release of Florentino’s debut effort Tu y Yo).
The DJ seems driven to incorporate a variety of Latin American sounds into his work. He sees little conflict in his cross-hemispheric influences, telling FACT Magazine, “Some reggaeton in contrast isn’t all that different from grime, melodically. There are countless songs that sound like a Latin [grime artist] Dot Rotten to me.” –Caitlin Donohue
Stockholm could not be farther, culturally and geographically, from Latin America. This fact has not stopped us from including two diaspora artists currently located in the Swedish capital on this list. Staycore co-founder Dinamarca has Chilean heritage, and a slew of close contacts with producers in the motherland to keep his track selection fresh enough to roil dancefloors with the best of the neo-perreo upstarts.
Founded by Dinamarca and Ghazal in late 2014, Staycore is a refreshingly gender-balanced DJ crew in a world where women rarely get the floor past a nightly token set. The party mixes disparate genres like dembow and trance for transcendent clubscapes that encourage you to lose your mind (but not your self, per the collective’s name and central tenet). It’s become a European hub for the kind of musical experimentation practiced by other internationally minded crews.
Dinamarca’s skills for the subversion of ragga, reggaeton, and dancehall rhythms is much in evidence on 2015’s No Hay Breaks album, which was Staycore’s second release and features collaborations with the likes of Gnucci, Kassandra, Zutzut, and DJ New Jersey Drone. Dinamarca’s mixes disassemble traditional dembow rhythms, tagging in haunting trebles and repeating samples, as in No Hay Breaks‘ “Descontrol.” –Caitlin Donohue
Talisto (aka Gonzalo Vargas) is a 31-year-old reggaeton club promoter and occasional vocalist based out of Stockholm who doesn’t sound fully on board with the neo-perreo tag in his Remezcla interview. “All this labeling thing means to me is that there are plenty of young Latinos everywhere that embrace the power of this music without [preconceived notions],” he said. “They are eager to stretch its boundaries, a confirmation that reggaeton has long ago developed from its origins.”
That functions as a description of his own career. Originally from Osorno, a small town in southern Patagonia, Vargas moved to Sweden in 2009. Four years later, he was living in a neighborhood full of Latino immigrants, and found a local pub he thought would be perfect for the international electronic scene he wanted to bring to the country. After winning a grant from the Stockholm City Council, he was hosting K Rizz, Juliana Huxtable, Tomasa del Real – and beginning to DJ himself.
Eventually, he worked on a collaboration with Tomasa del Real that made him a vocalist. “Tu Señora” was a demo he proposed for the singer, but she asked him to stay on the track in a duet that was eventually released through Vargas’ budding imprint Klack.
“To embrace reggaeton as Talisto was to come out of the closet in some way,” he tells us. “My love for this music became stronger after I moved here as part of my search of identity, of realizing that here and there, this is the music of the Latinos, of the immigrants, of the future.” –Caitlin Donohue
Ms Nina (Argentina/Spain)
Argentine singer Ms Nina (born Jorgeline Andrea Torres) first caught our eye in 2015, thanks to the 90s World Wide Web nostalgia of her net art – think Windows 98 graphics, glittery Blingee text, and neon collages of weed leaves. But after dropping a filthy reggaeton 2.0 track in September (the Chico Sonido-produced “Chupa Chupa”), we realized her talent wasn’t just reserved for the world of Tumblr. Nina plays with the blissfully crude, marrying lowbrow internet culture with fiercely sexual lyrics reminiscent of Ivy Queen’s pro-perra vision of the club. Now based in Madrid, Ms Nina has spent the past few months collaborating with Spanish reggaeton artists like La Mafia del Amor and Bigote. –Isabelia Herrera
Las Sucias (US, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela)
Many of the artists who grace this list flirt with a more lo-fi, club-ready vision of reggaeton, but Las Sucias are here to explore the experimental potential of the genre. Danishta Rivero and Alexandra Buschman are Oakland brujas bridging the gap between noise and reggaeton, fleshing out the genre’s harsh industrial capacity with tracks like “¡Chiquito, Bendito!” The eight-minute song can only be described as a glitchy perreo prayer to ancestral spirits. Rivero and Buschman (hailing from Venezuela and Puerto Rico, respectively) released their ambitious ¡Salte del Medio! EP last April, a collection of songs peppered with pop cultural references and patriarchy-smashing wit. –Isabelia Herrera
Coral Casino (Argentina)
Buenos Aires-based duo Coral Casino have been churning out warped playa pop since 2015’s $lytherin mixtape. Earlier this year, they returned to the trenches of SoundCloud with a hazier vision of dembow riddims, exemplified by their Summer Romance EP and the vampire reggaeton of loosie “Nike (Fuera Un Santo).” Comprised of producer and vocalist Orodembow (aka Roque Ferrari) and singer Lara Artesi, the duo’s romantic, lo-fi, and auto-tuned warbles are less about making a political statement, and more about dreaming up an island life fraught with relationship troubles. As they told Wipe earlier this year, “We’re not a band that tries to make social criticism; we’re more like dreamers of imagery and landscapes.” With the title track from Summer Romance ranking no. 6 on Spotify’s viral chart in July, expect to see Coral Casino lighting up your timeline soon. –Isabelia Herrera
MNTJY (Costa Rica)
As we see it, the neo-perreo movement isn’t just about the turn up; it’s also about cojiendolo lento and taking time to appreciate the romantic roots of reggaeton. Take the slurred and slowed covers of MNTJY, a Costa Rican producer who’s reimagining the work of De La Ghetto, Arcángel, and even Zion y Lennox through an ambient lens. The 19-year-old artist released his Her Note EP just two months ago, a 12-track collection that recontextualizes reggaeton romántico for the sad boy set. Though MNTJY (pronounced “Mount Joy”) is just breaking into the scene, he’s already garnered the support of two-year-old Buenos Aires collective I NEED SPONSORS, home to fellow neo-perreo troubadours Coral Casino. –Isabelia Herrera
Merca Bae (Spain)
Merca Bae is the alias of one mysterious Madrid-based producer whose beats have found their way to sets from NAAFI’s Imaabs and Lao, as well as Classical Trax. Though his identity remains a mystery, Merca Bae’s musical vision is clear; his SoundCloud uploads flirt with 140bpm dembow riddims and punishing industrial grime. Combining religious iconography with the familiarity of the iPhone interface, Vice España has dubbed his visual aesthetic “iPhone santería.” If you’re looking for bubbly J Balvin and Tory Lanez edits, Merca Bae has got you covered. –Isabelia Herrera
Ynfynyt Scroll (US/Peru)
Ynfynyt Scroll is the alias of Peruvian-born producer Rodrigo Díaz, head honcho of Dallas’ Track Meet imprint. Díaz’s productions set out to bridge the gap between mainstream pop and the sticky refrains of Dominican dembow hits, with electrifying (and often hilarious) results. Far from the doomsday industrial edits overflowing SoundCloud, his mixtapes are packed with ebullient experiments in pop, EDM, and Afro house. You’ll find dembow riddims and Carly Rae Jepsen collide in “Run Away Conmigo,” or bouncy kuduro edits of Justin Bieber, like 2015’s “Donde Estas Ahora,” from his spring 2015 mixtape. It’s a potent combination he refers to as “reggaeton for Ke$ha fans,” so keep an eye out for his Summer 2016 mixtape, set to drop soon. –Isabelia Herrera