For Latinx communities across the diaspora, 2016 was one of the most challenging and emotional years in recent memory. Between the devastating Pulse Nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 queer people and the election of a white supremacist to the White House, this year forced us to re-examine our commitment to activism and social justice. Many of us found hope in Latinxs’ history of resistance, a reminder that we are resilient and have battled bigotry for decades. In times like these, music gave us much-needed moments of joy. It helped incite action and provided a respite from our grief, whether it was through the fierce feminist energy of Carolina Camacho’s “Leona” or the druggy R&B of A.CHAL’s “Fuego.”
Like last year, this list cuts across region and genre, painting a portrait of the sounds and scenes we believe are leading the pack across the Latinx diaspora. Ranked by our editorial and freelance staff, these tracks represent no. 26-50 on our master list of 50 songs we loved. –Isabelia Herrera, Music Editor
Check out our top 25 songs of the year here.
50. "Amazonia" ft. Branko & Toy Selectah - Dengue Dengue Dengue (Peru)
With its spectral synths and skeletal beat, the spooky “Amazonia” was the highlight of Dengue Dengue Dengue‘s much-anticipated second full-length Siete Raíces. Most of the album was taken up with moody, downtempo experiments that explored Afro-Latino folklore via deep, dark bass, but with a little production meddling from global bass heavyweights Toy Selectah and Buraka Som Sistema’s Branko, “Amazonia” closed out the album with a bold, single-worthy bang. Monochromatic simplicity was a big part of Siete Raíces‘ beauty, but Toy and Branko were able to add a little color and definition while preserving the shadowy palette.
Bass thunders from somewhere far underground on “Amazonia,” while a marimba-like melodic line and pitch-shifted samples brighten the feel of the track. The contrast between the high and low ends creates a sense of space and depth, and there you have it: A version of Dengue Dengue Dengue’s ancestor-haunted vision that glows in the dark and goes bump in the night. Rather than upstaging the Peruvian duo, the co-sign from the two grand bassmeisters is like a memo to those who might pass over a release like Siete Raíces due to its lack of obvious bangers, suggesting they think (and listen) twice. –Beverly Bryan
49. "Comix" - El Guincho feat. Mala Rodriguez (Spain)
Anticipation was high prior to the release of El Guincho’s follow-up to 2010’s Pop Negro. The Canarian producer is a notorious shapeshifter who’s all about taking left turns, and “Comix” is the perfect example. The first official single off HiperAsia presented Chef P (Pablo Díaz-Reixa’s rap alias) to the world, and a brand new sound to match the attitude. The song throbs with his love for hip-hop, starting with the maximalism of the auto-tuned vocals. Díaz-Reixa took on the hard task of rhyming words with the sound of the letter “e,” something that isn’t common in the history of rap en español. But the meat lies in the verse and hook from Mala Rodríguez, who doesn’t hold back on the Andalusian sass and R&B realness. Pair that with meticulous production work, which reinterprets hip-hop with glossy disruption. That’s the formula for El Guincho’s successful return to the spotlight, once again with a fresh face. –Cheky
48. "Mentira" - Los Rakas (Panama)
Reggaeton first emerged in the coastal cities of Panama, so it should come as no surprise that Los Rakas continue to reference the tradition with pride 10 years into the game.
Their White House performance and headlining show at San Francisco’s Carnaval made it abundantly clear that Raka Rich and Raka Dun hold it down for Panama and Oakland like few others can. Add “Mentira,” a cut from this year’s self-titled album, to the list and 2016 may have even been a banner year for the pair.
In a reggaeton landscape dominated by syrupy Colombian romantiqueo, “Mentira” returns to a familiar narrative of the genre: reggaetoneros getting played. That may be a common trope, but it never overtakes the track’s beachy, breezy mood, a return to the Panamanian style that tips its hat to reggaeton’s West Indian roots. It’s the perfect song to crack open a brew and reminisce about that time in high school you’d rather forget. It’s okay, we’ve all been there. Los Rakas got your back. –Jorge Courtade
47. “Viento, Sereno y el Mar” - Los Vigilantes (Puerto Rico)
Puerto Rican garage-punk band Los Vigilantes goes the soft-and-sweet route on this 50s love song update, and it’s swoon-worthy from start to finish. If you listen closely, though, it’s not a traditional ode to love. Lyrics detail feelings of abandonment, people coming and going, a desire to go out — and was that a growl in the beginning, right after someone asks, “¿Quieres ir pa’ la playa?” Yup, this song is written from the perspective of a dog.
The furry bud in question is Ana, guitarist-vocalist Jorge “Jota” Mundo’s Rottweiler. Ana, who Mundo refers to as the Beyonce of Dogs, can be seen on Instagram enjoying Puerto Rico’s many beautiful beaches, as well as hanging out with dog buds and a feline housemate, Kitty the Fluff, also known as Kitty Pryde. (She has yet to be honored in song as far as we know.)
Los Vigilantes’ spin on the romantic getaway trope is as clever as it is adorable. Few people will get the joke on first listen; for most, the song has already been mentally into the dreamy, lovey-dovey number by the time they’ve figured it out. Good one, guys! –Jhoni Jackson
46. "Don't Need Em" - Kap G feat. Young Thug (US/Mexico)
Kap G’s stock continued to rise in 2016, as he found success paying homage to his Mexican roots and embracing the supersized, chart-topping trap of his native College Park, Georgia. Following last year’s appearance in Sundance favorite Dope and 2014’s Like A Mexican mixtape, watching the young MC’s growth in a muddy rap world was guaranteed to be intriguing this year.
Released in March, Kap G’s Atlantic Records release El Southside features heavyweights from the Atlanta hip-hop scene and is the rapper’s most polished work to date.
Though “Girlfriend” made the rounds on terrestrial radio, “Don’t Need Em” makes the list by sheer replay value. Pairing the Mexican MC with rap’s extraterrestrial man of the moment, “Don’t Need Em” sees the two go as far as trading bar for bar in the song’s final verse. The album’s single dispels any doubts about Kap G as a spitter (unless you’re one of those “real hip-hop” types) and showcases an unexpected chemistry between the two. With slick wordplay and impactful production from Squat Beats and Devon Wyatt, Kap G reminds us that he’s got “vatos on the block” and “diamonds like Adele.” Sounds like a Chicano rap star in the making. –Jorge Courtade
45. "Homegrizzy Boyz" - Homegrown Mafia ft. Alemán, Dee, Brray, Fntxy & Yoga Fire (Mexico)
When it comes to Mexican rap music, you have to hand it to Homegrown Entertainment. Operating as a label with a deep roster of producers and MCs, Homegrown has become more than just the go-to hub for local rap talent that its crew name implies – they’ve grown their influence supporting international talent too, like Puerto Rico’s Álvaro Díaz. This year, the Homegrown crew further evolved their vision a new imprint – La Trampa Records – that introduced a hard-edged trap sound via “Homegrizzy Boyz,” an epic ode to perico. It’s a bold move from a crew whose fan base includes many staunch adherents to rap orthodoxy, and they skillfully managed to pull it off without alienating their audience. It’s an exciting new era of experimentation for the label, and if it’s anything like “Homegrizzy Boyz,” we’re all in. –Eric Gamboa
44. "Batalla" - Anakta (Argentina)
Argentina’s Alain Sainz (aka Anakta) is another producer pushing the boundaries of reggaeton this year, deconstructing and restructuring its tropes according to his own personal tastes. On “Batalla,” the amazing opening track from his Territorio EP, Anakta blasts off at full speed, with spliced vocal samples arranged to provide a rhythmic backbone reminiscent of drill n’ bass tracks – but with the luster and grime of today’s underground dance music. The song sounds like an artificial intelligence creation gone awry, but somehow it provides an image of dystopia that is both automated and sensual. With “Batalla,” Anakta takes his place in a category of forward-thinking producers who are kneading underrepresented identities and narratives into genres that can be accessed by all. The future envisioned through its dance culture can be just as cinematic and visionary as any other field of fiction or world-building – and the fact that it works in your headphones as much as it does on dance floors commands respect. –Pablo Dodero
43. "Primero Que Kanye" - Mozart la Para (Dominican Republic)
2016 saw some of our favorite Dominican dembowseros switching gears and, for better or worse, diving into the trap movement dominating airwaves in the Caribbean. Mozart la Para, who we know and love from bangers like “Llegan Los Montros,” returned to his hip-hop roots with “Primero Que Kanye,” one of the most clever Spanish-language hip-hop tracks to emerge this year. On “Primero Que Kanye,” rap braggadocio grows wings; Mozart is jocose and self-assured, spitting old school tiradera bars over sinister piano keys. “No es que tu jeva es fácil,” he observes. “Es que para mi nada es difícil, lo siento por ti.” But wait, there’s more sick burns to be had: “Me llegan lo tenis primero que Kanye,” he quips. You can almost hear him grinning. If getting Yeezys before Ye himself isn’t the greatest hip-hop flex of all-time, then I don’t know what is. –Isabelia Herrera
42. "Roça Roça 2" - MC Brinquedo (Brazil)
2016 was a particularly rough year for many things, including baile funk in New York City. On his way to the Big Apple for his U.S. debut at MoMA PS1, Brazil’s cult figure of the moment MC Bin Laden was denied entrance at the border, to the surprise of probably nobody. Yet baile funk persevered, with the tamborzão beat making its way into innumerable club sets around the city and beyond, a testament in part to the bizarreness and decidedly anti-political correctness of the characters who are pushing the sound forward. One of these voices is 14-year-old, São Paulo-based MC Brinquedo, who TMIs his life away in “Roça Roça 2,” the sequel to “Roça Roça.” The song, a delicate pairing of his age and a level of vulgarity that could only come from horny teenage boys, may help answer why Brinquedo has faced crackdowns and performance bans in his native Brazil. –Sara Skolnick
41. "¡Xicanista!" - Bombón (US/Mexico)
Found exclusively on Japanese imprint I Hate Smoke’s reissue of A Date With Bombón, (Bombón’s 2015 cassette on Burger Records), “¡Xicanista!” sets an incredibly high bar for bonus tracks. The noir-tinged surf-rock jaunt — which would have been enjoyable enough as an instrumental — doubles as a rallying cry, an exuberant, anthemic embrace of the San Pedro trio’s indigenous roots and feminist ethos. In fact, lyrically, it is exclusively that; variations of “¡somos Xicanistas!” and “¡somos feministas!” comprise the whole of the song. Restricting the words so intensely, of course, means the song’s message is inarguably clear. But the repetition doesn’t get old, and it doesn’t feel overly simplistic, either. Instead, it feels exceptionally proud. As cool as Bombón’s immaculate throwback 60s surf-rock aesthetic is – from danceable romps like “Somebody Told Me” and “Swedish Fish” to the sweet sways of “Dance Like Annette” – “¡Xicanista!” is hands down the most resonant and laudable track they’ve delivered to date. –Jhoni Jackson
40. "Llegada" - Sikuri (Bolivia)
Sikuri’s four-track Zafiro EP cemented Bolivia’s place as one of the year’s most interesting hubs for highly localized renditions of club music. Appearing on UK label and clothing venture Trax Couture, the 20-year-old producer delivered pan flute-powered dembow and stripped-down, ethereal club tracks arranged in such a way that the collective output spans a broader range of sound for the listener. With a namesake that directly references ensemble traditions in Andean pan flute music, Sikuri skillfully taps into the electronic music spectrum with floating synths, filtered police sirens, bubbling snares, and neo-Andino sampling directly from his homeland. “Llegada” is a contribution that smooths out some of the edges of club music, while exerting a sense of regional pride in giving visibility to “Kalamarka, indigenous dance costumes, regional mythology, cumbia amazónica, chacarera, boleros, and similar peripheral rhythms.” –Sara Skolnick
39. "Rive" - DJ Jigüe (Cuba)
2016 was an important year for US-Cuban relations. A historic visit from President Obama marked the first president on the island in 90 years, the first United States cruise in 40 years docked in the Havana malecón, and in late November, Fidel Castro passed away, signaling a drastic shift in history, not just for Cuba, but for the entire world. If 2016 has taught us anything about Cuban artists, it’s that throughout all these shifts, they continue to make music they want the world to hear. DJ Jigüe is one of those artists, whose track “Rive” came out this summer in the midst of standout festival performances, including the inaugural Manana Festival and Afro-Latino Fest in New York City. In a typical DJ Jigüe fusion, “Rive” mixes electronic beats with Afro-Cuban folk called tumba francesca, a percussion-based genre from his birthplace of Santiago de Cuba. The song is a spiritual dance anthem as much as it is an homage to African slaves who rebelled against colonialism, calling on us to reflect on freedom. –Luna Olavarría Gallegos
38. "Bonita" - La Mafia del Amor (Spain)
As evidenced on La Mafia del Amor’s “Bonita,” auto-tune has clearly made its way to the Iberian Peninsula, and is safe in the hands of emcees Yung Beef, Khaled, and Kaydy Cain, (also of Spain’s PXXR GVNG trap outfit). There’s not much to read into – “Bonita” is a party song through and through, and we’re still waiting for reggaeton filosófico to really make its first move. But that’s part of the breakthrough of La Mafia del Amor’s positioning in music culture. Reggaeton is ubiquitous both above and underground and is guiding pop culture. As we see groups like La Mafia del Amor and even higher-profile artists like De La Ghetto making the jump from hip-hop to reggaeton to trap and back to reggaeton again, one could be convinced that the constant output of new tracks and artists taking on the task of genre-blurring for us has gains. “Bonita” is another ode to nalgas and such for the books, one that shows that pop doesn’t have to take itself too seriously to transform culture. –Sara Skolnick
37. "Botando Chispa" - El Alfa (Dominican Republic)
In a year that saw dembowseros abandoning the genre for trap and global pop trends, El Alfa shone like a light at the end of the tunnel. The baby-voiced quisqueyano behind classics like “Muevete Jevi” is one of the few artists preserving the prolific spirit of dembow; he seemed to release a new track almost weekly in 2016. Fittingly, El Alfa’s wisecracking wit roars on “Botando Chispa,” producing god-level banter that best illustrates the quotable nature of the genre. “Tengo un bajo a cuarto que no se me quita,” he huffs over a menacing revved engine loop and muted piano keys that evoke 2 Chainz’s “I’m Different.” Other notable bars: “Yo no tengo un auto-estima, yo tengo un avión-estima.” Damn straight. El Alfa’s ability to turn anything into a hook – like his signature percussive babbling or the ululating Tarzan yell from his eponymous 2014 hit – evokes the linguistic hip-hop innovation of American heavyweights like Young Thug and Migos. –Isabelia Herrera
36. "Sasebo" - Sexores (Ecuador)
After years of lineup and location changes, Sexores are finally revealing themselves as one of Latin America’s best kept secrets. Having already perfected their vision with their previous effort Historias De Frío, the duo of Emilia Bahamonde and David Yepez deliver on this single a grand case for where their potential can take them. “Sasebo,” which tells the story of a murder in a Japanese city, features some of the duo’s most melancholy melodies and ambitious textures – a mixture of dream pop, goth, and experimental guitar music aided by the Camareta del Conservatorio Nacional de Música of Ecuador. The results are undeniable, a charismatic sound like little else out there, fusing darkness, beauty, sorrow, and euphoria within a singular sound. This makes Sexores one of the most forward-thinking bands out there. If I had to bet on someone to take shoegaze and alternative music to the next level, I’d place my bets on them. –Marcos Hassan
35. "Claridad" - Los Wálters (Puerto Rico)
The opening number on Puerto Rican electronic pop outfit Los Wálters’ fourth LP Isla Disco is built on a futuristic funk groove over which otherworldly synth accents fall like a dusting of glitter. It’s an absolutely fitting inauguration to an album that’s intended to transport listeners to Planet Los Wálters, the conceptual place where long-distance songwriting duo Luis López Varona and Ángel Emanuel Figueroa convene. With its whispered moments and steady, unhurried stretches, “Claridad” is the warm welcome that eases our arrival into unfamiliar territory – an evolution of the duo’s crisp-and-clean Caribbean pop. It’s an official invitation to let go, a dejarte llevar, and indulge in perpetually dancing away your troubles. –Jhoni Jackson
34. “Easy” - Hinds (Spain)
The greater part of this song is like blissful garage pop in slow motion; it feels like a moment of clarity in weeping, when finally you accept the reality it’ll be in your rear view eventually — not gone altogether, but far away enough to minimize the hurt. From there, you muster enough courage to begin to move forward. After being dulled during the verses, the bright guitar tone gleams, picking up a pace and turning absolutely crystalline in elation. It is momentary respite first, but by the end of the song, it’s sturdied; the desolation is beginning to dissipate.
While we often get leisurely glee or good-time goofiness in Hinds singles, the Spanish band chose to divulge something personal and emotional this time. “Easy” doesn’t stand alone as the only affecting number included on Leave Me Alone, their January debut full-length. It is, however, the album’s most poignant offering, and highlighting it as a single reinforces the bravery in publicly baring intimate anguish in hopes of recovery. –Jhoni Jackson
33. "Leona" - Carolina Camacho (Dominican Republic)
Ever since Carolina Camacho dropped her six-track EP Atabey in 2013, the Afro-Dominican songwriter has brought us rich and intricate compositions that explore the space between folkloric genres like palo and gagá and minimal trance rhythms. 2016 finds Camacho experimenting with these styles even further, especially on the lead single of her debut album AfroTaina. Exemplifying the celebration of womanhood and identity that permeates the album, “Leona” is an energetic ode to powerful and divine femininity. Her stunning and offbeat voice is at the center of the track, swirling ferociously in and out of the electronic groove. “Leona” is intense and urgent, demanding a multidimensional and powerful reality for women: “Esa melena de leona ‘ta suelta ya/ay esa diosa caribeña quiere bailar.” In turbulent political times like ours, the message of “Leona” hits hard. –Luna Olavarría Gallegos
32. "She Was Machine" - Colornoise (Costa Rica)
This year – and this entire decade – are supposedly inhospitable to rock music, but San José, Costa Rica and its verdant environs have been providing the genre with the safest of harbors. On “She Was Machine,” a welcome blast of drums and guitar from Costa Rican trio Colornoise, rock sounds anything but dead. In this instance, the genre is manifest as shaking-all-over psych-blues with a mammoth backbeat provided by Alison Alvarado, crankshaft riffs, and the towering vocals of Sonya Carmona. The combined elements react, creating exquisite tension and building to a revelatory crescendo; raw power meets post-punk spareness in a way that sounds like rock ‘n’ roll’s immediate future.
Only the second song they’ve released after adding guitarist and synth player Mari Navarro, “She Was Machine” updated their always evolving noise rock for 2016. It’s a perfect snapshot of the band at this moment and a fine representation of the unrestrained creative energy of San José’s rapidly growing indie scene. –Beverly Bryan
31. Kali Mutsa - "El Ojo Interno" (Chile)
Kali Mutsa is always ready to dazzle with her knack for inspired and obscure references, a skill brilliantly illustrated in “El Ojo Interno,” her most fully realized vision to date. As a bhangra-fueled head trip with deep spiritual implications, “El Ojo Interno” is distinct from much of Mutsa’s catalog. Lyrically, the song is a meditation on love and spiritual compatibility, but musically it plays like an Indian marathon run. It’s airy and prismatic, almost healing in its beautiful zen positivity, and Maria Magdalena’s guest vocals sound like an ethereal mantra. “Quiero viajar por siempre hacia ti,” she chants soothingly, while Pablo Stipicic’s exquisite production elevates the song to nirvana.
“El Ojo Interno” is the crown jewel from Kali Mutsa’s otherworldly Mesmer EP, but instead of giving it the full carnival treatment, she’s chosen to rein in her ideas and deliver a thought-provoking and concise composition. The result is equal parts heavenly and dizzying, with just the right amount of oddball charm. –Richard Villegas
30. "Tortura China" - Álvaro Díaz (Puerto Rico)
The Lv Civdvd rapper from Hato Rey is banking on a big 2017. His album San Juan Gran Prix is coiled to strike — and Álvaro Díaz spent the last stretch of 2016 emphasizing the point with tantalizing previews, as with this track produced by legendary duo Luny Tunes, the minds that brought us Wisin Y Yandel’s “Rakata.” “Tortura China” is strobed with dreamy harp notes over a dancehall-inspired beat, a player’s proposal that his beloved forget that he used to date her friend, who doesn’t like him anymore, anyway. Paired with “Todo Bien,” another opener for the full SJGP release, “Tortura China” is a precious, genre-spanning release, proof that Díaz is about to raise the bar on our expectations of Boricua hip-hop, if not hip-hop en español in general. We’re just ready for these hits to start taking up space on hip-hop radio dominated by English-language rappers. It’s coming… –Caitlin Donohue
29. "Antes de morirme" - C. Tangana ft. Rosalía (Spain)
Let’s be honest, when Madrid’s Antón Álvarez (aka Crema, aka C. Tangana, aka Puchito)’s “Llámame más tarde” featuring Rosalía came out of the blue, most of us were either like “who dat girl?” or “what is Puchito up to now?” There was just something about Rosalía perfectly blending her melodic voice into C. Tangana’s vision of pop music, as well as the way the song hinted at his next steps into R&B, that sparked wild curiosity among his fan base. So, by the time “Antes de morirme” came to be, we weren’t really all that surprised, we were just really hyped. It feels good to witness one of Spain’s most innovative talents step up his indie game along with his partners in crime – Alizzz, who wrote the original beats that later were rearranged by Agorazein’s other go-to-producers, Puchito’s close friend Fabianni, and Banana Bahia Music, who were behind all of C. Tangana’s successful Drake remakes. “Antes de morirme” is hands down the best Spanish summer anthem of 2016, and it’s proof that when you’re open-minded, thirsty for constant change, and most importantly, having a good time without sacrificing your essence, you’re bound to succeed. –Eric Gamboa
28. "Acelera" - Ms Nina ft. La Favi (Argentina/Spain)
Twinkling electronic synths and haunting melodies are usually more dream pop territory than the stuff of reggaeton. Unless we’re talking about Argentine Tumblr princess Ms Nina, née Jorgeline Andrea Torres, in which case the juxtapositions make perfect sense. Since catching our eye in 2015, Ms. Nina has relocated to Spain, where she’s continued to evolve her brand of reggaeton 2.0 through collaborations with crews like La Mafia del Amor and Bigote.
On “Acelera,” a standout track from La Vendición Records’ AW16 catalog, Ms Nina casts a spell with the help of La Favi – the former delivering a candid, bad-bitch, I-know-what-I-want solicitation for sex, while the latter’s verse is a cry full of yearning and desire. Nina’s explicit lyrics delivered in her trademark monotone flow are the perfect counterpoint to Favi’s ornate, cante flamenco-style vocals. It’s enchanting. It’s nasty. And it’s the perfect addition to your perreo playlist. The only downside is how quickly it’s all over, clocking in at just over two minutes long. But that’s fine, since that’s all it takes for the spell to do its work. –Alexis Hodoyán-Gastelum
27. "Volcán" - Ela Minus (Colombia)
Ela Minus (aka Gabriela Jimeno) is an electronic music producer who has found a way to blend her skills as a synth builder, drummer, and songwriter into a one-woman electronic orchestra. “Volcán” is one of three tracks from her Grow EP, released in March of this year. The composition best illustrates Jimeno’s penchant for placing microscopic arrangements and busy beats next to an almost white-as-snow silent backdrop. This tension and release give her music a playful, danceable quality; it makes sense that she tags it as “tinydance” on Bandcamp. In the chorus, Jimeno croons, “A bailar como si hubiera lava bajo tus pies/a bailar como si no hubiera nada bajo tus pies,” beckoning you to dance like there is no tomorrow at the foot of an erupting volcano. Ela Minus is not only convincing people to hit the dance floor, but she’s also establishing herself as a powerful producer. –Pablo Dodero
26. A.CHAL - "Fuego" (Peru/US)
Alejandro Chal’s debut album Welcome to GAZI shares parallels with the trap & b that’s dominating airwaves and filling out stadiums, but it’s also putting the man who often recoils back into his world – probably a studio – firmly into the online spotlight.
The album’s standout track is the mystical, airy “Fuego.” Quick to arrive and even faster to leave, the track is sinful without being vulgar, suggestive as opposed to explicit. The hook – “Fuego, dale más” – becomes a powerful mantra, a reminder to his audience, and maybe even himself, that he’s sacrificed friends, home, and lovers in the pursuit of success.
It reads like a mission statement on an album of drugged-out and pensive tracks about the peaks and valleys of partying in the Hollywood hills. Pared-down trap snares, sporadic airhorns, and A.CHAL’s angsty vocals make “Fuego” a GAZI standout. If it feels dark, it’s because it’s an honest acknowledgment – the fun is there, the admirers are there, but only so long as he continues to churn out the soundtrack to nights full of party favors and bad decisions.
In his words, “She said papito don’t change/I can only promise fuego.” –Jorge Courtade