While collaborative LPs and mixtapes are commonplace in English-language hip-hop, the same isn’t true in the reggaetón and Latin trap sides of the industry. The best and most recent example is OASIS, the eight-track album headlined by megastars Bad Bunny and J Balvin which dropped in the summer of 2019. Now, two other vanguards of the Latin trap movement, Anuel AA and Ozuna, have teamed up and bet on their own complimentary chemistry with one of the first big album drops of the new year, Los Dioses (quite literally The Gods, though Anuel would prefer you read it as The Gawds).
Anuel and Ozuna both come into Los Dioses with some baggage. While they’re undoubtedly superstars with mountains of success and huge fan bases under their belt, their last outings have had underwhelming receptions. Ozuna’s Nibiru didn’t stick the landing like his sophomore album Aura did and his follow-up ENOC was an improved but nevertheless only mildly-successful course correction that still left some fans wanting. Meanwhile, Anuel’s much anticipated second LP, Emmanuel, stormed the gates at number one on Billboard’s Latin charts but, unlike his debut Real Hasta La Muerte, it fizzled out quickly thereafter. While Anuel and Ozuna are still good money when it comes to singles and guest appearances, the worrisome half-life of their solo joints has some wondering what their next steps will be.
Anuel and Ozuna both come into Los Dioses with some baggage.
Enter Los Dioses, a strong joining of talents that gives both artists a much-needed second wind. In a movimiento landscape not lacking for pop/punk/R&B/dembow fusions, the makeshift duo’s almost-singular adherence to tried and true reggaetón and Latin trap is damn near affable. Unlike Benito and José, whose styles, voices, and cadence are on very similar wavelengths, Anuel and Ozuna bring to mind the classic silky chorus and rough verse roles that were a staple of reggaetón in the 1990s and early 2000s. Although Ozuna’s penchant for presenting himself as a bad boy perhaps puts him and Anuel closer to Periquito and Berto’s Trebol Clan, acts like Karel & Voltio, Héctor & Tito, and RKM & Ken-Y also come to mind. Notable is the album’s lack of any featured artists whatsoever, which underlines their confidence as they aim to have listeners pay attention to their compatibility.
The self-titled opening track kicks down the doors with a brief intro that recalls Hov’s “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is…)” but then segues into the kind of aggressive boast trap Anuel excels at, with Ozuna getting some licks in himself. With the tone set, the rest of the album continues at a largely successful pace with only a handful of ho-hum tracks threatening to deflate the proceedings.
Fan’s goodwill towards the act will determine its eventual shelf life.
Highlights include the reggaetón bop “Antes,” in which longing lyrics for a missed connection also double as a yearning for pre-pandemic hangouts and the catchy “Perreo”, an unashamed ode to its namesake dance that homages classic albums like BlinBlin Music in its lyrics and demands you sway along. “Perfecto”, an emo trap that touches on sobering themes of suicide and reckoning, is another standout that teases a self-reflective side to Anuel he’s yet to fully explore. “My conscience always speaks to me/But I’m too prideful to answer” he sings, and makes us wonder what ruminations could be behind that closed door. Ozuna takes the wheel in “Nunca” and channels Los Extraterrestres-era Wisin & Yandel flow, serving sandungueo excellence. Even “La María” and “Municiones”, where they wade in drill and trapcorridos respectively, are quality deviations from their usual sound.
Los Dioses is a victory lap and vehicle for boosting Anuel and Ozuna’s image. Fan’s goodwill towards the act will determine its eventual shelf life, but the leaner runtime (their previous albums had 20 tracks) helps the stronger songs stand out. One can only hope that the flashes of artistic & creative growth they show here work as a blueprint for when they eventually return to working separately.