Bad Bunny and J Balvin are no strangers to the subtle art of upstaging. This past Christmas, Benito outshone baby Jesus, as he shifted our collective consciousness away from the holiday festivities and toward his divinely crafted debut album, X100PRE. During Beyonce’s highly praised Coachella set, Balvin nervously, but successfully, graced Indio’s most noted stage on the second weekend of Beychella. On a night that featured Beyoncé’s closest collaborators, he was the only non-family, non-ex-bandmate invited for a guest spot.
And now, after months of teasing, the two global perreo proctors finally surrender their long-awaited joint EP, Oasis, to the masses – any and all previous songs of summer lists be damned.
For many, it might seem like obvious math. Put two of the world’s most-streamed, most relevant figures in the game together, and the rest will take care of itself. It could also be easy to call Oasis a reggaeton Watch the Throne, but this is more than a boastful, unattainably expensive, victory lap-turned masterpiece. Unlike Kanye West and Jay-Z’s joint magnum opus, Oasis was crafted by two artists who, at the time of its September announcement, weren’t yet at the top of the world – though, they knew they soon would be.
It could also be easy to call Oasis a reggaeton Watch the Throne.
On EP opener “Mojaita,” the two invite the listener into the world they’ve spent months creating – a time in which each artist has gradually grown into their respective personalities, testing the limits of what their fans will go along with as each grows brighter, more confident, and more ostentatious.
Even in a cluttered world of constant reggaeton output, when Balvin offers up the welcome “Bienvenido a Oasis,” during the crunchy EP-opening reggaeton bop, it sounds refreshing; it sounds as though they’re finally about to give us a window into their months-long rapport. But this is more than just an invitation to listen to a set of songs, it’s promulgation of the Latino Gang’s power.
This assertion is immediately followed-up by “Yo Le Llego” – a bouncy hip-hop number driven by a digital boogaloo-like lead. Blown out bass notes, subtle conga hits, and timbal breakdowns line the anthem, as the pair shout out Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo. If there were any worries that the whirlwind fame Benito and Balvin have experienced would see them change their sound and look to appeal to Anglo audiences, this EP dispels any fear of that. This EP is an unapologetic celebration of Latinidad. It’s for us, and the rest of the world is welcome to partake.
This EP is an unapologetic celebration of Latinidad. It’s for us, and the rest of the world is welcome to partake.
Oasis was mostly produced by two of urbano’s heaviest hitters – Sky and Tainy – and as a result, the EP treads carefully between the known and the experimental. It mostly exists left-of-the-dial, with occasional moments meant to satiate any inquietos who yearn for a formulaic, dance-floor-ready hit, though even those moments are far from imitative.
“Que Pretendes,” the EP’s first single and video, veers closer to the kind of pop-reggaeton currently dominating the airwaves, but on it, we’re treated to a delightfully excessive spatter of “Bad Bunny bay bay baby’s,” which, as we all know, can by themselves often contain more emotion than many artist’s entire career output.
“Un Peso” begins with a ukulele harkening back to Bad Bunny’s “Ni Bien Ni Mal,” but there’s surprises in store. Balvin foreshadows a seemingly unlikely guest appearance by Enanitos Verde frontman, Marciano Cantero, with the line “Y tu corazón idiota.” More than 20 years ago, Cantero’s “Lamento Boliviano” taught us that the best way to deal with our emotions is by being borracho y loco; on “Un Peso,” the trio reaffirms such behavior.
“La Cancion” is a jazzy trumpet perreo that brings back that signature Bad Bunny nostalgia we grew accustomed to on X100PRE. There’s no denying Benito is the king of feeling nostalgic about drunk makeouts. He’s as emo as it gets, and I’m here for this Livejournal perreo.
“Como Un Bebé,” featuring Mr Eazi, leans heavily into the Nigerian singer’s signature Banku style. It’s an addictive number – with endless day party and club potential. And if it hasn’t already, it’s sure to draw Drake’s interest #eyesemoji.
If the EP has any weakness, it’s that there isn’t an overwhelmingly momentous anthem on it à la “Mi Gente” or “La Romana.” But Bad Bunny’s recent declaration that the EP is made up of 100% palos also isn’t far off. Every single one of these eight tracks has unmitigated palo potential. Even in moments where listeners may lose a little focus, the brevity of the EP keeps the novelty of seeing them two together from losing its wonder. The whole affair is over so soon that it makes you want to go back and live through it again.
In an urbano landscape where endless features and posse remixes can overwhelm audiences, the entirety of Oasis feels purposeful. Benito and Balvin’s unforced chemistry as a duo oozes throughout the EP; their celebration of each other as much a celebration of our collective Latinidad.
Jose and Benito are now watching the urbano throne. And the Latino Gang’s reign is just beginning.