Musica urbana is ubiquitous with pop. So much so, that award shows that were once wary of reggaetonero and trapero presence now stumble over themselves to spotlight the once-maligned genre. The figurative cash registers are ringing, and it’s the sound of perreo and trap keeping the coffers full. But as the genre goes pop, its once hard-edged sound has been diluted — and Eladio Carrión isn’t here for it. “I like to trap sucio. Like dirty trap … like I’m talking bad trap,” he says emphatically at Remezcla HQ, hours before he took the stage at our offices for Remezcla’s Nuevo Noise launch party. “I think my problem is I like to do everything,” he adds, referring to the wide array of sounds he effortlessly tackles, from the problematic (to say the least) trills of “Adicto a Los Krikos,” to the pensive ballad about loss “Mi Error” featuring Zion.

But navigating between sounds within urbano is a cakewalk for Carrión who traversed the United States as an army child and tasted his first hint of success in Puerto Rico — first as a swimmer, then as a stand-up comic and Vine star, and finally, as a full-fledged urbano star in the making. Carrión’s multifaceted approach reflects the tapestry of experiences that informed his childhood.

“My childhood was different from most Puerto Ricans because I was raised in the States,” says Carrión, reminiscing about living in Kansas, Baltimore, and Alaska, before finally settling down in Puerto Rico at age 10. Carrión found Alaska “beautiful, but it was a dull place,” which is what drove him to try out swimming for the first time. “I went to the pool with my sister and I just started swimming backstroke. I had never taken swimming classes in my life. And this lifeguard told me, ‘Your form is really good. You should take classes.’ And I did, but that was one month before I moved to Puerto Rico.”

Photo by Charelfilms

Even though Carrión spent the next nine years of his life giving everything to the sport, deep-seated nepotism and corruption ultimately drove him away. “I qualified for the 2012 Olympics,” Carrión recalls regretfully. “But the Federación Puertorriqueña de Natación, they didn’t take me. They took one of the [federation] President’s friend’s sons instead. If you have the same times as other swimmers, they go by FINA points, and I had more points, but they didn’t take me. That was my first blow,” he says, clearly still hurt by the corruption. “I kind of lost my love for the sport after that. I started smoking weed … more,” he snickers. But without the discipline he learned from training for swimming, Carrión says he’d have a hard time making music.

A recent signee of Rimas Entertainment – the powerhouse label/management group responsible for acts like Bad Bunny and Cazzu – Carrión arrived at Remezcla HQ like many of his contemporaries: surrounded by the obligatory entourage, covered in all the prerequisite drip, and with a dedicated photographer in tow chronicling his every move. But if a sudden come up would make many carry themselves with an air of superiority, Carrión takes it all in stride. (Even when he pulled up to one of our events in Miami the following week in a Lamborghini, he did so with a self-aware look of near-disbelief and gratitude). And this down-to-earth composure might be partly due to his difficult transition to Latin American life as a child.

“I watched all the novelas everyday with my mom — like three hours a day, I didn’t care, I just didn’t want to keep feeling like a stranger.”

“I learned Spanish when I was 1o. I got bullied so much when we moved to Puerto Rico,” he recalls. “I got kicked out of like three schools as a kid cause no podia discutir pa’ tras so I would just start fighting,” he remembers. “I finally just sat down one day and started watching everything in Spanish. I watched all the novelas everyday with my mom — like three hours a day, I didn’t care, I just didn’t want to keep feeling like a stranger.”

He learned Spanish through careful study and dedication — something Carrión eventually applied to his rap career, but not before first conquering a budding social network mostly used for comedic videos.

“I always liked making people laugh,” he says, remembering his days as a Vine star. “I was the first one to reach 200,000 followers in Puerto Rico. But even when I did comedy, music was always a part of it.”

Part of his act involved imitating other popular rappers. His parodies included Ñejo, Coscuella, and other urbano acts who commanded respect. “Rappers started hitting me up like, ‘Woah! Don’t put that shit on your Facebook, sell me that instead.”

I first heard Carrión in 2018 when he dropped the infectious trap banger, “Candela,” which occupied a space in my head, and refused to leave. A few days later, through a serendipitous Facebook encounter, I realized Carrión sister and I had been friends for years.

Though he was still developing his sound, he had a flow that stood out from the quickly-forming crop of near-homogeneous urbano purveyors. His full baritone hit like a pile of bricks, yet didn’t feel weighed down by its own breadth. His voice cut through — serving just as easily as a lead or a rhythmic foundation.

Whatever he learned from imitating rappers — breath control, alliteration, etc. — he kept the parts that propelled him as a rapper, and outgrew the imitation. He developed an original flow.

Photo by Charelfilms

But even with a rock solid flow, and the bangers to match, Carrión had difficulty garnering respect in Puerto Rico. After releasing an early version of his single “Mi Cubana,” he saw the YouTube plays skyrocket, and wondered why his panas weren’t f*cking with him. It wasn’t until he found himself in Argentina — a country that was thirsty for all things trap — that he saw what his career could amount to. “It was the Argentines,” he says proudly. “They knew the music was hot, and they didn’t care that I was a comedian. So I went there and stayed there for two months. Puerto Rico didn’t give me the love. And these people gave me the love. When I came back, people in Puerto Rico saw me poppin’ and were like, ‘Yo, whats going on with this kid?’”

Since then, he’s released songs with Bryant Myers, Jon Z, Amenazzy, and of course, “Mi Error,” with Zion, which he recently performed at Premios Juventud. But despite his trapero leanings, he knows how to walk the balance between the crass and the romantic, between his multiple realities, as he always has — navigating everything from Alaskan army bases, to the unforgiving playgrounds of San Juan. “I’m just trying to find a way to please everyone. A lot of older fans are like, ‘We want the real Eladio,’ but then newer fans who may know me from ‘Mi Error,’ are like, ‘OK we want romantic music.’”

Photo by Charelfilms for Remezcla

Carrión beams with excitement as he talks about his upcoming project, Sauceboyz Vol. 1, which features some top-echelon, unannounced guests. “It’s going to be straight up trap,” he says, as the office speakers tremble under the weight of the blown out bass hits.

Just then the phone rings. It’s his sister — my old friend. “Odalys, I’m in an interview with your boy,” he tells her. We chat and exchange stories, before she wishes him well on his coming performance later that evening. He hangs up — eager to get back to expounding on the ways he’ll conquer the world. His plans include to run for president of the Federación Puertorriqueña de Natación — a position he plans to use to help kids like him, and to make sure not another single talent is wasted. But mostly, his commitment is to música urbana. Despite the fame that awaits him on the pop side of things, he makes his intentions for the future unwaveringly known. “I just want to keep it urbano.”