Lyanno, the Puerto Rican artist named Edgardo Cuevas Feliciano, walks around radiating a sleek coolness. He might not be totally aware of it, but it’s in his music when he casually deploys his voice – which is low, laid-back, and a little throaty – over glossy, well-polished beats. It’s there when he draws out lyrics about seduction and romance, playing a heartthrob who brakes just before he looks too thirsty. And it’s definitely there when he steps into the Remezcla offices on a recent afternoon in July, good-natured and quick to flash a stadium-sized smile, like the class flirt entering a hallway full of freshmen. He’s so relaxed and composed that as he crosses the room in a slick, highlighter-yellow jacket and futuristic white pants that look made for space travel, he seems to be gliding across the floor.
“I was just making stuff up. It wasn’t anything serious – we were just messing around.”
A suave demeanor isn’t entirely surprising coming from a guy who’s making his bid to be the urbano world’s leading R&B maverick. But it’s worth noting that at only 23, Lyanno is still somewhat of a newcomer, and his level of clear-eyed composure is impressive for someone finding his place in a rapidly growing scene. He’s evolving, and even though his list of hits, collaborations, and streaming numbers track with more experienced stars, he’s the first person to point out that not that long ago, he was just a kid earnestly writing songs with his friends in San Juan.
“I was just making stuff up,” he says of his early days diving into music. “It wasn’t anything serious – we were just messing around. But it’s all changed. My voice has grown and matured a lot, and I’ve been learning a ton from the business. But so far, all of the things that are happening are good, and with time, everything is only getting better.”
Things for Lyanno are on the rise. He’s used his short time in the industry to secure collaborations with heavyweights such as Farruko, De La Ghetto, and Nengo Flow. This July, he released his second EP, Episodios, which samples the assorted genres that his voice works on: There’s a poppy, up-tempo nod to reggaeton on “Te Veo,” a track with the famed duo Zion Y Lennox that has collected seven million Spotify streams since its release on July 19. “Se Canso” is a slow-winding show of noir R&B, while “Pa’ Que Vuelvas” boasts a dancefloor vibe and 19 million views on YouTube.
The eclecticism obviously helps Lyanno slip in and out of different styles of urbano, but it’s also a reflection of his own personal interests. As a teenager, his first musical experiments were anchored in the island’s reggaeton scene. He grew up idolizing rappers like De La Ghetto and Randy Nota Loca. However, he explains, he’s always harbored a softer side, and he lists balladeers such as Ricardo Arjona and Tommy Torres as some of his favorite artists. Then, around 2013, he uncovered the lo-fi bedroom productions that The Weeknd was making, and he grew eager to try out the sounds for himself. “I wanted to learn how to make it and produce it and do it in Spanish,” he says. “It was when I fell in love brutally with R&B.”
“I had a friendship with each of them and when we all started collaborating, it was like hanging out with your friends in the studio.”
Back then, Lyanno’s interest in singing was the kind of at-school diversion that most people eventually abandon. At age 14, he wrote his first-ever ballad with a close friend in class. Much later, he started recording in a home studio that belonged to a kid he had known since first grade. However, part of the reason that Lyanno’s aspirations didn’t just peter out had partially to do with the fact that he was living in a rare and incredibly special musical ecosystem: DIY artists were popping up all over Puerto Rico and, as luck would have it, the guys that Lyanno had been tinkering around with actually became players in the urbano space. The person he wrote that first song with at age 14? Chris Wandell, the urbano vocalist who traffics in trap. The owner of the home studio that Lyanno knew from grade school? The rapper Almighty, often seen hammering out rhymes alongside Jon Z and even Bad Bunny.
“The cool thing about what’s happening right now is that before we all kind of blew up, Rauw, Rafa, Guaynaa, Almighty – we knew each other for years as friends. I had a friendship with each of them and when we all started collaborating, it was like hanging out with your friends in the studio,” he tells Remezcla. “With them, I’ve always had that amazing chemistry, so those collaborations are super natural and they don’t feel forced or about carving out a position in music. The songs just come out really organically.”
His peers have grown up and formed a young new cohort that promises to get weird and malleable with genres. They’re also each trying to make their mark as individuals and add something a little different to urbano: Rauw Alejandro feels like the patron saint of choreographed dance breaks, while Guaynaa has emerged as a grim kind of merry prankster. Lyanno might have a more conventional path as someone primarily interested in singing and honing his vocal talents, but he recognizes that this generation that he’s a part of is trying not to color in the lines.
“It’s a weird phenomenon because I can’t tell you a certain direction that the new generation is trying to follow because we’re interested in such a huge mix of things – reggaeton, dancehall, R&B and all of these musical fusions that are making some incredible things happen in the urbano genre,” he explains.
Just after he released Episodios, Lyanno launched a tour in the U.S. that took him to cities such as Miami, Orlando, and Chicago. He gets wide-eyed, talking about the reception he’s received, and he takes it as a sign that he’s part of a musical moment that’s setting fire to old traditions and conceptualizations in the industry.
“If you look all over the world – here, in Spain, in Latin America – everyone is on tour and showing how much the public loves reggaeton and R&B. It’s euphoric,” he says. “So as far as a specific place we’re trying to take things, I couldn’t tell you about that, but what I do know is that it’s going somewhere totally different than we’ve seen before.”