Listening to Emblema is a trip. The rapper’s artistry is everything you would want from a gifted emcee: clever wordplay and charismatic delivery that keeps the listener hooked like only the best of the genre can. Amazingly, Emblema is only 16 years old.
Hailing from Venezuela, the artist (born Edward Madera) made his name through the freestyle battle circuit in events such as Red Bull Online where he outdid emcees much older than him. Yet, he is not interested in merely being a good rapper, he wants to express his ideas about the world in an artistic way.
“He’s talking about stuff I was starting to talk about when I was 30 and he’s a 16-year-old kid,” says rap en español icon Residente. “Most musicians are not serious at that age.” The former Calle 13 member has made it his quest to help Emblema as much as he can and is doing so as his mentor and friend. He believes Emblema represents the future of Latin American rap.
I know there are other Emblemas out there, I just came across this one.
Music has played an important role in much of Emblema’s young life thus far. Before taking up hip-hop, he played lead oboe professionally at a national level. After years of studying, practicing, and even performing with the Choir and Orchestra Ensemble of Zamora de Los Valles del Tuy, part of the national orchestra system, Emblema felt the need to express his ideas—his “own essence” as he puts it—in a different way. His parents backed him up and pushed him to follow his dreams.
Emblema’s talent has relied on his dominion of rapping as an art form, a skill she says he learned from artists such as Nach, Los Aldeanos, Apache, Cancerbero, and Residente, all of whom were introduced to him by his father.
“I wanted to use the competition arena as a platform to say what I thought no one else was saying at the time,” the rapper says to Remezcla on a Zoom call with Residente. “I think that there are a lot of us who feel inconformity about our current times.”
The best a rapper can do is to have tons of lyrics written.
Emblema expanded his reach by uploading videos of his music on the internet—his video for “Paso Certero” has reached 2 million views on YouTube since dropping in December 2020—which made the rapper refocus his approach. “I had to change my outlook completely. It’s my passion, but I have always separated my passions from my ambitions. I’m trying to channel my ambitions the right way. Having this artistic path is such a blessing, I can’t take it for granted.”
“My advice to him has been to keep on writing, building towards a record,” Residente shares. “In my opinion, the best a rapper can do is to have tons of lyrics written.” The Puerto Rican musician first came across Emblema when he was shown a video of him performing in a freestyle battle. Residente was impressed by both his ideas and technical ability. Now, he wants to bring him to his world: he plans to hook him up with producers as well as help develop his creativity and encourage him to experience a wider world to inform his artistic vision.
On his end, Emblema wants his output to always be meaningful, a quality shared with Residente which has helped them bond despite the age difference. Despite constantly speaking and trading notes on music creation, they have yet to meet in person due to global lockdown.
I see hope in Emblema.
“In Latin America, there are millions of ways of making hip-hop. There are a ton of ideas that people are expressing,” Emblema says. “Rap has evolved a lot and has become a tool that has accomplished many important things, like communicating what’s going on in different parts of the world.”
This is fundamental for Residente as well, since he sees the young artist as a guiding light for the future of the genre. “To me, Emblema represents rap that says something in a creative and entertaining way, unlike some people who think conscious rap should be like a math class. I see hope in Emblema. We’re at a moment where hip-hop is more concerned with how it sounds instead of what it’s saying and that’s fine—I don’t want to knock it. But to someone like me, I see hope. I know there are other Emblemas out there, I just came across this one; I have faith that there are others out there. Maybe [Emblema] can help lyricism come back to the fore in the future. I think it will happen.”