Diego Raposo

REVIEW: Diego Raposo’s Debut Album Is a Map For the Future of Pop Music

Photo by Jorge Guillén.

Are we re-entering the era of the superstar producer? Tainy’s gargantuan debut LP Data is without question one of the year’s standout releases, and Travis Scott’s Utopia seemed to showcase the embattled Houstonian’s curatorial abilities better than his bars. Even among indie artists, cultivating and marketing a signature sound is a growing avenue of artistic expression, as well as revenue. Just look to Alex Anwandter’s inspired disco makeovers of Julieta Venegas and Miranda!’s Juliana Gattas, the dembow bedlam Mediopicky has unleashed on Jarina de Marco and Adrianigual, and the pillowy pop architecture of Marian Ruzzi on singles from Esteman and Javiera Mena. Chameleonic Dominican producer Diego Raposo is very much in the same boat. 

Raposo first built a name as a club savant nearly a decade ago, later dipping into trap bachata alongside Mula on 2018’s Caribe Express EP, and most recently scoring producer credits on Danny Ocean’s 2022 reggaeton blockbuster @dannocean2. Finally stepping into the spotlight as a creative mastermind, his long-anticipated debut album YO NO ERA ASÍ PERO DE AHORA EN ADELANTE, SÍ arrives as a perfect example of the sonic versatility modern producers must now embody.

On the LP, Raposo pulls no punches on either sound or features. He blasts out the gate with the modular synth noise of “19.322239, -68.540659” – ocean coordinates triangulated just above Santo Domingo’s Northern coast – accompanied by vocals from perpetually melancholic divo Blue Rojo. Next comes “EL UNDERGROUND,” the album’s first BPM spike and a molotov cocktail of hyperpop and gabber crafted alongside frequent collaborator Mediopicky. The track leads into the distorted melting garage of “A&R,” closing out a choppy and jagged first chapter that warns the listener this isn’t the perreo-contra-la-pared compilation they might have expected.

In fact, the album’s most accessible sounds come towards the middle, along with many familiar voices from the Diego Raposo canon. Kablito pops up with gauzy, Grimes-esque vocals on the shimmering house of “QUÉDATE,” while MJ Nebreda leads us deep into the industrial rave on “EN LA DISCO.” For “NOSEPORQUENOSEPORQUENOTENGORESPUESTA,” Solo Fernández’s Gian Rojas reprises the house-meets-pop punk euphoria of his previous crossover with Raposo, this time injecting IDM beats and a cubic fuckton of auto-tune. “PLAYLIST” featuring newcomer ADAN is likely to become the album’s breakout hit, harnessing Rauw Alejandro’s interstellar combo of electro beats and reggaeton bars and ramping up the kicks and bass lines for an even harder-hitting earworm.

Raposo is as tapped into trendy sounds of the future as he is ready to corrupt them while also remaining faithful to the producer tradition of spotlighting rising talent that should be ringing in more people’s ears. The album’s second half showcases the silky crooning of Okeiflou on “SI SUPIERAS” and Akriila’s rapid-fire bars on drum & bass-powered “AL CONTRARIO.” Sound design also takes center stage as the album winds down, with wunderkind producer Yendruy Aquino taking charge of atmospheric slow burner “NORMAL.” Instrumental cuts “EN OTRO UNIVERSO PARALELO to2 está estático” and the Cohoba-featuring “19.452390580101415, -70.69249834249464” throw synthpop, reggaeton, drum & bass, and ambient into a blender; wagering on a world where hybridity will soon reign supreme.

This final set of coordinates points to where Raposo’s musical adventure began — his hometown of Santiago de los Caballeros. Meanwhile, the album’s opening coordinates drop a pin in the center of the Caribbean, where so much of today’s chart-topping talent hails from and continues to converge. By recruiting guests from the Dominican Republic, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, and more, Raposo has crafted more than an album. This is a map for navigating the future of pop music, free of borders and sonic limitations and eager to build collectively.

Listen to Diego Raposo’s YO NO ERA ASÍ PERO DE AHORA EN ADELANTE below.