Sixteen years into the industry, and Zion y Lennox are still managing to find ways to reinvent themselves.
Having been an integral part of reggaeton origin stories, Zion y Lennox have positioned themselves to be very much present in today’s perreo landscape, even as the gatekeepers usher in a new wave of artists. Just last week, the recent Warner Music Latina signees took home a Latin Billboard prize for “Latin Rhythm Songs Artist of the Year, Duo or Group,” while also performing at Miami’s Bank United Center alongside Nicky Jam and Jencarlos Canela.
We had a chance to chat with Zion y Lennox while they made a stop in New York to perform at the Mega Mezcla 2016 concert and promote their new single “Embriágame” off Motivan2. While chatting with some of urban music’s living legends, we got some insider info about their upcoming album, their take on the newest reggaeton boom, and some of their hopes for the sound’s newest direction.
On the Duo’s Creative Process
According to Lennox, “It’s all about the vibes and the energy.”
Zion said, “It all depends on the vibe we have at that moment. If a producer sends us a crazy beat that we like, we start working on it. Sometimes there are composers who show us very good songs and if we like ’em we also record them. That’s how it starts. Mainly it’s the vibe, the feeling, the muse, the inspiration.”
When it comes to collaborating with other artists, the process is similarly natural. As Zion put it, “We have a very good relationship with other colleagues, so it’s something super natural that we make a phone call, [like] “Let’s record something; I have a great song that I think you can fit in on it,” and they’re like, “Send it to me, let me hear it,” and then, “Oh yeah, I love it. I going to record, let’s meet up.” Everything flows very natural.
“The Latino market is hoarding all the charts in sales and streaming.”
On Reggaeton’s Latest Boom Breaking Down New Barriers
Following the various WTF collaborations of 2015-2016 that brought together some seriously unlikely pairings (Justin Bieber and J Balvin, Sango and Fuego, Yandel, Spiff TV and Future, J Balvin and Pharrell), one can’t help but wonder about the vantage point taking this all in from two of reggaeton’s industry vets. So, what exactly went down this last year?
In Zion’s eyes, “the truth is that the Latino market is hoarding all the charts in sales and streaming,” which Lennox put quite simply as “a boom!”
“In other words, the U.S. market was not looking our way, but nowadays they are. [It’s] a huge boom. And now it’s not just kids and people on the streets. [People of] all social statuses are listening to reggaeton. They’re dancing to it, they like it, and the U.S. is noticing that,” he added.
On Nostalgia for Reggaeton’s Early Days
Having been at it from the genre’s earliest days, what are some things of the past that are more difficult to connect with now that Zion y Lennox have reached Billboard Awards levels?
For Zion, it’s “those concerts when we used to go with all the artists, when we weren’t all that big. We went as fans – hanging out with friends, no car, no money, just walking to the concerts to see the artists en corillo. Those days are missed because we used to be fans; I know how fans feel, because we used to act the same way. Those times of hunger of wanting to be heard, the struggle.”
On Looking Out for Women in a Male-Dominated Market
Zion and Lennox are putting thought into how to expand opportunities for women in a Latin music industry that doesn’t always look out for female contemporaries.
According to the duo, of particular note is Loiza’s singer-rapper La Sista, who they signed just weeks ago and believe has the potential to win people over to the level of la reina Ivy Queen.
Zion says she is “like a Latina Lauryn Hill combined with reggaeton. She hits everything – the cute, the fierce, the hood, that woman that has all the styles…She spent seven years out of the scene because she was tied to a contract she couldn’t get out of, so she didn’t have the opportunity to move forward…You will hear about her, I promise…Women will have a representative that will drive them nuts; they’ll be delighted.”
“I don’t think trap is harming reggaeton; it’s another rhythm, another sound, and people are listening to fresher things.”
On the Rise of Hip-Hop and Trap Music on La Isla
What do Zion y Lennox think about the rise of the new wave of hip-hop talent from the likes of Álvaro Díaz and Mike Towers (as seen in Remezcla’s doc Trilligan’s Island)? To them, hip-hop and reggaeton are not adversary forces, and they’re even planning to include a few trap-influenced tracks in their upcoming album with Warner Music. They see it as an effort to engage in a dialogue with what Lennox calls “a fierce movement.”
Zion says, “The trap scene has [seen] an incredible fanbase built in just four to six months. The island is hooked, especially young people; although adults like it as well…All the time we’re used to reggaeton, reggaeton, reggaeton, so it’s a new sound, and people have accepted it, and it has a tremendous fanbase [there] and on the East Coast as well…I don’t think it’s harming [reggaeton]; it’s another rhythm, another sound, and people are listening to fresher things.”
Zion y Lennox will drop Motivan2 this summer via Warner Music Latina.