The Art of Narco Corridos?

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Mexico’s ongoing Drug War is horrific to say the least. According to the LA Times and the University of San Diego, more than 22,000 have died since 2007. The border states, Michoacán and Sinaloa, have had the worst hits. But one thing is clear: thousands have died this year alone. And in true exploitative fashion, it has also informed music and movies, the most well known are narco corridos, which celebrate the excesses of the criminal lifestyle. So, what’s to be expected? Well,violence, bravado, and comedy. Yes, a genre that invites violence also breeds surrealism, some intentional, some not.

But narco corridos are quite the sticky subject. There are legitimate artistic reasons (not to mention moral reasons) to dislike narco corridos. Just last month, singer Sergio “El Shaka” Vega was murdered. Singers must be careful who they sing about, lest they get unwanted attention from the cartels (apparently, they’re soft skinned). Then again, there are some who have (thankfully) taken this genre into another more comedic or over-the-top direction. Then there are others who take their bravado to the point of self parody.

Let’s start with this guy: Mario “El Cachorro” Delgado. Known for corridos, Delgado came out with this gem last month. It’s (wait for it!) titled, “El Corrido del Chavo de Ocho.” It’s just what you think it is, with images of supersoakers and slingshots replacing RPGs and AKs.

Check this out yourself:

Besides El Cachorro, there are others whose works are so bizarre that they become advertisements for military weapons and trucks rather than actual songs. Enter songs like El KomandersEl Señor de las Hummers.” As the title suggests, it’s all about those gas-guzzlers and the video itself leaves nothing to the imagination. That’s the point of it all, of course, but at the same time, these songs rapidly turn into gun/car porn.






These songs are also tied into the thriving narco film scene. Yes, the people clamor for these Sundance also-rans and judging by sales, they are here to stay. Many narco musicians also appear in these films as well as their works. Indeed, the music and film industries feed off each other as musicians appear in films and films are inspired by particular songs (Chrysler 300 anyone?). In case you were wondering, there are sequels! Viva la republica!

Just like any film scene, there are stars, the most famous being none other than Mario fucking Almada. To be honest, he has acted in all kinds of films but he is fondly remembered for his roles in action films or westerns playing both criminals and cops, but he is always the good guy. As for the guy behind “El Senor de los Hummers?” He’ll be appearing in a narco film near you, titled The Executioner. As for the rest, like El Compa Chuy, well, let’s just say he is working hard on shilling as much attention on guns as possible.

El Compa Chuy is cut from a different cloth. He has made a name for himself by making narco corridos more radio friendly, but that hasn’t stopped him from making songs that feature references to particular models of weapons and cars. His song “El Nuevo Altata” makes the usual boasts, taunts, and references, but the video itself becomes an ad for AKs, M4s, and military gear. See a pattern here? Many of these artists are simply not deep enough to go past the accessories or the party-hard lifestyle.

The main difference between El Cachorro and El Compa Chuy is that the former knows that this form of video can be ridiculous and plays with it. El Chavo takes all of the motifs of the drug war and defangs them. Briefcases yield money and pictures of Shakira. El Chavo himself is paraded by ski-masked soldiers. Even La Chilindrina gets in on the action! Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the song is quite good. Let’s just say that this video deserves millions of views.




Finally, there is Chicano rapper Chingo Bling (aka the Tamale Kingpin and my personal favorite: the Ghetto Vaquero) is a case in point. On a section of a longer song titled “El Corrido de Chingo Bling,” the rapper spoofs the genre by singing about how many kilos of powder he moves…tamale flour that is. Plus, he wears Nike boots! Qué chingón indeed! The song just gets better and better as he name drops Masa flour and gets into a gunfight over it. What truly puts it into the realm of auditory bliss is his dedication to his fallen compa: Cleto, his pet rooster.

To sum it up, we have devised our own formula for a narco corrido. Get a bunch of assault rifles, a bunch of scantily-clad chicas and boom! You’ve got yourself a video! Just be sure to add references to Buchanan Whiskey and be seen hanging around with your corillo. Plus, it is essential that you are filmed driving around in a Chevy or in some other American SUV or truck. Remember, you’re supposed to be the rugged type, even if your job has little to do with rugged terrain.While these videos and songs are the norm, that doesn’t mean the genre is void of any merit. From a legend such as Chalino Sanchez to Arley Perez, these artists have sung about much darker subjects that are reflective of the sad situation Mexico is in. At the same time, the genre needs a well-deserved break from the over-the-top machismo (even for corridos) and its hat and boot fetish. As for the guys like El Compa: nice try, but no dice.

No word yet if regional Mexican music has spawned even more depraved music such as porno corridos…

UPDATE: It has, according to a reliable source (aka my brother).