Dominican dembow is the club rhythm du jour. You can always gauge how big a movement is getting when it begins to spill over the edges of its local scene, attracting outsiders eager to put their own spin on the latest hot trend.
In 2021, Spanish pop superstar Rosalía tapped Dominican provocateur Tokischa for “Linda,” an epic bop that would become one of the genre’s biggest crossover successes. This year, Rosalía again invoked the dembow gods on “Bizcochito,” a stand out from her blockbuster MOTOMAMI LP, which she revamped months later with a guest feature from Haraca Kiko. We’ve seen these curious, border-crossing collaborations from the likes of Snow The Product and Ceky Viciny on “Sola,” and Freddie Gibbs with Chiki El De La Vaina on “Entrégala.” None of this is new — lest we forget when El Madrileño himself jumped on Cromo X-produced, NAAFI-released dembow smash “Traicionero” back in 2018.
But while foreigners come to feast and social media hovers over a handful of protagonists, including Toki and El Alfa, the reality is countless other producers and dembowseros are expanding the genre’s horizons every day. In Santo Domingo, the neighborhood of Capotillo has become a Mecca for teteo devotees, this year launching tongue-twisting star Angel Dior. Meanwhile, buzzy, genre-defying exponents Kiko El Crazy and Mediopicky released acclaimed albums that beg careful listening and unchained culo-shaking. Even critical darlings Vakeró and Xiomara Fortuna have embraced the beats setting streets a blaze; just get into the former’s explosive “Tu Cojea” Remix with Chimbala, Yomel El Meloso, and La Perversa, and “la reina de la fusión”s visionary 2021 LP Viendoaver.
Beats are changing, flows are evolving, and trends are growing. These days it seems El Alfa has a new viral Tik Tok dance every week — the “Gogo Dance” era was truly wild! And as the landscape shifts, it’s essential to continue highlighting the work of trailblazers like Los Pepes and La Delfi, ongoing battles against censorship, and the vibrant new ideas of young artists hustling in the underground.
With a thrilling present and an even more exciting future in mind, here is a look back at some of our favorite dembows of 2022.
– Richard Villegas
El Alfa El Jefe, Farina - “Bendecido”
Dembow heavyweight El Alfa El Jefe had yet another year of banging hits, and one of them was definitely the dizzying “Bendecido” off his fourth album Sabiduría. Multitalented Medellin artist Farina joined in and turned this bop into a whole ode to her own ass, bringing her fire bars about her sex appeal and expensive taste, with El Alfa backing up every single word she’s saying and then some. With its hard-hitting beat and hollow percussive bassline, it’s impossible to avoid “Bendecido” from seeping into your muscles and making you move. You already know El Alfa is going to bring it, but this is Farina’s moment, as she continues to cement herself as a voice in the dembow landscape. – Cheky
Tokischa, Treintisiete 3730 - “Sistema de Patio”
A blazing matchup between two Dominican dembow darlings elevating the genre’s freshest sounds brought us one of the best collabs of the year with “Sistema de Patio.” The remorseless Tokischa teams up with rising star Trientisiete 37030 as they take us on a joyride through the bloques that raised them through the single’s lyrical verses and visuals. With a genre known for its unapologetic nature and hard-hitting beats, the track highlights these two driving factors while the duo takes on impeccable call-and-response flows that rattle through a range of social topics from drug use to prostitution – producing the track’s prodigious feat. The rappers navigate commercially controversial subjects in a way that doesn’t seek to render them good or evil, but to depict them simply for what they are, lived realities, while turning the track into a form of dembow block party-esque tribute to the rich and complex hood subculture in the Dominican Republic. – Jeanette Diaz
Bulin 47 x Flow 28 - "Po po po"
There was no shortage of hype around dembow in 2022 — from significant breakthroughs by established artists like Tockisha and Elfa to the meteoric rise of a new generation of artists not afraid to disrupt the system. Ahead of the release of Sagitario, El Alfa offered a prize of $50,000 to the first artist to make a chart-topping hit capable of stealing the spotlight away from him in December. Newcomer Flow 28 took to the challenge by jumping on Bulin 47’s track “Po Po Po.” It didn’t take much for it to go viral, earning Flow 28 his first-ever major payday but also earning the bragging rights of being the song I hear the most being played by car’s sound systems. – Joel Moya
La Materialista, La Perversa - “Tómala”
Back in 2014, La Materialista became a leading force in the rise of dembow with her inescapable smash, “La Chapa Que Vibran.” Eight years later, dembow’s OG diva is still letting these spring chickens know there’s plenty of gas in the tank, enlisting rising supreme La Perversa for nasty reina anthem “Tómala.” Cheeky wordplay weaving metaphors about mami supremacy and nursing the new school of dembowseros from her bosom harkens to classic Nicky Minaj boast, “all these bitches is my sons.” But “Tómala” is not only about La Materialista asserting her dominance over a fiery beat; she also invites new school peer La Peversa to the table, who delivers a no holds barred verse dripping with some of the year’s most iconic baddie energy. – Richard Villegas
Kiko El Crazy, El Alfa, “Busca Un Culo”
Kiko El Crazy helped push dembow music to new places with his debut album Llegó El Domi. Many of reggaeton’s stars wanted to get in on the action with features from Arcángel, Zion y Lennox, Jowell y Randy, and even the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am. The mightiest dembow track on the LP was the rising Dominican star’s dream team-up with an icon in the genre, El Alfa. These two dembow forces colliding resulted in one of the year’s most explosive collaborations, “Busca Un Culo.” Kiko El Crazy and El Alfa were on a mission to get asses around the world shaking, and they succeeded with this hypnotic club banger. – Lucas Villa
Mediopicky, Diego Raposo - “Ají Titi”
In 2022, Mediopicky surprised us with his self-titled full-length, a bubbling cauldron of Caribbean rhythms, metal, pop-punk, club music, and pretty much anything he could find in his spice rack. Dembow is also in the mix, as shown on the Diego Raposo-produced “Ají Titi,” a track that stands out by offering a different take on the genre in under two minutes. Created in Raposo’s grandma’s apartment, it sounds gritty and understated while retaining Mediopicky’s sense of humor and penchant for pop references. He lusts over a girl and peacocks around with his bravado, but in a soft, relaxed tone, as if he only wanted a few people to know. Beware of the quiet ones because they’re the ones who sting like ají titi. – Cheky
Tokischa, Anuel AA, Ñengo Flow - "Delincuente"
Having already established herself as the undisputed queen of raunchy dembow, Tokischa had nothing to prove in 2022. “Delincuente” could well have been a victory lap, but as soon as she delivered her first verse, listeners knew it was something more exciting. Over hard-hitting drums that hinted at a vintage perreo feel without sounding retro, she proceeded to conduct a threesome that made listeners blush, sweat, gasp for air, and want more. Anuel brought his most depraved impulses through his signature delivery while Ñengo Flow gave X-rated rhymes in his old-school inflection. But this was Tokischa’s show. She might have a delincuente in her room, but there was little doubt that she was the one leading this orgy. — Marcos Hassan
El Alfa, Noriel, Trueno - “LOS APARATOS”
El Alfa returned with a scorching vengeance this year with his independent album drop, Sagitario. As a notable trailblazer, all eyes move to the “King of Dembow” to not only highlight the current best in the genre, but showcase where its future is heading with every release. He did not disappoint with his leading single “LOS APARATOS.” The visionary rejoined forces with Puerto Rican trap artist Noriel, who flows his way in with fervor on the second verse, and surprised listeners with the enlistment of buzzworthy Argentine freestyler Trueno, who wraps up the verses with a contrasting style that adds a fresh moment of fluid redirection. One of the hottest tracks to hit the dancefloor in late summer, the song brings a spirited, electro-beat-driven melody where the only thing that hits harder than the bass of the rapid riddim at play is how hard the trio’s lyrical styles work together over it. – Jeanette Diaz
Bad Bunny - "Tití Me Preguntó"
Bad Bunny released the album of the year with Un Verano Sin Ti. Across the 23 tracks, the Puerto Rican superstar embraced different sounds of the Caribbean, especially the Dominican Republic. He took the dembow genre to new heights with the monstrous club smash “Tití Me Preguntó,” helmed by Dominican and Puerto Rican producer MAG. Benito first paid homage to D.R. with a bachata sample of Anthony Santos’ “No Te Puedo Olvidar” before the song exploded into a full-on dembow anthem. Like Lou Bega’s in the classic “Mambo No. 5,” Bad Bunny playfully listed off all his girlfriends in his lifetime. You felt lucky if Benito happened to call out your name in this genre-bending banger. – Lucas Villa
Angel Dior - “A I O”
Keep your eyes and ears on Angel Dior, the self-proclaimed “Rey de la 42,” who ruled the Dominican airwaves with an iron grip throughout 2022. His pitched-up tone and dizzying vocal polyrhythms have become instantly recognizable thanks to thumping hits such as “Zuculento” and “Piropi.” But it was the breath-defying “A I O” that catapulted the young dembowsero to stardom; an unshakeable, almost post-verbal earworm that cemented Dior as the genre’s newest ”it” kid and even landed him a guest spot at Bad Bunny’s massive Santo Domingo shows. On “A I O,” Dior pushes dembow’s hypnotic looping to the extreme, his vocal gymnastics manipulated as another instrument in the mix while his bars spin neck-breaking tales of chapiadoras and nightclub excesses. Dembow is fast and ever-changing, and with every new song, Angel Dior gleefully dares us to keep up. – Richard Villegas