It’s 2020, and in Mexico, reggaetón is queen. The music echoes through a sizable percentage of the country’s nightclubs, buses, appliance stores and doctor’s waiting rooms. Mexico counts as a major market for reggaetón’s international stars, but for all its history in the genre, the country’s artists rarely break internationally.
Listen to the Candela Music crew’s “Si Baja” to catch the vibe of Mexican radio reggaetón. The music is rarely overproduced, a streamlined call to party that communicates a certain bounce quotient in the country’s reigning clubs. In the CDMX metropolitan area alone those include Coalcalco’s 8trece, Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl’s Castillo del Abuelo and Atizapan’s Kuka Bar. Within the central CDMX neighborhoods lies Zona Rosa’s Híbrido and the nearby, drag-hosted Rico Club that has helped open up a mega-market of LGBTQ-oriented perreo palaces.
Mexico has played a role in reggaetón’s global panorama for decades. Veracruz emcees were battling at Puerto’s Club Capezzio in the late ‘90s, and in Mexico City, Valle de Aragón’s Bunny and Ciudad Neza’s Tha Bounce fostered massive scenes. The dembow-cumbia fusion known as cumbiaton may have been originated by the Caribbean reggaetón stylings of Panamanian producer El Chombo, but it developed into a signature Mexican sound at Ciudad Neza club Stratus.
The music — as in many of reggaetón’s early homes — was perceived by many law enforcement officials as a soundtrack to violence and drug use. Reggaetón fans were subject to police abuse that culminated in the 2008 tragedy in Mexico City club New’s Divine. 13 young reggaetón fans suffocated when police raided the club over its supposed sale of alcohol to minors. It resulted in the temporary death of the Mexico City reggaetón scene.
But its volume has been recovered, and then some.
A rising generation of Mexico’s pop-leaning reggaetón producers and vocalists get radio airtime and play major festivals, while cumbiaton veterans and newcomers continue to create uniquely Mexican perreos from CDMX to Monterrey. reggaetón continues to diffuse into other genres as well. The CDMX-based NAAFI collective will soon celebrate a decade of electro-reggaetón wildstyle that opened the door to a generation of techno perreo nightlife and other hybrids.
Here’s an incomplete rundown of the country’s most influential performers and producers.
Pablito started DJing when he was 13 years old and became one of the country’s early reggaetón stars, building his empire at clubs like the since-closed Stratus with his Under Style collective of DJs Mega, Jester, Nova, Esli and Jors. The photogenic producer was the breakout talent of his generation. He has gone on to collab with Diplo and open for Balvin. Local fans stay stuck on “ay Pablito qué rico’s” cumbiaton classics.
Puerto, Veracruz hometown heroes La Dinastía helped bring pioneering jarocho reggaetón to the rest of the country with their 2005 hit “Vaquero,” but their scene stayed well underground in one of the country’s poorest states. These days, OG Puerto DJ Marcello’s son Rambon helps unify the local scene with his label Sangre Pirata. The second generation Mexican reggaetón DJ stays churning out bombastic singles from the town’s perreo and trap talents — including La Dinastía, whose 2018 Sangre Pirata collab with Sir Speedy is a rare Puerto Rico-Mexico perreo linkup.
The Twista of Mexico is known for his runs on the Guinness world record for fastest rapper, but also for his long string of hits. Metra got big performing in the early aughts at El Bunny nightclub in Metra’s northeastern Mexico City home neighborhood Aragón. He is responsible for beloved 2007 Mexican reggaetón anthem “Desnudate” — a nasty, bare bones hymn that nicely illustrates how Mexican reggaetón can forgo overly padded production in favor of satisfying carnality.
Another Ciudad de México reggaetón legend and early cumbiaton and guarachaton practitioner, Bekman started out heading up the Abusadores del Flow and The Flow Music Crew, but by 2015 was taking part in NAAFI’s 2015 residency in contemporary art palace Museo Jumex alongside DJ Blass. Check 2019 album Llego el Perreo for scratch-heavy calls to drop it lower.
Rosa may be the country’s best known reggaetón export at this point, and has broken new ground for the genre internationally as its first performer to be showcased by Boiler Room and Resident Advisor. She thrives when she’s dropping nasty, old school beats. Find the most complete expression of that underground taste in her mixtape series, which starts with the XXX-themed Linea del Sexxx and also features Jorge DJ Productor’s De Vuelta al Barrio.
Uzielito Mix’s “mátalos papi” drop has risen to icon status. He’s likely the biggest name in Mexican reggaetón, having started DJing in his early teens. At 21 years old, he’s now the founder of the country’s most powerhouse reggaetón label, Candela Music. Uzielito and co-founder DJ Esli are responsible for introducing singers Michael G and Chino El Gorila to the masses, and racking up metrics on accessible crew singles like “Se Menea” and regional crossover track “La Suburban.”
DJ Sueno Dream Lion
Sueño has been mixing reggaetón since before the “Gasolina” boom, and continues to play strategic roles in the local industry. He’s toured with Big Metra and formed part of the Perreo Pesado collective with Rosa Pistola and DJ Krizis. Nowadays, the Tlalnepantla (a city in Estado de México) DJ’s work is also the head of Jungla, which his team bills as Mexico’s only local, all reggaetón-focused booking agency. Jungla is currently plotting the first festival with an all-Mexican reggaetón lineup — rumored to be called Ciudad Zandunga, and taking place later this year.
This rising singer brought us the effectively filthy-mouthed “Lick Lick” and “Booty Shaker.” Charly alternates between reggaetón and the icy trap of singles like “No Voy,” often showing up on tracks with her labelmates at Tempvs Music, which she co-founded. The crew also includes self-described reggaetón boyband #Mexassinpartys and producer Jace Kimura. Check for Charly G’s debut EP later this year, with tracks by DJ Krizis and Rip Txny.
Represented by Control Machete alum Toy Selectah’s Worldwide label, Loojan refers to his sound as “electrónica latina.” The moombahton-leaning party beats have powered him through sets at EDC’s massive Mexico edition, and gotten him a gig as opener for Sky Rompiendo El Bajo’s Mexican tour. Singles “Anormal” and “El Quicky” with singer Max Gallo demonstrates Loojan’s talent for crafting perreo detonation.
The diminutive mamá de sandugeo drops explicit marching orders to potential dates on tracks like skirt-hiking “911” and “Ponmelo.” Dylan cut her teeth as one of the only women in the Candela Music crew, easily holding her end in a verse ruminating on modern love with Uzielito Mix on “Mujer Millenial” and adding her melodic flow to the addictive “Perreo Happy” with DJ Jester. She’s currently recording her debut album, whose first single “Toka Toka” drops in March, featuring Loojan.
Cuban-born, Tláhuac-raised emcee El Habano says his early music was inspired by DJ Antna’s infamous Agrícola Oriental neighborhood parties. He established himself as a smooth-flowing, maleante underground icon with 2008 hit “La Mona,” whose lyrics nod to inhaling paint solvent. Subsequent Habano hits like “Perreo del Sucio” steered him into collaborations with Rosa Pistola and Uzielito Mix, who ultimately recruited El Habano into the Candela Music crew.