There’s no question that Latine music and K-pop have seen a major global explosion in popularity in recent years. The commercial breakthrough of the artists from these respective genres on the international scene is ushering in a new musical landscape that is diverse and inclusive for fans. Although these cultural shifts have been happening almost parallel to each other, it was only a matter of time before these two worlds would collide. After all, Latin America boasts one of the largest fanbases for K-pop, and Korean idols have shown love to Latine artists numerous times. Enter Latine creatives.
In a post-“Despacito” era, we’ve seen a substantial amount of collaborations between Latine and K-pop artists, and that list just keeps growing. But now more than ever, we’re seeing Latine artists bridge the gap between these two different cultures as they tap in to write and produce the latest K-pop hits. From the reggaeton-infused beats of Le Sserafim’s “Antifragile” to the sultry and slick rhythms of NCT 127’s “Ay Yo,” these Latine musicians are at the helm and driving K-pop into new and exciting territory. Here is a closer look at the Latine creatives behind some of our favorite K-pop hits.
Tropkillaz - “Ay-Yo” by NCT 127
Brazilian producer duo Tropkillaz, consisting of DJ Zegon and Laudz, have a whole lot of history. They made their mark on the global music industry with high-energy favela funk tracks such as Anitta’s “Vai Malandra” and the J Balvin co-headlining “Bola Rebola.” The São Paulo natives recently brought their efforts on NCT 127’s new single “Ay-Yo” for a more laid-back, hip-hop-oriented turn. Despite “Ay-Yo” being their first official credit on a Korean track, the duo had a hand in K-pop before. Songs like “Lalisa” by Lisa from Blackpink and “Buck” by Woodz were composed with a sample from Tropkillaz’s “Brazilian Breaks & Bass” kit. The duo isn’t officially credited on those songs since the samples are royalty-free, but their impact on the tracks is undeniable.
Isabella Lovestory — “Antifragile” by Le Sserafim
Blending reggaeton and K-pop is proving to be a winning recipe. One of the visionaries behind Le Sserafim’s “Antifragile” is none other than Isabella Lovestory. The Honduran singer-songwriter helped the rising girl group usher in a new era of Latine x Korean pop crossover by blending neoperreo with a touch of hyperpop. The song’s furious rhythm, catchy chorus, and empowering message made “Antifragile” an instant hit. “My music taste is so eclectic,” said Lovestory in conversation with Remezcla last Oct. “I listen to shoegaze and K-pop, so I kind of just wanted to combine the sounds that I love, even though they don’t really make sense.”
Andrés Torres & Mauricio Rengifo — “Magnetic” by Monsta X & Sebastián Yatra
Andrés Torres & Mauricio Rengifo might best be known as the two Colombian producers and masterminds behind Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s monster hit “Despacito.” The producers have also worked with a number of top Latine artists, including Anitta, Carlos Vives, Thalia, among others. On “Magnetic,” a collaboration between K-pop group Monsta X and Colombian singer Sebastián Yatra, Torres and Rengifo expertly blend their signature Latine rhythms with EDM to create an explosive and addictive track. The duo also worked with the K-pop darlings on two other album cuts, “Love U” and “Happy Without Me.”
Play-N-Skillz — “Lo Siento” by Super Junior & Leslie Grace
Texas natives Play-N-Skillz, made up of brothers Juan “Play” Salinas and Oscar “Skillz” Salinas, are a Grammy Award-winning production duo who have made waves in the music industry for the last two decades. The siblings, who are of Argentinean and Venezuelan descent, lent their expertise to a number of different artists, including Nicki Minaj and Steve Aoki. They tapped into their Latine roots in their collaboration with K-pop vets Super Junior and Leslie Grace for their trilingual single, “Lo Siento.” “I think that through me, a lot of people have now put their eye on–even beyond K-pop, but definitely K-pop because it’s having a moment,” Leslie said in an interview with Remezcla. “But [they’re] just being open to cross-cultural collaborations, which now more than ever, our audience, like [Latine music], is more open to hearing it.”
Lao Ra — “Demente” by Chung Ha & Guaynaa
Colombian singer-songwriter Lao Ra said she loved “Demente” when she and her co-writer Rationale wrote it in London. But after some time had passed, Lao Ra wasn’t sure if she wanted to include it in her album anymore. One day, the Bogota native got a phone call from her publisher in Los Angeles to let her know that K-pop darling Chung Ha had heard the song and wanted to cut it. “I’m happy the song ended up in her hands,” she said in an interview with KBS World. “I love her voice, how she looks, she’s so pretty. I was really happy.”
Isa Guerra — “Dimension” by tripleS
Isa Guerra is a rising young songwriter from Brazil who has been a K-pop fan since she was a teen. She first gained notoriety when she competed in the Brazilian edition of The Voice in 2018 and began to release music independently. Last year, Guerra decided she would dedicate 100 percent of her efforts to writing for K-pop labels. “I started off having no idea what to do and where to start from,” she wrote on her Instagram. Through hard work and networking, her dream finally became a reality. Guerra made her K-pop songwriting debut last Oct. with the spacy album cut “Dimension” for Acid Angel from Asia (AAA for short), a subunit of the girl group tripleS. When she’s not writing K-pop songs, Guerra has a successful YouTube channel with over 430,000 subscribers where she uploads original songs, including her latest single, “Mexendo Comigo.”
Marco “MRey” Reyes — “Hey Mama!” by EXO-CBX
Marco Reyes, also known as “MRey,” is a Colombian producer with an impressive resume of K-pop tracks under his belt, including “Hey Mama,” the debut single of EXO-CBX, a subunit of the juggernaut boy group EXO. The track reflects Reyes’ love for rock and pop through the heavy bass licks and thumping drum kits. His credits also include cuts for Super Junior, SHINee’s Taemin, and Taeyeon. As the CEO of 153 Creators Club, MRey continues to advance his expertise into Asia with recent singles “GingaMingaYo” for rising girl group Billlie and “Just a Little Bit” for rookies Tempest.
Paulina “PAU” Cerrilla - “Fearless” by Le Sserafim
Mexican-American songwriter Paulina Cerilla, also known as “PAU,” is making a name for herself in the K-pop space. She helped pen Le Sserafim’s explosive debut single, “Fearless,” as well as their follow-up single, “Antifragile.” Cerilla’s talents have landed her opportunities to write for some of K-pop’s biggest players, including Twice (“Queen of Hearts”), IVE (“Royal”), and GFriend (“MAGO”). Between all of the sales and accolades her songs have generated, we’re excited to see what else Cerrilla will contribute to the genre.