25

Girl Ultra - “Llama”

Three years ago when Finesse Records singer Girl Ultra was just getting going, R&B en español was in a moment of dormancy. Spanish aughts-era artists like Flavio Rodríguez, Ikah, and Zwey had long since retreated into memory and Girl’s (now ex) labelmate Jesse Baez couldn’t very well prop up a genre on his own. The Mexican ex-disco singer Nan de Miguel neatly stepped in, and Girl Ultra has kept her footing at the top of the genre’s heap even now, in another moment of its relative popularity. She shows us how this is done on “Llama,” demonstrating that for the real crooner, drama need not entail pipe-rupturing vocal range or histrionic lyrics, but feeling. Chase me, the track whispers to the competition, which will be sure to oblige as the R&B en español ranks expand. The record also shows the depth of Finesse’s collaborative bench — “Llama”’s beat of soft desperation comes to you courtesy of Guadalajara’s Phynx and its mixed by producer-vocalist Adrian Be. – Caitlin Donohue

24

Ile - “Odio”

In the aftermath of Hurricane María, Puerto Rican artists committed themselves to work that proved their community’s resilience, and Ileana Cabra’s single “Odio” may have been one of the most powerful examples of the island’s strength and resistance in the face of documented abuses and neglect from the U.S. government. The former Calle 13 rapper-turned-solo-singer leverages her hair-raising vocals to honor the 1978 Cerro Maravilla massacre, the police killing of two young pro-independence activists and its resulting government cover-up. Combining Puerto Rican traditions like a thudding bomba rhythm, Cabra links the past and the present and defiantly announces that hatred won’t ever win: “Que el odio se muera de hambre/Porque nadie le da de comer.” A video that doesn’t shy away from the brutality Puerto Ricans have overcome throughout history is just as arresting as the song — and it serves as a testament of Ile’s commitment to defending and demanding attention for the island. – Julyssa Lopez

23

Diego Raposo - “Desconocidos” (ft. Mula)

As the Dominican Republic spawns a new wave of independent artists, this collaboration between 22-year-old MITEL DICO label boss Diego Raposo and dark dembow duo Mula was nothing but fated. “Desconocidos” is a bubbly burst of bachata futurism; the tender, amorous vocals of Cris and Anabel Acevedo layer breathlessly over Raposo’s deceptively intricate production of guitar riffs, merengue tamboras, and baile funk percussion. Its split screen music video, directed by José Rozón, illustrates moments of quotidian Dominican life, from dominó games to bustling street corners captured from the front seat of a concho. Mula, Raposo, and other members of the MITEL DICO crew make cameos as passengers, and their wandering gazes embellish the song’s themes of unity and belonging amidst the anonymity of public transit. As a new generation of roots music artists experiment with the traditional sounds of the island, tracks like “Desconocidos” offer a sense of futurity, proving that these genres are overflowing with longevity beyond the realm of pure folklore. – Isabelia Herrera

22

Melii - "Icey"

On “Icey,” ascendant Uptown rapper Melii issues a speaker-knocking warning to anyone who would dare to mess with the Harlem dominicana. On the viral hit, which was co-signed by queen RihRih herself, Melii gifts us with a series of perfectly bratty bars, an omen of her star potential and aptitude for crafting anthems meant to be rapped in the mirror. Melii switches between flows and languages breathlessly, at one point roaring “Bitch I can’t help that your pussy trash!” inducing a state of utter bliss. In the video, the self-described jiggy shorty with the curls flexes in a luxe yellow fur coat, lounging on a convertible. Catch me yelling “Cuida’o si me toca te quema” at the club for the foreseeable future. –Isabelia Herrera

21

Cuco - “Amor De Siempre” (Mariachi Version)

Cuco’s retooled version of 2016’s “Amor Por Siempre” kicks off with a wah pedal-driven guitar that invokes the holiest of Chicano entities, San Francisco’s Malo. The moment is brief – perhaps just a gentle summoning of his Chicano ancestors – but it opens a path for the incoming wall of mariachi sound that follows. Mariachis Lindas Mexicanas, an all-woman outfit from Boyle Heights, gently cradle the song with the guitarrón rhythms and mellow horn arrangements that permeated so many Chicano childhood pachangas, like the parties the 20-year-old singer’s grandparents hosted. “To be able to make something that is very much my culture into also something that I created definitely puts two worlds into one kind of really great crossover,” he told Remezcla earlier this year.

With the holidays coming up, it’s the perfect time to sneak “Amor De Siempre” in between repeat singalongs of “El Rey” and “Amor De Siempre’s” spiritual ancestor “Amor Eterno.” You might even catch your drunk tíos singing along before the sun comes up. You know, when posada really starts popping off. – Eduardo Cepeda

20

Los Wálters - "Lava"

Maybe “Lava” narrates the ending of a romantic love, but you couldn’t blame any Puerto Rican for adopting it as a tribute to a faraway friend. Though the post-Maria migration wave has slowed, it hasn’t stopped – and with the exodus restored to a steady pre-storm flow, it might be an actual fact that everyone has lost someone.

With “Lava,” Los Wálters – one of the biggest indie pop acts in the island’s independent scene, whose founders are geographically separated – have gifted those who’ve left with a piece of nostalgia to carry with them always. Released on its own in mid-September, the song reflects on a period of intense closeness that, at the time, seems able to withstand any worst-case scenario. But now, the physical absence of one person leaves the other at risk of petrifying in poor conditions.

A somber feeling emanates through the track’s slower vocal pace and deep synths, yet there’s a smattering of twinkles and hand-claps. The overall effect makes for a bittersweet sentiment. Imagining that a lot of Puerto Ricans who’ve relocated – or anyone who’s forced to move from their home, really – hear themselves represented on “Lava” isn’t a stretch. – Jhoni Jackson

19

Triángulo de Amor Bizarro - "O Isa"

Spain’s Triángulo de Amor Bizarro kicked off their 2018 EP El Gatopardo with an energy and conviction that was rare in guitar-based music this year. “O Isa” marries cold, damp, dark post-punk to appealingly noisy, propulsive garage rock, and works in a ghosty dub digression that somehow perfects the track. Its gothy snarl sets the tone for the rest of the four-song postcard from the veteran noisemakers, which is saturated with a pleasant chill that settles into the bones even as its grimy motor braces you against it. The EP finds the band shifting into a slightly new voice and sharing some of the most memorable songs of their career.

Reaching back to the Middle Ages for inspiration, the opening track is a bitter but poetic indictment of the reign of Isabella I of Castile, tracing the shadow of her rule through to the present day. Referencing political history is a standard move in the post-punk playbook, but getting fully medieval is unusual outside of metal. In the case of this song, it raises eyebrows in just the right way, and makes an unsettling point about the lasting effects one leader can have during their time in power. –Beverly Bryan

18

Omar Apollo - “Erase”

The first few chords of “Erase” are so hazy and full of lonely reverb that they almost feel detached—until R&B newcomer Omar Apollo swoops in and splays his smooth vocals across the track. He tenderly announces, “I don’t mind, my head’s in the sky / Thinkin’ of you, feelin’ for you,” a simple, dreamy kind of love letter that quickly warms up a moment of melancholy. It’s that straightforward, unassuming approach—and the velvet, butter-rich tone of his voice—that has made the Chicano from Hobart, Indiana one of the most talked about DIY acts this year. Pretty soon, he’s filling the song out with repeated examples of his effortless harmonies and aching falsetto. Like many of the bedroom jams that Apollo offered listeners on his 2018 EP Stereo, “Erase” leverages the singer’s ability to take instances of heartbreak and quiet vulnerability and transform them into lush soundscapes filled with soul. – Julyssa Lopez

17

Kablito - "Puto Colchón"

Simultaneously effervescent and white hot, the second single released by LA-based, Ecuadorian-born pop singer-songwriter Kablito is likely the most impassioned song you’ll hear about feeling bored in a relationship. Tailor made for a dance remix, “Puto Colchón,” pairs a fully fleshed-out melody with a sturdy freestyle-inspired beat and shimmery synths. In the process, it brings high drama to what is really an extremely commonplace experience. With each yearning refrain of “Dame pasión, dame peligro, dame más,” the song seems to spiral ever higher, buoyed by the rising heat of its own pale fire.

Meanwhile, barely-there references to sirens of the ’80s and ’90s, from Rockell to En Vogue, add a sweet dusting of nostalgic romance that pushes things into the realm of absolutes: irresistible, undeniable, etc. It’s a single that announced the presence of a new formidable voice in pop, something that was confirmed by the subsequent release of her debut EP Telenovela. – Beverly Bryan

16

Tomasa del Real – “Barre Con El Pelo" (ft. DJ Blass)

Neo-perreo high priestess Tomasa del Real delivered one of the year’s most exciting nuggets of dark club sweatiness in “Barre con el Pelo,” an ode to bad girl dance floor antics and the purest iteration of her body-rolling ethos. Sounding the alarm on her signing to Nacional Records, “Barre con el Pelo” was the lead single for Del Real’s debut album Bellaca del Año, ushering in a glossy new sound for Chile’s perreo queen while celebrating the underground grit that made her a star. And as reggaeton’s mainstream luminaries continue to thrive, Tomasa’s success showed that their independent counterparts are just as capable of bringing the heat.

The indisputable bop kicks off with Del Real spitting “Salgo corriendo con el combo de asesinas,” a line dripping with malicious glee as she swerves over production from Puerto Rican reggaeton legend DJ Blass, who saturates the beat with whooping vocals and crunchy synths. The vampy anthem received an equally hedonistic video styled and directed by the crew at Freak City L.A., unleashing a squad of sirens armed with outrageous hair extensions and the kind of off-the-charts swag that can neutralize any fuckboy shenanigans. –Richard Villegas

15

Trending Tropics - “Elintelné” ft. Wiso G

2018 may have been the year of the cynical, label-made feature, but Trending Tropics displayed a broader understanding of Latin America’s rhythmic commonalities, tapping a world of musical influences and guest stars for one of the wildest and most exuberant collaborations in recent memory. Comprised of Eduardo Cabra, better known as the Visitante half of Calle 13, and Dominican multi-instrumentalist Vicente García, Trending Tropics and their self-titled debut album unfold with all the twists and turns of a rollercoaster in hyperspeed. This should come as no surprise considering Cabra’s history of sonic alchemy and García’s own scholarly investigations into Afro-Caribbean musicology.

While the album beams with standouts, the epic techno merengue madness of “El Intelné,” featuring Puerto Rican reggaetonero Wiso G, soars to the top of the list. The premise is simple: an alien falls to Earth and cannot understand how humans are hopelessly addicted to electronic devices and a strange force called the Internet. The rest is a relentless three-minute game of perico ripiao Dance Dance Revolution that bounces from a drum machine and güira scrapes to Wiso G’s bars. García’s high-pitched vocals in the chorus add to the lively and humorous energy of “El Intelné,” making it one of the year’s most whimsical bangers. – Richard Villegas

14

Mala Fama - “Yara Huaita Yura Huaita”

A real good reason to experiment with folkloric music traditions in electronic settings (or anywhere at all) would be in pursuit of a phrase I learned from the press release for Mala Fama’s Anta EP, released by ambitious experimental label APOCALIPSIS. “Non-linear retellings,” it said, an expression of the Ibarra, Ecuador producer’s goal of recording services at the local church in the indigenous community of Cotacachi. In so doing, and via the punctilious production work that followed, Mala Fama creates an out-of-body sensation, some kind of portal out of a reductive reality and into a wraparound view of another neighborhood’s seismic shifts. Anta itself means “machine” in Quechua, a clever fusion that at once identifies the aural vibe of the APOCALIPSIS project. If it all sounds well-planned, that is because the single is one of the first releases from a new label that seems hellbent on multi-dimensional storytelling of indigenous South American traditions, with language that invites connection in even our most moment-anchored mentalities. And if the haunting track inspires someone to educate themselves with some actual linear readings of life in Ecuador’s indigenous communities, all the better. – Caitlin Donohue

13

Debit - “Audiacious”

Short and anything but sweet, Debit’s “Audiacious” is the sensory and intellectual shockwave of clashing passions for ambient music and dark club sounds. Demonstrating a hunger for cerebral sonic investigations, “Audiacious” is one of several unique narratives on the producer’s debut album Animus, which, upon release, received co-signs from electronic music publications like FACT and Resident Advisor. The success of Animus has made Debit one of Mexican collective NAAFI’s crown jewels, earning bookings at Panorama Festival in New York City and centering her philosophical questioning during performances at Mutek in Montreal and Mexico City. But “Audiacious” remains at the center of Debit’s creative essence, unleashing a jagged dance floor diatribe that reaches dystopian heights as it unravels. The track builds on an ice-cold beat – quasi-militaristic in its rigidity – while gauzy synths come in thoughtful waves. Buzzing and a series of unexpected silences allow the listener to come up for air throughout – until Debit gets back to work disassembling all our preconceived notions of music, or even sound. – Richard Villegas

12

Francisca Valenzuela - “Tómame”

Sometimes, in moments of sheer musical triumph, a song will sound exactly like its subject matter—and Chilean artist Francisca Valenzuela pulls off this very act of sonic and lyrical cohesion on her splashy hit “Tómame.” The track is a wet, unabashed wallop of electro-pop friskiness; it drips and dribbles with layered synths and slippery flourishes programmed to sound like water drops and tiny sloshes. All the while, Valenzuela builds up our thirst, frothily pouring out an invitation for someone to drink her up as she declares that she wants to be “como el agua que te refresca la boca, el espacio entre tu piel y tu ropa.” She’s at her most provocative and playful during these three minutes of sex-positive seduction, and she brilliantly pairs that come-hither attitude with the song’s torrent of dance energy—designed to leave you soaked in sweat and yearning for more. – Julyssa Lopez

11

C.Tangana - "Traicionero" (ft. Cromo X)

Dominican producer and rapper Cromo X’s 2016 “Traicionero” makes an excellent case for why DR urbano artists deserve more shine. Racing staccato and underlying beat-creepiness proved to neatly forecast certain strains of trance-y nihilism in modern Latin trap and club genres. It was so forward-looking that two years later, Cromo managed to extend the song’s shelf life by linking with chart-topping madrileño C. Tangana, looking to expand his own market by tapping into the boom-time urbano moment popping off across the Atlantic. (Tangana loves a good betrayal lyric — just listen to 2018 follow-up “Bien Duro.”) Mexico City collective NAAFI assisted with the collab, debuting a sexy new version starring Pucho via an eminently watchable lo-fi video. It was the opening act of Tangana’s biggest, most eclectic year yet. But when the “Traicionero” rework proved to be club gold, its credits often relegated Cromo X to a featuring role. Here’s hoping posterity will remember the true nature of events — particularly for the reveal they provide as to how today’s global hits are often formed. –Caitlin Donohue

10

El Shirota - "Desobediencia"

Estado de México’s El Shirota has a remarkable career trajectory. Starting out as a carefree and jittery garage rock outfit, over the years, they have ripped their music up and stitched it back together in a brutish fashion. Their 2016 self-titled, all-black cover EP kept things dangerous, thanks to straight-ahead burners and experimental psychedelic jams that didn’t sacrifice their power. In 2018, they dropped a twin release – same number of tracks, same cover art, recorded in the same sessions – and opener “Desobediencia” makes it clear this is an even bigger beast. The newest Shirota album has less division between three-chord chuggers and feedback-drenched excursions, as this song makes clear; what starts as a bass-heavy evil romper soon degenerates into a noisy lurch before switching back to the original structure. They incorporate black metal tropes into their noise punk aesthetic, adding a new dimension to the skronk. While mainstream rock is adhering to proven formulas and respecting elders for nostalgia’s sake, El Shirota is showing how guitar-based music can be just as thrilling and groundbreaking as other contemporary genres, all while recognizing the movement’s roots. It’s this sense of innovation that promises they’ll be at the forefront of punk and other subgenres of rock for the foreseeable future. – Marcos Hassan

9

Lechuga Zafiro - “Agua y Puerta”

It should come as some comfort in these days of human bluster and brimstone that Earth will almost surely survive civilization as we know it. Perhaps that darkly comforting certainty powered Uruguayan producer and Salviatek co-founder Lechuga Zafiro as he toured the nocturnal club gatherings of the world and worked on Testigo EP, released this summer through NAAFI. Nowhere more than on track “Agua y Puerta” does one feel Lechuga’s conviction that nature shapes us. The listener is ritually and repeatedly dunked into water, a symphony of aquatic resolve that forces a late night dancer to confront the notion of moving in time to a most natural force — indeed, a substance that makes up about 60 percent of our body mass. The implications of this subversion of electronic technology are rather breathtaking, a study of the boundaries of moisture and sound. NAAFI’s accompanying video clip echoes with an unfurling of pulsing epidermis, furrowed brows, and of course, the rippling surface of H2O. – Caitlin Donohue

8

Kali Uchis - "After the Storm" ft. Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins

We thought 2017 was the worst year imaginable, then 2018 hit. At least Kali Uchis came through with Isolation, her much anticipated, thoroughly satisfying first full-length album. The third album single “After the Storm,” featuring Tyler, The Creator and Bootsy fucking Collins, was the super-chill, retro-futuristic stand-out on an album of tracks that gave it plenty of competition. Characteristically laid-back for Kali Uchis, it’s nevertheless an anthem of self-sufficiency and empowerment. The lyrics say “Get it together,” and “Don’t quit,” while the steady bass (courtesy of Collins) and warm, soul-food production (Thanks, BADBADNOTGOOD) gently adds, “You can do it.”

Uchis’ signature preternaturally cool, breezy vocal delivery made the mid-tempo funk jam into a slice of sunshine and vitamin C. It appeared at a mid-January moment that found a lot of us really wanting to believe her when she promised, “the sun will come out.” Her effortless confidence made it easy to do just that while we waited for Isolation to get here and keep us company. – Beverly Bryan

7

Helado Negro - "Please Won't Please"

If on Private Energy Helado Negro turned his focus inward, on “Please Won’t Please” – the first single off his forthcoming album This Is How You Smile – he zooms in so closely that we can see his words mirror our own personal universes. “Lifelong history shows, that brown won’t go, brown just glows,” Roberto Carlos Lange sings, putting the song directly in dialogue with previous tracks like “Young, Latin and Proud” and “It’s My Brown Skin.” But this time, he wraps himself in poetry and delicate instrumentation to narrate his own story, and the experiences and truths that have made him who he is.

In 2018, opportunism can be hard to distinguish from true artistic explorations of Latinx identity – but Helado Negro’s music is so honest that, like his skin, it simply glows. His beautiful, heartfelt way of whispering “this is me,” ignites a warm feeling of self-acceptance in our chests, calling us to reflect on our own history. Even though no one else understands what we’ve been through, we do, and that’s just perfect. – Cheky

6

Mala Rodríguez - "Gitanas"

On “Gitanas,” Mala Rodríguez pays tribute to the community of women she saw surviving despite the discrimination, racism, and injustices wrought by an unjust societal paradigm – an inaugural model of feminism for the veteran rapper. Taking to the streets of her hometown barrio in the track’s video, a red-dressed Rodríguez fronts flamenco dancers, all in black, shaping a fierce visual reminder of how individual power is critical not only for the self, but also in our obligation to give mutual support and act in solidarity.

Her first original solo track in five years, “Gitanas” showcased the pioneering rapper’s full-circle feminist ideology. Its alarm-like backdrop heightens the admiration for women who inspired her early on. Rodríguez simultaneously raises awareness of their tenacity in an ongoing struggle, and also continues a tradition of living one’s ethos by example. In a landmark year for women’s empowerment, La Mala’s declaration of defiant personal fortitude – “¿Quién me protege? ¡Yo, de frente!” – is also a shiver-inducing reminder for those who are marginalized that cultivating inner strength is a necessary means of sustenance in a world that is systematically designed to fail them. –Jhoni Jackson

5

Cardi B - "I Like It" (ft. Bad Bunny & J Balvin)

In some circles, the Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin smash “I Like It” was as contentious as it was catchy. Undoubtedly, it was a booming, boisterous reinvention of Pete Rodriguez’s bacchanalian classic “I Like It Like That” that put dexterous verses from three of the world’s biggest Latinx rappers at the forefront, extending the staying power of Spanish-language hits on the pop culture main stage following last year’s “Despacito” phenomenon. But with its lyrics about “hot tamales” and a boogaloo sample last known from a Burger King commercial, the track was also perceived as an easy deployment of the cultural signifiers and stereotypes that often push Latinx music into uncomfortable novelty territory. Despite these concerns, “I Like It” blasted its way up to the no. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and positioned itself as 2018’s song of the summer, and that ever-infectious chorus still seems to be echoing out of every car radio on the planet. –Julyssa Lopez

4

Nio García, Darell, and Casper Mágico - "Te Boté" Remix (ft. Ozuna, Bad Bunny, and Nicky Jam)

Is there anything better than a defiantly euphoric breakup song? Opening innocently enough with a couple of minor key piano chords, as soon as the beat drops, the “Te Boté” remix hits deep in the body. The relatively sparse production from Young Martino is wildly effective, the minor chords alluding to the pain of a breakup ultimately taken over by the triumphant freedom of the song’s dembow riddim. Originally released by up and comers Nio García, Darell, and Casper Mágico on label Flow La Movie in late 2017, “Te Boté” exploded once heavyweights Ozuna, Bad Bunny, and Nicky Jam hopped on in the spring. By summer it was ubiquitous, booming out of cars, blaring at the club, being covered in bolero form, and appearing at every kind of personal freedom celebration you can imagine.

Its applicability to multiple situations, in fact, is a key component of where the song succeeds: yes, it’s great for breakups, but also for quitting that soul-sucking job, for getting that repeat sexual harasser fired, for voting out a wack elected official in the midterms.

Ultimately, the “Te Boté” remix gives us the chance to experience the joy of autonomy, and if that autonomy is far in the distance – as it is for many Latinx people in the United States right now – at least it gives us the opportunity to imagine what some respite from the thing that’s been weighing us down might feel like. And it feels so, so good. –Veronica Bayetti Flores

3

Empress Of - "When I'm With Him"

Falling out of love is a fundamentally lonely and bewildering experience, one that Empress Of’s Lorely Rodriguez captures beautifully on “When I’m With Him,” the first single from her sophomore LP Us on Terrible Records. Alternating between English and Spanish with a seamless effortlessness immediately recognizable to diaspora kids, Rodriguez paints a devastating picture of baffling limbo in a romantic relationship.

In her previous work, Rodriguez’s process was insular, doing everything herself – writing, producing, mixing – start to finish. But for Us, she brought in collaborators and co-producers for the first time, a vulnerable and new songwriting experience. It paid off: co-produced along with Jim-E Stack and Dan Nigro, the song’s warm, cushy synths and melancholy piano chords paired with a driving, steady beat and the vocals’ radiant melodies make for synth-pop gold.

The visual is a love letter to Rodriguez’s native LA: sunlight, Dickies, backyard hangouts by the clothesline, arid climate plant life, and the queer people of color who drive some of the cities’ most vibrant art scenes. Its muted pastels and sunny captures set the mood: neither sad nor happy, disorienting but not directionless.

The whole process was a leap of faith – collaborating with others, making her city part of her creative process, tackling a difficult to portray subject. Rodriguez landed on a masterpiece. – Verónica Bayetti Flores

2

Rosalía - "Pienso en Tu Mirá"

Rosalía’s “Pienso Tu Mirá” came to the world like a live grenade wrapped neatly in a bright bubblegum wrapper. At its surface, the infectiously bouncy song was another way in which the Catalan singer ably combined flamenco traditions and contemporary pop — in this case, she married a hand-clapping beat with woozy R&B influences. But a deeper inspection of the track exposes new layers that reflect Rosalía’s provocative brand of folkloric synthesis. There are the disturbingly chipper chants from the Spanish women’s choir Milagros, eerie lyrics about a man’s descent into jealousy, and Rosalía’s own vocal dynamisms, which smoothly convey male insecurity (“Me da miedo cuando sales”) and a tormented woman’s rage (“Pienso en tu mirá’, tu mirá clavá’ es una bala en el pecho”). All of these elements make Rosalía’s message of possessiveness and toxic love much darker and deeper than expected, showing she’s firing on all cylinders and willing to stretch the boundaries and expectations around her music in every way. – Julyssa Lopez

1

Bad Bunny - "Estamos Bien"

When Bad Bunny stepped onto the stage of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to perform “Estamos Bien” and mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane María, he arrived ready to launch yet another one of his subtle rebellions.

In his English-language TV debut, Benito Antonio brought with him the convictions of an entire island that felt (and still feels) abandoned and neglected by both local and federal governments in the aftermath of María – and he denounced Donald Trump and his administration’s incompetence in counting the casualties of the natural disaster.

In the months after its release, “Estamos Bien” became a sort of mantra of resilience, and in some ways, a rejoinder to the traditional Boricua saying “En la brega.” For some, it’s a phrase that addresses the struggle of daily life, but can also be interpreted as a reference to the constant battle against oppression in Puerto Rican society. “Estamos Bien” proved that even someone as wealthy and successful as El Conejo Malo couldn’t completely escape the devastation of Hurricane María and 120 years of colonialism; in “Estamos Bien,” Benito highlights the year-long blackout both he and the rest of Puerto Rico experienced after María (“Aunque pa’ casa no ha llega’o la luz”).

The self-directed, VHS-quality video for “Estamos Bien” captures the Bad Bunny zeitgeist in all its glory: Benito paints his nails before hitting the beach with his corillo in one of his signature wacky outfits. Donning aguacate-print shorts and a denim Supreme x Louis Vuitton jacket, he narrates the hustle of his early days and ascent to the mainstream in his familiar baritone alongside dancing Conejo Malo pizza GIFs. With its summery, feel-good hook and angelic choral intro, “Estamos Bien” showed that the Vega Baja native is ready to use his platform to elevate his people and give them a reason to move forward. –Frances Solá-Santiago