Thousands descend on Texas this month for SXSW’s assemblage of music, film, and tech, a state of the union on what’s hype and whose voices should be heard in pop culture this year. Last year, we came through with a groundbreaking Austin edition of our PERREO party series, and this time around we’re offering another fire lineup to festival attendees.
In 2017, our showcase will focus on the rising generation of artists who defy easy definitions of Latinidad. The acts that will take the stage at Shattering Stereotypes are some of the musicians, producers, and singers who are experimenting with the very notion of what pop, trap, and reggaeton sound like. Some of their narratives follow complicated relationships with the American Dream, or whatever’s left of it. Some are building careers outside the traditional borders of their respective genres.
To make sure you’re prepared for their vision, we made a guide to the essentials of our showcase artists. This is the best place for a preview of just how they’re crushing the paradigms that surround Latinx identities in our current culture.
Update, 3/14/2017, 2:04 p.m.: Yung Beef will no longer perform at Remezcla’s SXSW 2017 Showcase, as his entry to the U.S. was denied. For more information, read the full statement from La Vendición Records.
Shattering Stereotypes takes over Austin’s Karma Lounge from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursday, March 16. Entry is free for SXSW badges and wristbands, but we’ll also have some spare tickets for the general public – just be sure to show up early. RSVP here and on Facebook for all the updates.
Ela Minus (Colombia)
In a world where many artists go the more-is-more route, what are we to make of Ela Minus? The Colombian pop artist has a clear focus on evading excessive material. Proof lies not just in her name, but also Minus’ affinity for mini EPs, precious creations of no more than three or four songs. By refusing to overdo it with her impressive artistic intricacy, we’re forced to peer into her songs, which generate moments that have the potential for deep introspection.
“I am a drummer first and foremost,” Minus told Best New Bands in 2016. “I started playing drums when I was 10 and I had a hardcore band.” You know how Picasso could actually paint incredibly realistic figurative images? So too runs the Ela Minus narrative of extremes — mastering the art of the obvious before bringing that sharp meaning into a completely different end of the continuum.
She calls the end result of this journey “tiny dance,” a way of making music with an emphasis on which factors you want to surge to the audiences’ ear drums first. We’re down — in a maximal world, a minimal artist may be just the person to unlock our own creative process.
Watch the Ela Minus installment of our Hardware series to get a primer on the producer’s world of synths:
Balún (Puerto Rico)
You’re bounding through a misty forest clutching a star talisman stolen from a colorful monster, who hunts you with a eyeball-equipped telescope. And there’s a beat behind the gauzy madness. Such is the plot of the video for Balún’s recent song “La Nueva Ciudad,” and such is the vibe of their dreambow universe. The Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican band’s trademark sound incorporates sleepytime feels with bouncing rhythms from the island, the result of a highly educated crew that includes an ethnomusicologist, folk music expert, punk music guitarist, and orchestra composer.
The decade-old quartet says that many of the lyrics included on their releases (at the moment; we’re waiting on Prisma Tropical, the crew’s second full-length album) hail from the artists’ subconscious. Truth be told, the other-dimensional properties of the songs are clear. “Mi cabeza es un telescopio se va alejando para definir/Y así magnificar el infimi de tu miedo/Tu te vas yo te traigo tu quizás,” goes “La Nueva Ciudad.” Reggaeton beats have always been used to describe waking dreams, but Balún may be the first to tap them to explore the less apparent meanings of our slumber.
Last year we were thrilled by this Barcelona-born, Brooklyn-based producer and vocalist’s ambient debut EP Habits. Its four tracks shimmered, translucent pop curtains begging to be held to the light sheath by sheath so that its audience could better digest their glittering flecks of R&B. Take, for example “Ithaca Tropical,” whose hot-weather backbeat flirts with synth washes. It feels new, doubtlessly a welcome break from one-note Europop releases.
Truth be told, Gisela Fullà-Silvestre has a talent for auditory storyline creation, having studied sound design at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in hopes of starting a career in film scoring. Who’s to say what cinematic future lies ahead for this one after taking part in our Shattering Stereotypes showcase and upcoming tour of Mexico featuring dates at Festivals Anagrama and Marvin?
“Hopefully some emotional landscapes,” she’s answered to the question of what she wants listeners to take away from Habits. NOIA has already proven herself capable of evoking serious sentiment — future-produced anxiety, blissful relinquish — which happens to be the litmus test for any artist with lasting power.
With only one album under her belt, this producer is primed for a career of sonic exploration, and equipped with the necessary skill sets that she will need to make a vibe that’s all her own.
Located in the intersection of Los Angeles society druggie and profound mysticism, R&B singer A.CHAL’s work hums with a potential that is impossible to predict. The New York-raised singer likened his darkened visions of youth — a vision seen in its sharp complexity on his 2016 debut studio album Welcome GAZI — to the lifted narratives of NYC salsa legend Héctor Lavoe. “Lavoe will tell you street stories,” A.CHAL told Remezcla in an interview. “I love his storytelling; I admire it. That’s something I try to get better at, the thing that I focus on the most if anything.”
The pursuit of prosaic truth seems vital in this case, if only because A.CHAL, a Peruvian-born artist who has lived in both major metropolises of New York and LA, has followed a trajectory that needs to be heard out in the United States and beyond right now. His transitory path has left the talented singer with plenty of material on what used to be known as the American Dream, a false concept that the emergent artist has both embodied with his success and taken apart in his lyrics of parties, self-harm, and celebrity culture on GAZI’s tracks.
BIA (US/Puerto Rico)
“Did she just say that shit?/Oh she look too pretty tho.” Even on her debut single “High,” whose video Virginia rapper Fam-Lay passed off to Pharrell, jumpstarting Puerto Rican-Italian BIA’s career, the emcee struggles with others’ conceptions about her capacity as an artist.
Luckily, the Boston-born rapper has no problem morphing in ways that keep haters guessing. Call it the Pharrell influence — after the producer welcomed BIA (aka Bianca Landrau) onto his i am OTHER label, he encouraged her experimentations with tone, even language. Check her 808-driven trap moment “Whip It,” in which BIA is at her battle rap-influenced best, delivering cold verses. Then compare with J Balvin’s “Safari,” which features her bridge coming through in almost 100 percent Spanish, leaving the gates open for future collaborations with reggaeton’s rising generation of artists.
After years paying her dues — she even did a reality TV turn on Sisterhood of Hip-Hop — BIA’s learned that being versatile is the way forward in today’s industry. “You gotta deliver and really not let what people say get to you,” she said in a 2015 interview. “You know, no woman wakes up every single day like A1, ready to go outside…they expect a lot from us, women in general, not just female rappers.”