Remember last year when we were living for salsa choke right after the World Cup? And what about when we saw so many bachata-meets-club edits on Soundcloud that we had no choice but to dub it #FUTUREBACHATA? Trends come and they go; some of them stick, some of them don’t. (We’re not sure people will still be playing the “Why you lying?” Vine in the club next year…) But whether short-lived or not, watching these cultural moments bubble up is one of the most fun parts of each year, and 2015 was no different.
This year, regions in Latin America that were once at the periphery of the scene established themselves as new music centers. And genres traditionally associated with born in the American South traveled across the Atlantic, fused with Caribbean flavors and created something totally new – in the way that reflects both the borderless lands of the internet and IRL effects of immigration. And don’t even get us started on the fever pitch Latino remixes reached this year.
Below, we revisited some of the new scenes and trends that had us excited this year. As for what sticks, we’ll have to wait ’till 2016 to tell. –Cheky
Spain got a bourgeoning new trap scene
In 2014, we saw Caribbean countries like Puerto Rico and D.R. shake up hip-hop en español, bringing menacing, synthesized production and explicit lyrics to a genre that had long been stuck in old school boom bap.
This year, we saw these sounds continue to evolve in an unexpected place: Spain, which has its own long and specific tradition of socially-conscious hip-hop. With the arrival of artists like PXXR GVNG, Agorazein, Cecilio G., and One Piece Lifestyle, among others, trap popped off in Spain this year like never before. (So much so, that even major artists like La Mala got in on the action).
In the music, you can hear the ATL’s aggressive beats, the Caribbean’s laid-back island flow, and reggaeton-style autotune – a testament to what happens when musical influences culled from the internet and IRL immigrant populations collide. (Spain has had an influx of immigration from Latin Caribbean countries, particularly the Dominican Republic). With Pxxr Gvng leading the way, these artists have been getting booked on major festival line-ups, like SONAR, and connecting with audiences in Latin America (Pxxr Gvng even recently teamed up with Mexico City’s Sacrifice Street Wear for a capsule collection).
What will come of España’s “gran locura swag” remains to be seen, but we’ll be keeping our eyes tuned. – Andrea Gompf
Latino remixes dominated
Everyone and their mama had a remix of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” this year. That isn’t all that noteworthy in and of itself, as the top hip-hop song of the year historically has gotten reimagined plenty of times over, due to its influence and the potential for drawing attention to an artist’s original material.
What made 2015 different was the sudden uptick in Spanish remixes of American hits, and the fact that, aside from maybe Erykah Badu’s jazzy remake, Fuego’s “Cuando Suena El Bling” was probably the best remake of them all. American radio couldn’t resist his near-literal translation, and they doubled down on Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” Latino Remix, featuring the now-ubiquitous J Balvin.
The trend became so prevalent that Messiah basically ate off of remixes alone in 2015 (“Commas,” “Hotline Bling,” “Bitch Better Have My Money,” etc.) Whether the remixes you favored this year were almost direct translations or more loosely inspired by the original, their pervasiveness proved that young Latino artists are eager to stake a claim for themselves in the mainstream. – John Calderon
Costa Rica became an indie music hub
Costa Rica definitely earned a spot as one of the biggest creative hubs in Latin America this year, with an indie scene that’s growing and growing in both quantity and quality. From Raido‘s ever-shifting electronic beats to Monte’s fantastic psychedelia-inspired El Otro Mundo; from the spectacular rise of up-and-coming projects like Hijos and Colornoise, to the non-stop touring of more stablished bands like Las Robertas and 424; from Los Waldners‘ uplifting indie pop to Do Not‘s dark techno party.
It seems like ticos did it all in 2015, but the bands certainly weren’t alone in the task. Thanks to festivals like Epicentro and promoters like Super Legítimo, the scene gained an infrastructure that could begin to support and promote it. And let’s not forget the first Costa Rican edition of Festival Nrmal back in November. Even though we sadly had to say goodbye to great bands like Florian Droids and Zopilot!, the Costa Rica indie scene continues to thrive and it got all eyes looking in its direction these past 12 months. They just need their local audience to catch up and hop on the train. –Cheky
And Medellin became the center of Neo-Reggeaton
Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring, is the second largest metropolis in Colombia, and this year, it became the epicenter of a new wave of reggaeton. Take a quick stroll down Bulevar de Castilla in La 68, and you’ll hear bar after bar blasting it from their sound systems.
Over the years, chart topping reggaetoneros Daddy Yankee, Zion & Lennox, Arcangel, and Plan B have called Colombia a second home and others have settled there permanently. In 2010, for example, Nicky Jam moved to Medellin, where he rebooted his ailing musical career. Today, Nicky Jam’s hits such as “Voy a beber,” “Travesuras,” “El Perdón,” and “Si tu no estas” are must for every Top 40 DJ.
But though reggaeton has been big locally in Medellin for a few years now, it’s the city’s homegrown talent that has put it on the global map. This year, J Balvin, Maluma, and Raykon took the world by storm with their romantic touch to reggaeton, a swaggier, poppier, less aggressive take on the sound that’s been floating around for a decade now. 2015 was definitely their year; we saw headlining tours, Latin Grammys and artists get tapped by major acts such as Enrique Iglesias, Major Lazer, and Justin Beiber to reach new audiences.
What else can you expect from the capital of Tango. Wait, what? – Joel Moya