Given the bold moves Residente took with his latest self-titled album, tackling social issues like body positivity and the ruptures of global conflict zones, he had to expect that at some point, someone was going to take aim at him for moving past his roots.
It finally happened this week, when rapper Tempo challenged the former Calle 13 member in interviews promoting his upcoming album, his first after spending years outside of the game in prison.
“He’s gone to the Grammys, to Viña del Mar and each time he has the opportunity in the big forums, le tira fango at the genre, and I don’t like that. The whole world stays quiet, as though it were okay…If you want to distance yourself from the genre, I don’t have a problem with that, I respect you for it. But not if you want to boycott these kids that want to get ahead, who want to leave the streets.”
Tempo translated the beef into the highest language of reggaeton, the tiradera (for the uninitiated, in reggaeton, a tiradera is lyrical battle or rivalry).
Tempo’s track “Calle Sin Salida” calls out Residente’s very loyalties to Puerto Rico:
“Te puedes meter los Grammys pol culo
¿Varón, eres o no eres?
Eres nacionalista, independentista, americano
Usted lo que es tremendo hipócrita”
Residente seemed happy to join the fray, and even enlisted a live band to record “Mis Disculpas,” his response. In true elder statesman style, he spends eight minutes shaming Tempo for wasting his time on “realness” when he could be looking at the big picture:
“Real es que en la isla nos están clavando con una junta de control fiscal
Real son los estudiantes, los maestros, profesoras
Los boricuas que trabajan a $4.20 la hora.”
Whoever’s camp you fall in, the beef touches on the very timely issue of how artists engage with social justice in an era in which activism has been co-opted by international corporations and Kendall Jenner to sell soda.
In a plot twist, a Puerto Rican foundation Alianza Autismo entered the fray, tweeting at Residente to apologize for the ableist language in “Mis Disculpas” — at one point the rapper says he’s going to leave his musical rivals “nodding like autistic children.” The rapper countered that he didn’t consider the line an insult because of his personal experience of winning 25 Grammys on an ADHD diagnosis.
Respect for sharing his ADHD status with fans, but this is basic: if you’re going to be throwing out diss tracks based on who’s the more conscious rapper, you need to consider all the ways there are to perpetuate oppression.