Unrestrained gratitude oozes from the opening moments of Eladio Carrión’s long-promised mixtape-turned debut album, Sauce Boyz. And why not? The 25-year-old rapper has a lot to be grateful for.
On the album’s opening track, “Vida Buena,” Carrión melodically raps about the cornucopia of blessings his recent success has brought him. “Yo siempre ‘toy volando como la N.A.S.A […] Yo siempre me siento cabron, que quieres que te diga?” he unapologetically proclaims over the velvety Hi Music Hi Flow-produced beat. Though he boasts about never again having to shop at “Plaza” (San Juan’s most popular mall), Carrión delivers these self-exultations with an earnest sense of disbelief – he claims success is best when one comes from nothing.
As a young child, his family consistently moved around the U.S., making it difficult for the young Carrión to find a sense of place. After eventually buckling down in Puerto Rico, he became the country’s most promising swimmer, only to have his career derailed by nepotism and indifference. A brief, albeit successful career as a stand-up comic and Vine star also came to an abrupt halt as Carrión made one last calculated move and finally found his calling: Latin trap’s most promising upstart.
Sauce Boyz more than delivers on said promise. From the jump, Carrión is ready to unleash his talent on the world, and has no qualms about his ambition to dominate urbano airwaves with a non-stop slew of slick and undeniably catchy anthems. “Hielo” feat. Jhay Cortez finds the two trading riffs about cold-hearted lovers, while the Miky Woodz-assisted “Mala Mia” proves that no matter how played-out it might seem, somber piano trap can still be intoxicating.
The first 15 minutes of the album feel like a perpetual assault – every single track can be an urbano anthem. Then, just when a breather feels necessary, Carrión delivers it in the form of his familiar hit, “Mi Error” (Remix) feat. Lunay Wisin & Yandell and Zion & Lennox, which gives those who’ve already been f*cking with him a chance to decompress.
But the album’s real turning point comes in the remix of “Lluvia” – a reworking of his 2018 electro-pop single, this time assisted by Amenazzy, Rauw Alejandro and Lyanno. The song’s synth-heavy instrumentation might remind some of Bad Bunny’s “Otra Noche en Miami,” though it was originally released months before Benito’s foray into the synth-pop world.
It’s after this point that the album takes a markedly darker turn, delving deeper into the “trap sucio” Carrión once told Remezcla is what he considers his true calling. On “Mi Funeral,” Carrión morbidly fantasizes about excluding his once-close lover from his own funeral, as Nengo Flow and perhaps the album’s most notable guest, J Balvin, add their own grim declarations of rancor.
“Kemba Walker,” another familiar Carrión anthem featuring Rimas labelmate Bad Bunny, prepares the listener for the closing act of an album that feels as though it’s inevitably on its way to heavier territory.
As the album spirals deeper into a lean-fueled vortex, perhaps some of Carrión’s most unexpected guests join the fray. “Huh” features Miami rapper Smokepurpp, who spits delectable Spanglish bars that feel at home with Carrión’s baritone flow. “Safe With Me” feat. Lil Mosey, on the other hand, serves as a shoo-in for American mainstream rap radio and playlists; though it’s an embarrassment that Latin trap hasn’t already been welcomed to the party with open arms.
If there is one drawback to Sauce Boyz, it’s that after an endless blitz of unmitigated palo potential, the album’s hefty guest list can make the soiree feel a tad crowded. Eladio Carrión is an astonishing rapper and singer who’s at his best when he’s left alone to carry the weight of the music – something he’s capable of managing with ease.
But, as a newcomer, the sizable guest list strategy makes sense. He’s not yet at the level of someone like Bad Bunny, who before releasing his debut, had already garnered the kind of massive worldwide following that had him collaborating with the likes of Cardi B, JLo and even Will Smith. Carrión still has ears to charm and this extensive features roster ensures the widest possible signal-boost.
Sauce Boyz is a mesmerizing display from a relatively new artist with limitless potential. Carrión shows his versatility by painting with a broad brush, while carefully sidestepping any notion of pandering. He knows how to appeal to the charts, but also realizes when it’s time to let go and examine his psyche with reckless abandon – often yielding that album’s most introspective, if at times ominous, moments. The album totes the listener on a trek from the bottle service clubs to the funeral parlor – while carefully avoiding the kind of free-fall plunge in either artistic direction that could alienate Carrión’s day ones.
It’s early in the year, but this is the kind of offering that doesn’t come around often. Along with Myke Tower’s Easy Money Baby, Carrión’s debut is easily the best Latin trap album so far this year, and certainly one of the most notable releases since Bad Bunny’s X100PRE.
‘Sauce Boyz’ is available to stream now.