Fuego has courted the Drake connection since the pioneer Latin trapero unleashed a notable Spanish version of Drizzy’s most famous cha-cha. 2015’s “Cuando Suena El Bling” was a hit, with some critics even preferring Fireboy’s slick-voiced take over the original. In the wake of his re-do’s million stream reception on both Youtube and Soundcloud, Fuego took on more Spanish language hip hop covers, like his martial version of Young Thug’s “Rihanna” and Drake and Majid Jordan’s “My Love.”
It was hardly the first twist in the decade-plus career of Miguel Àngel Duran Jr, who started out a rare Washington DC-based bachata-loving reggaetónero in the era of DJ Menace. Only later with 2016’s influential Fireboy Forever II did he officially help spearhead a wildly cresting wave of Latin trap led by artists like Arcangel and Füete Billete—the LP dropping months before Bad Bunny’s watershed genre single “Diles.”
So certainly, Fuego’s proven himself confident enough to attempt—and capable of landing—considerable sonic switch-ups. With his seven track EP Nightshift, he signals his most challenging genre experimentation yet in Afro-fusion. (He forecasted the direction in an interview with Remezcla last May.)
The concept is brought to fruition with the help of production duo Breakfast N Vegas, a.k.a. industry long-timers DJ Yonny and Curtis Austin. The EP’s title track and lead single is silky Afro-pop in a cool vibration that seems to have stepped out of the trap universe. But “Princesa” offers perhaps the most compelling reason for having ventured into this territory, a warm Afro-pop moment that showcases Fuego’s aptitude for patronizing romantic dance beats in any time.
Elsewhere, we get more of the sounds on which Duran first built his career. Sounding much more akin to the seductive trapchata (a sound he invented with Sango) of “Se Me Nota” is “La Loca,” the bachatón track evidence of the hit-making alchemy that exists between Fuego, his longtime collaborator DVLP and Cuban American producer Capi. That same team was the joined force behind the gleefully oscillating “hookah, Henny, rosé” vibes of “35 Pa’ Las Doce” that was included on both Fireboy Forever II and J. Balvin’s Energía.
In other songs, parallels to the rest of mainstream reggaetón are as undeniable as on 2019’s You’re Welcome LP. There’s not much to distinguish the satisfyingly filthy “Flexi” and “La Otra” from the Anuels and Ozunas of the world, right down to Fuego giving you a quick “bebecita” in the breakdown. “La Otra” was produced by DVLP, who calls the album a mix of “reggaetón moderno, clásico, ritmos africanos, un híbrido de bachata/dembow y neoperreo” in Nightshift’s press release. Across the board, production is as spot-on as one would expect for team of this many time-tested hitmakers, and Fuego flexes his lyrical abilities with a co-writer credit on every song of what might be his most pop project to date.
“Si la gente lo pide, lo damos,” the man once said in a 2017 interview. Fuego’s garnered a reputation for talent and ingenuity in pioneering industry trends. After working with Balvin, Kali Uchis, Anita, Nicky Jam, Francis Dillon, Fuego may ready to make his own step, decidedly, into the global pop market. You want a versatile performer, a rapper who can sing? Nightshift is a reminder that Fuego more than qualifies.
Listen to Nightshift here: