Puerto Rican singer Lester Rey has spent the last few years making the rounds in Chicago’s diverse Latinx music scenes. A Chicago native himself, Rey’s music focuses on uplifting communities and bringing awareness to the day-to-day challenges of the Boricua experience, ranging from political impotence to indigenous identity. Rey’s new hip-hop and R&B-infused mixtape Promesa toes the line between melancholy and protest, delivering his own brand of woke sabrosura.
Recording Promesa in a marathon 30 days, Rey sought to capture the extreme political turbulence the U.S. has experienced over the past year. On “Depre,” Rey is joined by Michael Reyes and Deuce Eclipse for a song that articulates the dismay, anger, and fear we all felt the day after Donald Trump became the president-elect. The title track serves as a commentary on the bittersweet PROMESA Act passed this summer, which keeps Puerto Rico from defaulting on its debt without protecting the island territory from future financial crisis. Along with “Coqui,” a romantic, angsty lullaby to la isla del encanto’s iconic mascot, Rey captures the island’s laid-back energy, fiercely juxtaposing it against the uncertainty of his people’s future.
Though Promesa displays much needed levity in songs like “Garandunga” and “Fellas,” Lester Rey finds his strongest footing in moments of defiance. On “Ponte Duro,” he enlists guest bars from The Color Brown and Atche Grey for a song that demands respect and acknowledgement of Puerto Rico’s rich cultural history. “Name one Boricua who’s famous from Chi-Town. Name one who’s made it off the fucking ground,” he sings, frustrated. “We African Tainos with Spanish names,” he quips, alluding to the complexities of Puerto Rican identity.
MC G1 of Rebel Diaz provides a few verses, and Boricua beatsmith El Bles also makes an appearance, providing deliciously chopped up salsa samples on “Navidad” and “Ya Me Cansé.”
As Latinxs continue to find their communities under attack, and as Trump’s presidency comes ever closer, Lester Rey sees the importance in speaking out and telling his story. He’s looking to educate and inspire his community, and his message will help guide us through the murky future ahead.