With one full-length album and a constant stream of mixtapes, EPs, singles, and collaborations released over the course of a decade, Los Rakas have explored every possible way to get the party started. From dancehall and plena, to hip-hop and house, and even bass music and reggaeton, the East Oakland duo has found a perfectly balanced equation to deliver their message of celebration and social critique. But on their sophomore album, Manes de Negocio, Raka Dun y Raka Rich have largely turned to trap to refresh their sound and broaden their vision.
After releasing El Negrito Dun Dun & Ricardo and their Raka Love EP on major labels, Los Rakas dropped Manes del Negocio on Delicious Vinyl Island and their own imprint, Raka Music. With half of the album’s tracklist leaning towards trap sounds, some may think they are riding the wave of Latin trap’s current popularity in the international music panorama, but they’re no strangers to working with these sounds; they’ve now just decided to delve a bit deeper.
After the intro, Manes del Negocio drops right into “Ganando,” a spacious trap number where they celebrate their career achievements. “Yo También” and “Otra Vez,” featuring Nicaraguan-American San Francisco rapper Youngin Floe, follow similar lines, but never sound boastful. Instead, they feel inspirational by showing pride in their humble origins – destigmatizing what “rakataka” means. “These songs remind me of the feeling I experienced when listening to Young Jeezy’s first album [Thuggin’ Under the Influence (T.U.I.)],” Raka Dun told Remezcla. But they still have time for some seduction (“Vamonos”) and complicated three-way relationships (“Secreto”), adding some variety to the topics and further displaying their flow Californiano.
Manes del Negocio’s poppiest moment comes with their single “Devórame,” with Amara La Negra lending her voice to this sultry anthem. Together, the three are on the forefront of Afro-Latinx representation in today’s urban music, so it makes sense to have them performing over a blasting reggaeton beat. This is the one track that directly ties in to the concept behind the album cover and the music it comprises.
“The map of Africa on our cover represents how artists from Panama don’t benefit from something they started”, explains Raka Dun. “This is similar to how natural resources in Africa are exploited by those outside the continent. Everyone else gets to enjoy and benefit from it except the people who really should.” Such is the case with the Panamanian origins of reggaeton, which we’ve dived into on our Tu Pum Pum column. He continues: “It’s nothing against the artists who are popping now. We just think artists should respect and acknowledge the people who paved the way.”
On the rest of Manes del Negocio, the sounds of Africa and its diaspora also give shape to the rhythms and set our muscles in motion. “Time is Up,” “Natural,” and “Our Love” (don’t miss that nod to “I Know What You Want”), all place women at the center of their lyrics, and they all bang to the beat of dancehall, falling closer to Los Rakas’ back catalogue. With CRSB on vocals, album closer “Loco” wraps things up on a high note with its afrobeats flavor and party-loving spirit.
Los Rakas shake things up on Manes del Negocio, and it pays off. The album still overflows with the same energy and essence they put behind their previous work, but it shows that the only way for them to move is forward.
Manes del Negocio is out now on Delicious Vinyl Island/Raka Music. Stream below: