In a zeitgeist consumed by reggaeton, T3R Elemento’s urbano-tinged corridos and enigmatic románticas offer a refreshing addition to Latin pop’s growing diversity. Already a blooming movement that’s taken both regional Mexican music and música urbana by storm, corridos urbanos are bridging urbano and norteño generations alike. And though T3R Elemento’s frontman Kristopher Nava may still be a teenager, their candid tales of revelry, romance and the art of the puff-puff-pass told in Good Vibes compel listeners of any age.
Right from the start of their third studio album, Buenas Vibras, T3R Elemento testify their status as purveyors of the corridos verdes subculture. Comprised of singer and guitarist Nava, Felipe Prieto on requinto, Sergio Cardenas on bass, Melo on tuba, accordionist Zeus Gamez and Yonathan López Celis also on requinto, the Las Vegas-Los Angeles sixtet continue to cut a pathway for “weed ballads.” It’s an eccentric new movement they’ve further propelled since their previous albums like 2018’s The Green Trip and 2017’s Underground. The opening track “420 y Ya Me Gustó” is a rollicking ode to the joys of ganja, amid riveting requinto and twelve-string guitar interplay; and “Hojas del Monte” lyrically boasts nature’s herbal medicine, while promoting a feel-good vibe that’s on par with the album’s concept.
Coined by Rancho Humilde stoners Legado 7 from Santa Ana, corridos verdes first gained visibility after the legalization of cannabis in California in 2016. Since then, the subgenre has flourished, especially in SoCal, parts of the US and along the border region – inspiring a bevy of norteño bands to rep the reefer lifestyle via song. Contemporary norteños like Lenin Ramirez, Natanael Cano, Grupo J4 and countless others have joined the tribe. Even streaming platforms like SoundCloud and Spotify have embraced the trend in popular playlists such as Bien Relax and Corridos Verdes.
Just as T3R Elemento have pushed the iconoclastic scene to the fore, their soaring and more traditional románticas are equally as enticing. “Antes y Después de Tí” and “Algo Sin Igual” match hearts with Banda MS’s unrequited love confessions and Fidel Rueda’s cheek-to-cheek romancers. Nava narrates bittersweet tales of love and loss, managing to induce whirling sensations of falling head over heels. The feeling amplifies through their sweeping string and accordion melodies that are capable of pulling at your heartstrings.
Although the six-piece are relative newcomers in the game of 21st Century corridos, they have already amassed hundreds of millions of streams across their online music channels in just a few years. The swirling “En Boca de Todos,” the first single of Buenas Vibras which pays homage to their humble beginnings, entered the Billboard Top 40, and its accompanying video has clocked in at nearly 20 million views since its October release.
Taking stylistic cues from Gerardo Ortiz and Regulo Caro, the band gained inspiration from the alt-norteño wave that first appeared in the early aughts — a scene that Remezcla detailed extensively in 2012’s “The Coming of Alt Norteño.” In the mid-Aughts, Elemento started performing in the high-school party circuit, when Nava was only 15 years old. He got his start singing at the age of five, when his pops invited him to tag along with his conjunto band.
The narcocorrido of “Rafael Caro Quintero” became the group’s first big hit, about a drug lord who co-founded the now-defunct Guadalajara cartel. The darker counterpoint to corridos, the style spawned along the US-Mexico border in the early 20th Century, and it resurfaced in the wake of Mexico’s war on drugs during the mid-Aughts. Although the band began to embrace that format, the musicians gracefully genre-hop between Northern Mexican art forms, from the sierreño sounds of Sinaloa to polka-styled banda to baladas románticas and a cluster of corrido configurations.
In 2018, T3R Elemento signed with DEL Records, the Los Angeles-based regional Mexican music label that is home to their musical heroes Gerardo Ortiz, Luis Coronel, and Regulo Caro. It’s also the same year they broke out internationally.
Aside from their genre-hopping prowess, the band’s growing popularity is largely due to several standout traits. For one, all five members hail from different parts of Mexico like Chihuahua, Sinaloa, and Guanajuato, which adds to their rich genre diversity within regional Mexican music. There’s also a Cuban musician, and their frontman is a Mexican-American urban kid whose first language is English. Moreover, Nava sings with an accent that is familiar to fellow first/second/third-generation Mexicans, adding relatability a fresher crowd, and a newfound sound for long-time followers of the genre. When performing live, band members usually rock trap hoodies and baseball caps as well as traditional banda outfits; a few of them sport tattoos, adding to their appeal.
With Buenas Vibras, Northern Mexican folklore and Chicano culture collide, an invigorating sound that resonates with the US Latinx diaspora and beyond. They even feature a fuzzy electric guitar on the vibrant folk of “Calibrando Energías.” Whether they are honoring the roots of their forebears, celebrating the traditions of their heritage, and globalizing the sound of Mexican-American biculturalism, T3R Elemento are killing the game, hands down.
Stream ‘Buenas Vibras Good Vibes’ here: