The dreadlocked ice cream man slid the CD across the counter. “Here,” he said. “To practice your Puerto Rican slang.”
I don’t usually discover new bands over cones of coffee Oreo, but I’ve been listening to Calle 13 since I left San Juan six years ago. The Puerto Rican stepbrother team of vocalist Residente (René Pérez Joglar) and producer Visitante (Eduardo José Cabra Martínez)—with a regular assist from Residente’s little sis (under the name PG-13)—takes reggaeton from its culo y gasolina staples and applies it to politics, poverty and police brutality, often with a searing, sarcastic edge. And while the signature “dem bow” beat plays underneath much of their music, Calle 13 has been taking to the stage with a crew of 11 on this tour, blending its music with elements of salsa, cumbia and hip-hop. Understand the lyrics and you’re in for a crash course in Latin American culture; if you don’t, it’ll still be one hell of a party.