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World Music Features

Web Exclusive: Calle 13 Q&A

By Phil Freeman
Published October 9, 2008

GR's Phil Freeman catches up with Residente.

Calle 13 started out as the court jesters of Latin music, throwing witty social satire atop reggaeton and hip-hop beats. But on their second album, 2006’s Residente o Visitante, they exhibited a political consciousness as sharp as their black humor, as well as an expanded sonic palette that incorporated music from all around the Latin world. On their brand-new third release, Los de Atrás Vienen Conmigo (The Ones Left Behind Are Coming With Me), rapper Residente and multi-instrumentalist/producer Visitante venture even farther afield, exploring sounds from Dixieland jazz to the Balkan chaos of Emir Kusturica. We spoke to Residente on the eve of the album’s release, and a New York concert with Mexican electro-funksters Kinky.


What are the songs “Que Lloren” about?

Well, I think it’s not the best song on the album, but I don’t know, some people like it. I’m criticizing some of the reggaeton artists who try not to give us space in the urban community. I think there is a misunderstanding about the words ‘urban music.’ I’m explaining in that song what is urban music for me.


Are you perceived as art school kids playing around with reggaeton?

No, but – they see us as crazy people, making alternative whatever. They don’t know what we are doing. I don’t think they see us as art school kids making urban music. They know that we are for real, and they know that we have good lyrics the thing is that some of them criticize us because they don’t understand some of the things we’re doing. That’s what I’m talking about in the song.


If you’re seen as weirdos, working on a track with Café Tacvba probably isn’t gonna help.

Yeah, well, it depends on the people, you know, and how – if you know about music, you know that Café Tacvba is one of the greatest bands, if not the greatest band in Latin rock music. So the thing is, maybe they don’t know about Café Tacvba. Not every one of the reggaetoneros maybe some of them do.


Didn’t you record a collaboration with Juanes for this album, also?

Yeah, but right now it’s not on the album because of problems with the record label. So I have Café Tacvba and I have Ruben Blades. I still have the song with Juanes, but my little sister is singing [his part]. She’s got a great voice.