Reggaeton and electronic music have a long history. 2021 relaunched it.
It takes guts to push the boundaries of reggaeton, a street sound a little over three decades old powered by its signature dembow beat, a two bar loop from Jamaican dancehall. Maybe a dizzying breakbeat is coming from the drums and bass, like on “¿Cuándo Fue? By Tainy and Rauw Alejandro. Or maybe there’s a strategically deployed ground foursome, a house music staple, like on Farruko’s “Pas. “
In 2021, producers and performers across the reggaeton landscape twisted the genre in electronic directions, making reggaeton in 4K, super-bright sound for bottle-service nightclubs and razor-sharp stilettos and stilettos. festival-goers dressed in neon lights. At times, they’ve even immersed themselves completely in the contours of dance and synth pop, completely bypassing the building blocks of reggaeton.
For some, the idea that electronic music and reggaeton can inhabit the same space is unimaginable. Reggaeton has been shaped by myths that condition how it is viewed by a wider audience: the idea, for example, that it is only allowed to function in certain scenes, or that it is just vulgar party music. But for years now, underground, reggaeton has interfaced with left-field club styles of music, reminding listeners of its infinity.
In today’s queer immigrant nightlife, the grainy textures of hardstyle, grime and techno often rub against the architecture of reggaeton sound and feel. It is black music born in the diaspora, a soundtrack of pleasure and protest that has always carried the promise of subversion. The rave-reggaeton sounds of the present just cause us to take a closer look, reminding us of an ability that has always been there.
This year brought a flood of EDM-reggaeton fusions: “Pepas” collected remixes from festival behemoths like David Guetta, Tiësto and Robin Schulz, and peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. “J Balvin and Skrillex”In the ghettoSample the eponymous 1993 house track by David Morales and the Bad Yard Club with Delta. Jhay Cortez released “Tokyo” as well as “In Mi Cuarto, Which was produced by heavy hitter EDM Skrillex.
And then there’s Rauw Alejandro, the Puerto Rican singer who released his second studio album in 2021. On “Vice Versa”, at least four tracks incorporate elements of dance, disco and house. The decision of producer Tainy to break through “¿Cuándo Fue? With a shattering break in the jungle will go down as one of the most disturbing moments in Spanish music this year.
This is not the first time that reggaeton and electronic music have crossed paths. On a video call from Puerto Rico, veteran reggaeton producer DJ Nelson said he had been “fascinated by house cassettes – Chicago house, New York house” since the age of 12. Around 1988, he started producing and left the island for New York, where he researched the addresses of various labels on vinyl records, depositing copies of his demo in their offices. Eventually, he landed a single with the influential house label Strictly Rhythm.
Nelson returned to Puerto Rico in the early 90s and ended up pursuing a life in the movement that would become reggaeton. But he kept electronic music close to his heart, both as a producer and a club DJ. In 1997, he teamed up with artist Alberto Stylee to turn Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” into a proto-reggaeton (or “underground”) track called “Vengo Acabando. “In 2000 he released a mixtape with DJ Goldy called” Xtassy Reggae “, which combined house and dance-pop hits – like” In De Ghetto “and Mousse T., Hot ‘n’ Juicy and” Horny ’98 ” Inaya Day – and affixed them to reggaeton and dancehall models.
With the advent of production software like Fruity Loops, an arsenal of plugins and presets became available to reggaeton producers. Others began to incorporate these electronic elements into reggaeton, such as DJ Blass, who released a pivotal mixtape series called “Reggaeton Sex” at the turn of the millennium.
But it wasn’t until the late 2000s that these compounds began to take off commercially. Katelina Eccleston, founder of the history platform Reggaeton Con la Gata, said the period between 2007 and 2011 heralded the sound of “perreo galáctico,” or perreo galactic. It was reggaeton decked out in cybernetic synths and digital metallic excess: “Chica Virtual” by Arcángel (produced by Nelson) and “Pa ‘Que La Pases Bien” (produced by Tainy), or even “Permítame” by Tony Dize and Yandel, also from Tainy.
Tainy, a reggaeton prodigy who started making beats at the age of 14, was particularly drawn to producers like the Neptunes and Timbaland, who incorporated electronic flourishes into their tracks for pop and rap stars. . “If they could do it and they’re from the hip-hop scene, maybe I could do the same in my scene,” he said of his state of mind during a video call from Miami. “It was a risk, because no one was using these items,” he added, referring to kicks, traps, rimshots and hi-hat. He ended up bringing this recipe to songs like “Permítame” as well as major hits, like “Abusadora” by Wisin y Yandel, which won a Latin Grammy in 2009.
“The unique ‘perreo galáctico’ sounds were versatile and engaging enough that audiences, especially those coming from this music’s roots, would support him,” Eccleston wrote in an email. “He wore the essences of the current perreo,” she explained, “while being” futuristic enough “to appeal to the masses.”
At the same time, a new sound seeped into the basement. In 2009, the DJ-producer Dave Nada invented the famous the moombahton genre when he slowed down a Dutch house remix of Silvio Ecomo and Chuckie’s “Moombah” to 108 beats per minute, hoping to please a house party full of reggaeton fans. Over the following years, the sound was reused in a variety of new contexts, alongside cumbia, carioca funk, and other styles. These mergers have consolidated under the catch-all “bass global” label.
“Perreo galáctico” waned in popularity around 2011. But a few years later, around 2015, colossal EDM artists like Major Lazer and Skrillex began to recruit superstars like J Balvin for collaborations. “Everyone in electronic music started doing reggaeton,” Nelson said. “Steve Aoki started doing reggaeton. Diplo, Mad Decent, the whole world. The veteran sees it as a continuation of his first revolutionary achievements. “I like the idea that this happened, because these are my roots.”
As journalist Suzy Exposito noted in a recent report in the Los Angeles Times, “Now the majority of the most popular Latin songs aren’t just by reggaeton artists – they’re EDM fusions. Reggaeton has become a new playing field for the profit and experimentation of the world’s greatest DJs.
Champions might say it’s a boon to the movement, further proof of the genre’s longevity. But as history tells us, the biggest faces in pop music – and the industry as a whole – have a reputation for choosing sounds from southern countries, only to ditch or dilute them later.
And yet, these kinds of evolutions can also help produce alternate worlds. “As the mainstream focuses on actual pop, this gives the underground the opportunity to find common ground, potentially opening the door to the possibility of a second wave of perreo galáctico,” Eccleston said. .
In these more clandestine spaces, I hear flashes of insurrection, a way of rejecting the fictions on which we feed on reggaeton. This genre is in constant transit, and its collisions with electronic music are but reminders of the fluid past and present of movement – and its countless possibilities for the future. “It’s something that I really appreciate from this new generation doing these types of tracks,” Tainy said. “It’s adding fuel to the fire, being able to draw new inspiration and explore how we can continue to evolve. “