Hero worshipping can take away our own feelings of responsibility or personal worth, so it’s important never to place others up on a pedestal as if they were some sort of untouchable. All humans are fallible, though degrees of fallibility vary from person to person.
Nonetheless, I felt I had to write something as a tribute to the hip-hop group Calle 13. The Puerto Rican band that broke onto the music scene with such cheeky reggaeton hits as Atrévete and Suave has proved to be of great importance for both Latin American and world music.
Musically, they brought the streets of Puerto Rico to Latin and world music in a way that hadn’t been done before. Over the course of their albums, they have mixed hip-hop with tango, cumbia, merengue, afrobeat, rock, and several other styles. They do not stick to one musical mould, and for that reason they are both loved and hated. While there are songs that are musically much stronger than others, one has to appreciate the versatility, originality, and variety present within their music.
Lyrically, René “Residente” Pérez is a true wordsmith – irreverent, playful, honest, and critical. While on occasions the theme of a song is purely boastful, romantic, or sexual – perhaps one of the reasons for the group’s significant commercial success and official recognition – a large part of Residente’s lyrics include cutting social and cultural commentaries. These include attacks on many different elements of the evil and injustice that pervade in the world today. His words are also calls for unity and resistance.
As I said to begin with, NO-ONE should be free from criticism, but I feel it is important to emphasise how much the world has benefitted from the presence of Calle 13.
If used correctly, music can be a powerful tool for educating, inspiring, organising and unifying, and, on numerous occasions, Calle 13 has shown itself to be one of the most revolutionary popular musical groups in the world. For this reason, I think people should be aware of their existence – whether they speak Spanish or not – and I am going to share and analyse lyrics from some of the group’s tracks as a tribute.