El Compa Chuy

Here's a radio-friendly twist on narcocorridos, the popular regional Mexican songs that narrate stories of the drug trade: instead of the song ending in a hail of bullets, it's focused on the party.

Sony Music's El Compa Chuy has been a solo artist for a couple of years, but just debuted on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart at No. 43 with "El Katch," which climbs to No. 31 this week. The song's title is a nickname for a guy in Mazatlan, Sinaloa who likes Armani and Dolce & Gabbana, has his pockets stuffed with dollars and drinks Buchanan's whiskey. (A shout-out to the latter is the regional Mexican equivalent of a Hennessy or Courvoisier reference in hip-hop).

How "El Katch" came to enjoy these brands isn't directly addressed in the song, but there's an oblique threat not to mess with him, "even though I don't like violence." El Compa Chuy (aka Jesus Rodriguez) didn't write "El Katch" (it's a cover of a song by singer-songwriter Alfredo Rios), but Rodriguez says he liked the lyrics immediately upon hearing them. In Sinaloa, Rodriguez' home state -- where income from the drug trade has driven demand for flashy accoutrements --"people try to walk around in style all the time," says the singer. "We try as a group to do things that everyone can understand, that are not very complicated, that [listeners] don't have to be paying 100 percent attention to in order to understand." El Compa Chuy's style is marked by his flat voice and a raw, unpolished mix of accordion, tuba and guitar that makes all his recordings sound as if they were recorded live in a cantina.

"You have to make music for the public. Making music for musicians is something we're not focused on," says Rodriguez. "A lot of people tell me, 'hey, I heard you performing a song on the radio.' And I say, 'no we weren't there.' And they'll think that we were singing live during an interview.
That's what it's all about."

Rodriguez' newest album, "El Niño De Oro," is out Mar. 24. He is scheduled to play "Invasion del Corrido II," the second installment of Los Angeles' new-generation corrido concert at the Gibson Amphitheatre, on April 4.