Up and coming regional Mexican artist Gerardo Ortiz, known for his narcocorridos that chronicle Mexico's drug wars, debuts at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart barely two weeks after surviving an ambush attempt in Mexico that left his cousin and business manager dead.
Days before the release of his third album, "Morir y Existir" (To Die and Exist) (Del Records/Sony), and moments after Ortiz finished a performance in Colima, Mexico, on March 20, gunmen ambushed his vehicle, killing Ortiz's business manager and cousin Ramiro Caro and their driver Abel Valle Rosales. Local law enforcement officials have made no arrests and have no motive for the attack.
"There is speculation that this might have happened because of the type of music these artists are singing," says Omar Medina Verduzco, director of communications for the Colima state attorney general's office. "But our job is to investigate and find the truth behind these crimes."
Video: Gerardo Ortiz, "Ni Hoy Ni Mañana"
The incident is a tragic example of the risks that regional Mexican artists take when they perform narcocorridos, which critics say romanticize Mexican drug culture.
Like many other artists, Ortiz hasn't shied away from embracing imagery associated with the drug trade. The home page of his official website features his band wearing black ski masks, while Ortiz leans against a black sports car holding a semi-automatic pistol. The cover of his 2010 album "Ni Hoy Ni Mañana" featured Ortiz's last name spelled with a grenade taking the place of the "O."
"Narcocorridos have been around for a long time," says independent music promoter Miguel Torres, who has worked with many regional Mexican artists. "But now these songs present a new kind of dangerous element that can lead to major consequences."
Signed to Sony Music Latin-distributed DEL Records in Downey, Calif., Ortiz has been enjoying a breakout year. At the end of March, his single "La Ultima Sombra" peaked at No. 8 on Billboard's Regional Mexican Airplay chart, while "Ni Hoy Ni Mañana" peaked last June at No. 3 on the Regional Mexican Albums chart.
A staffer at DEL Records says that Ortiz is grieving Caro's death and isn't yet making comments about the attack or the new album.
"Morir y Existir" easily took over the top of the Latin Albums chart, with an almost 3,000 unit lead over No. 2 Prince Royce (Top Stop/Sony).â€¨â€¨ Royce, who's had one of the most extraordinary showings by a new artist in recent memory, saw his self-titled debut go 4-2. The album had peaked at No. 2 and returns to that rank this week for its third week on the spot. It has been on the top five for 27 weeks.
Gloria Trevi, who debuted with "Gloria!" (Universal) at No. 1 last week drops to No. 4 while Christian Castro remains entrenched at No. 3; Castro hasn't budged from the Top 5 in the 18 weeks since his album "Viva el Príncipe" (Universal) was released last December. The album was No. 1 for seven weeks.
On the Hot Latin Songs chart, Maná's "Lluvia al Corazón" notched its third week at No. 1, while Prince Royce's "Corazón Sin Cara" remains at No. 2. The track was previously No. 1 for two weeks.