Tego Calderon has cultivated an image as the deep thinker and top lyricist of the reggaeton movement, a notion supported by his recent trip to Sierra Leone to film a documentary on the diamond mining

Tego Calderon has cultivated an image as the deep thinker and top lyricist of the reggaeton movement, a notion supported by his recent trip to Sierra Leone to film a documentary on the diamond mining business. Calderon returned a changed man, acutely aware of hardship and more determined than ever to lose his trademark bling.

The marketability of that image will be truly measured with this week's release of "El Subestimado/The Underdog." The album, arriving on Calderon's own Jiggiry label via a production and distribution deal with Atlantic, pairs his music with a marketing and promotional infrastructure far greater than has supported his music before.

But Calderon did not deliver exactly what Atlantic bargained for. "El Subestimado" is rich in rhythmic variety, ranging from straight-ahead reggaeton, salsa and Puerto Rican bomba to blues, reggae and funk. It is lyrically enticing and very rarely banal.

And, save for an occasional chorus, it is entirely in Spanish. "I have a hook in one song where I explain my position with the crossover," says Calderon, who is focused on Latin sounds. "I say, 'No, no, don't mess with the slo mo, you might not understand, but it's hot.' We purposefully had little English. Even though we had pressure from Atlantic to include Anglo artists, it wasn't what I wanted to bring, and they respected that."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print