The duo known as Raul y Mexia are the sons of Hernan Hernandez, vocalist/bassist of regional Mexican titans Los Tigres del Norte. That should be enough to perk up some ears.
But key to the advance appeal of their debut album, "Arriba y Lejos," out Feb. 19 on Nacional Records, is Antonio "Toy" Hernandez (no relation to Hernan), who steered the mashed-up pop, rap, Mexican roots and Latin dance sound of "Arriba y Lejos" and produced the majority of its 10 songs. The Mexican DJ and hip-hop pioneer (with the group Control Machete), who's also known as Toy Selectah, is the producer behind 3BallMTY's electro-roots smash "Intentalo," the top-selling album of 2012 on Billboard's Regional Mexican Albums chart and the third best-selling Latin album overall (64,000 sold that year, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and 82,000 sold in total).
"'Intentalo' showed people there was another side to Mexico," says 32-year-old Mexia, given name Hernan Hernandez Jr. "When it came out, I felt, 'Now is our time.'"
Mexia and his brother, 25-year-old Raul Antonio Hernandez, who are natives of San Jose, Calif., were surprised to find that major Latin labels didn't agree.
"They had other ideas," Mexia says dryly, recalling a trip to Miami to shop the first three tracks of the catchy mix of styles the brothers call cumbia "campechana" (a Mexican mixed-seafood cocktail) to the labels to no avail. They soon returned west and continued working with Selectah in Monterrey, Mexico.
"What I learned with the 3Ball experience is that it's not a matter of a trend; it's a matter of generations and lifestyles," Selectah says. "Kids are hungry for new stuff, and sometimes it's the gatekeepers who are not letting it happen. Everything is moving faster now than the traditional structures can understand."
At Selectah's suggestion, Raul y Mexia took their music to the North Hollywood offices of Nacional Records president Tomas Cookman, accompanied by their famous father. Cookman compares the visit by a member of Los Tigres to receiving Johnny Cash, and he quickly signed the duo.
"When I heard the music, my first thought was that it was something Sony or Universal would have jumped at," Cookman recalls. "My second thought was, I'm really happy they didn't."
Nacional has already placed different tracks from "Arriba y Lejos" with HBO Deportes, ESPN, the next edition of the "Grand Theft Auto" videogame and the soundtrack to "El Santos," the upcoming Carlos Cuaron film. The album, which was preceded by first single "Las Escondidas," will be released simultaneously in the United States and Latin America.
"This is a great Mexican-American pop record," Cookman says. "[Raul y Mexia] are the faces of a generation of Latinos who are very proud to show their roots, but they also live in the United States in 2013, and that means everything culturally. This album has legs, and we're planning on seeing how far those legs can run."