Meet Mexican Rapper C-Kan

Courtesy Photo

Social media sensation C-Kan has never performed in the United States, but his flow, and his popularity, can be witnessed tonight on Tidal.

C-Kan is a rapper whose stage name was inspired by his love of dangerous dogs. But the urban artist and Mexican social media sensation, whose YouTube popularity tops a total of 1 billion views, is really more shepherd than pit bull.

“Kids make up most of my audience and I want to give them messages so they can survive and achieve what they want,” says C-Kan, on the phone with Billboard from his native Guadalajara. “We talk about real things: the barrio is very important, and it’s important to talk about what you live. If I talk about violence, it’s because it exists, it’s not that we created it. It’s the fault of poverty and the lack of education. The young people identify with that in my songs.”

C-Kan has never performed in the United States, but his flow, and his popularity, can be witnessed tonight (Oct. 29) on Tidal. The music service will live stream C-Kan’s performance at the popular Fiestas De Octubre fall festival in Guadalajara. Anyone, not just Tidal subscribers, will be able to access the concert online at 10 p.m. ET. The live web cast is part of an ongoing push from Tidal for the Mexican hip-hop artist, who has also been the subject of a series of mini-documentaries on the service, part of a multiple-genre franchise called “Where I’m From.”

“His social media numbers were staggering,” Tim Riley, Tidal’s VP of Artist and Label Relations, says of choosing C-Kan as one of Tidal’s “rising” artists. That happened, not surprisingly, after Riley saw his YouTube videos, which typically have between 20 and 30 million views each. 

“He has such a strong Mexican fan base,” Riley says. “The response has been amazing, extremely positive.”  

According to figures from Tidal, C-Kan tracks had been streamed about 10,000 times before the “Where I’m From” videos, in which C-Kan tours his neighborhood and talks about his music in Spanish with English subtitles, premiered. The 67 songs by the artist in the service are now nearing 4.6 million plays, according to Tidal. Nineteen documentary and music videos on Tidal have been viewed almost 4 million times.

While other Latin artists could have been a more obvious choice for the promotional treatment, C-Kan could have been smart one for reaching Mexican millennials, both in Mexico and the U.S. C-Kan is part of a Latin strategy at Tidal that is just starting to emerge. He is the only Mexican artist besides the popular Regional Mexican artist Julion Alvarez, who was named a Tidal "partner" and "influencer," to receive extensive promotion from Tidal since it debuted in Mexico in August, coming after the splashy U.S. launch of the “artist-owned” music service in March. Tidal made its first big play with the Latin audience with a live-streamed a concert by reggaeton star Yandel in September.

Earlier this month, Tidal celebrated its one-million subscriber mark with a concert at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. C-Kan, who says he is working on unraveling some red tape around his passport application that has kept him from leaving Mexico, did not appear. Tonight’s streamed concert could expose him to new audiences for the first time.

For C-Kan, the recognition from Tidal is a continuation of the unexpected success the Internet has brought him and other Mexican rap artists, particularly the attention -- and revenue -- that have come from YouTube, which brought him this attention from Tidal. He acknowledges that without YouTube, he might not have gotten further than the streets of his own barrio.

“Here we don’t even have a radio station for urban music,” C-Kan says. “We don’t have TV that shows urban music artists. Now people are realizing that we have a following. We have millions of views. Now, even the major labels are looking for urban artists in Mexico.”