NeoPerreo Rising: How a Sub-Genre of Reggaeton Is Taking a New Generation Into a Different Kind of Beat

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Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool
Tomasa Del Real poses for a portrait at Red Bull Music Presents Neoperreo in Los Angeles on Aug. 25, 2018. 

As Latin urban music connects to a global streaming audience, NeoPerreo emerges as an anchor to a young, digitally-empowered demographic embracing new acts, music and a rainbow of diverse fans.

On a recent Saturday, around midnight, a line of men and women waited to enter a warehouse in downtown L.A.'s Arts District for a night of NeoPerreo, presented by Red Bull Music. Inside, past a busy bar and photo station, a small stage flooded with fast-moving white lights featured the raps of the Argentinean-born Ms. Nina.

Known for her bright music videos such as "Traketeo," Ms. Nina's video begins at a fruit stand before showcasing a party of women—and one lipstick-wearing male—in revealing outfits and eating bananas. It may not be obvious at first, but this is part of a new musical movement to empower anyone who enters.

"NeoPerreo is a party for everyone," Ms. Nina tells Billboard a day before her performance. "It's about including everyone who loves Latin music and wants to feel the freedom of being themselves."

Later that same night, recording artist Tomasa del Real, from Chile, also performs. A key figure in the NeoPerreo movement, the tattoo artist-turned-rapper has been dubbed the "Queen of NeoPerreo,” a title she holds proudly as an emerging act who became a rapper after her mother bought her a laptop. Once she began making her favorite type of music, reggaeton, she never looked back.

"NeoPerreo is the cross between the digital era with the influence of reggaeton artists," said del Real, who earlier this year moved to L.A. to make music and be near her label Nacional Records. "We tend to come from the underground, but our music sounds just as good as the bigger names. Actually, we are just as good."

As the story goes, del Real came up with the term NeoPerreo during an interview in New York as a way to establish the reggaeton sub-genre, which offers an alternative “lifestyle” experience. Those who attended the L.A. event ranged from straight to gay and their attire ranged from colorful outfits a staple of jeans and T-shirts.

"NeoPerrero has a modern feel to it," del Real explained. "It started as a hashtag, then a party, then events and I think it's still growing as it moves forward."

The NeoPerreo scene may not be a phenomenon, but it does offer an alternative scene, which is appealing to many, including brands such as Red Bull Music, the sponsors of the recent L.A. showcase. Spotify, too, is getting in on the movement by featuring the sub-genre's acts through on their platforms, which includes a playlist.

Del Real and Ms. Nina credit leading acts such as Daddy Yankee, J Balvin and Natti Natasha, and dream of the day when they can work together on projects.

Eve as NeoPerreo is meant to unite people, it doesn't come without its share of critics. Some music fans on social media resist the idea and attempt to minimize the movement. At the L.A. show, a male fan of reggaeton applauded NeoPerrero, but had issues with the night's line-up not representing "reggaeton acts from the countries that originated the genre," said the music fan, who declined to provide his name.

When asked about backlash, del Real said that she's mostly seen the opposite and that the new music from NeoPerreo is the focus and sees the movement ready to go bigger.

Others call NeoPerreo a “rebalancing of the energy.” In the U.S., as traditional reggaeton thrives in Miami, L.A. seems a place for NeoPerreo to evolve and grow as artists such as del Real now reside here.

Beyond the U.S., Mexico City and Chile are seeing the embrace of NeoPerreo. Ulises Lozano, a member of the Mexican band Kinky, also performed at the recent L.A. show.  After having worked with del Real on one of her projects and also making music through the years with an emphasis on a digital process similar to NeoPerreo, the relatively new movement makes sense, he said.

"NeoPerreo is not just a band with music," Lozano said. "It's a global movement and it's happening all over. I like the idea that it's a collective and it's inclusive."

A Nielsen report based on U.S. findings recently found that technology has dramatically impacted the consumer experience especially for those in the Latinx community, who are re-shaping how technology and social media are navigated by younger music listeners. That speaks to artists such as del Real, Ms. Nina and others. 

"Artists like J Balvin and Bad Bunny have opened the doors," del Real said, and adds, "but I think the world is ready to receive us. We are ready."