Back in 2012 in Buenos Aires, Neo Pistea (real name: Sebastián Chinellato) recalls continuously listening to Wiz Khalifa and Young Thug, almost like an obsession. “Trap in the United States had already stuck with ‘Black and Yellow,’ and here, we were still listening to the Wachiturros,” he described to Billboard Argentina.
Today, his career — especially after the explosion of “Tumbando El Club (remix),” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Argentina Hot 100 — is very healthy. Signed by Sony Music Argentina, he was then scheduled to tour Spain and Mexico.
At the same time, the pioneer of Argentinean trap is preparing his first LP, working with different producers on the scene: 0600, Oro Dembow, Lil Coca, the Neuen (Oniria, Yesan and Ferflame), Halpe and Dimeloasan, among others. “It’s good to make room for more people,” he shared. “It comes with many variants and many ideas of mine. I’m going back to producing.”
It’s a wish that goes back to his beginnings in 2012. With a computer from a government plan and a home microphone that “we bought between many of the guys,” Neo produced his first songs. But, he also recorded all of his friends. Among them, characters like Coqeein Montana and Obiwanshot, whom Neo included in the remix of “Tumbando El Club,” the anthem of the Argentine trap scene that also gathers Duki, Ysy, C.R.O., Cazzu, Khea, Marcianos Crew and Lucho SSJ.
“I recorded everything with Cubase and edited the singles’ photos on an online page. At that time, I started moving with the Garbage Crew, which was something like the Argentinean Wu-Tang.” For the uninitiated, Wu-Tang Clan was a collective of rappers born in the early ’90s in Staten Island, New York, with artists such as GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Ghostface Killah.
Little by little, Neo’s trap became professional. In 2015, he founded KMD Label with Mike Southside, Coqeein and Negro Zanto, and they started recording in a studio in Palermo, where Pistea produced Codeína Mix Tape 2, a crude and dismal story of his life back then, and which now can only be found on YouTube.
The following year, he recorded “Elvira” with producer 808GOD, a song that was key in making trap popular in Argentina. It not only went to count over 100k plays on YouTube on 2016 (a number almost unattainable in those days), but also bridged Neo and the prominent stars of El Quinto Escalon: Ysy A, its creator, and Duki, composer of “No Vendo Trap,” “Rockstar” and most recently “Hitboy” and “Sin Culpa.”
“Trappers here were hated by rappers. We were everything that was wrong, what was not to be done. That a rapper from the boom-bap school, who listened to Cypress Hill, would listen to Wiz Khalifa or A$AP Rocky,” he explained. “Rap is a message; it’s not the golden chains and the parties. Rap is a protest: Nach Scratch, SFDK.”
“The freestyle world always treated us like scum, the only thing that would change that was when some freestylers began living trap.”
On the one hand, Ysy A and Duki crossed paths with Neo Pistea and founded the trio #ModoDiablo, responsible for the songs “Xanax,” “Quavo” and “Trap N Export.” That they both saw this at the same time was key. Duko and Ysy already had an audience for freestyle, it was just a matter of them liking it, because the talent was already there. So far, trap in Argentina could not leave the underground, and although it was a while longer, this union made it take flight.
“There was not much trap in Spanish, it was us and in Spain, the PXXR GVNG,” Neo shared. “I’ve been friends with them for years. When they came to play, I sang with them.”
On the other hand, in 2016, given the boom generated by “Elvira,” Franco Ferrari from I Need Sponsors (INS) invited Neo to the studio. It was a pivotal moment in the production of his tracks. “I’m super grateful to the INS guys for the hand they gave me. I was introduced to the producer 0600, and when I heard what he was doing, I thought: ‘It cannot be; this is what I want.’ I used to listen to Young Thug every day, and to my mind, nobody can top it.”
Neo wanted to do something in his style without it being a typical beat, and he could not pay a producer for that. With 0600, he went further still. In their first session together, the duo recorded “Medusa.” “I can tell you and still get goosebumps,” he says.
As a leader of a scene that put Argentina back on the Latin music map, Neo explains what trap is: “I do not reduce the trap to a musical genre. I can do trap above a Chacarera (Argentine folk dance). For me, trap is a way of living, a culture.” Then, he pauses to reformulate his answer: “I would have to show it to you so that you really understand it.”