At a time when Latin and non-Latin artists alike can’t seem to help but collaborate for one-off Spanish-language singles and overstuffed remixes, Trending Tropics truly stands out. Bringing together Eduardo Cabra Martínez, better known as Visitante of Puerto Rican hip-hop group Calle 13, and critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Vicente García, the duo devised a full-length that gleefully thumbs its nose at genre expectations while exploring exciting new sonic fusions. The album marks the former’s first release as a recording artist since the seemingly indefinite hiatus of his partnership with stepbrother Residente.
Even by Calle 13 standards this record is a strange one, albeit just as entertaining and perhaps even more provocative. Beyond the project’s clever pun of a name, Trending Tropics presents a high concept document of the social media age, with a cavalcade of guests joining in to give voice to its dual and, at times, dueling themes of technology and humanity. Among those accompanying the pair on this excursion are French-Chilean rapper-turned-singer Ana Tijoux, Dominican writer Frank Báez and the Superaquello side-project La Tortuga China. Not surprising given the assortment of artists, the results can vary wildly, from the mechanized electro balladry of “El Síntoma de (ún) Músico” to the thumping yet off kilter pop-rock of pre-release single “Cyber Monday.”
No stranger to diverse team-ups throughout his career thus far, Visitante previously worked with a wide range of talents during Calle 13’s active years, including alt-rockers Tom Morello and Omar Rodríguez-López, living legend Rubén Blades and even entities from outside of music like John Leguizamo and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. After García’s departure from the band Calor Urbano in 2010, his future Trending Tropics cohort produced his 2016 solo effort, which earned the Dominican artist a trio of Latin Grammys the following year, including the one for best new artist.
Here are five essential tracks from Trending Topics that are well worth checking out.
“El Futuro Ya Pasó”
Calle 13 fans will no doubt rejoice at this reunion of Visitante with erstwhile third member iLe, whose solo career made her a star in her own right, as they forge ahead into existential poetry and digital desperation.
A dancefloor scorcher with all the intensity and bleeps of a classic side-scrolling video game, veteran reggaetonero Wiso G raps at a breakneck pace to keep up with the relentlessly uptempo beat.
“Reasons to Fight”
Coming from reggae’s most famous dynasty, Ziggy Marley draws from that rootsy tradition of peace-seeking for this buzzing blend of electronic and organic instrumentation that offers a rhythmically militant touch despite its harmoniously pacifist message.
“La Muerte de la Muerte”
A protégé of Calle 13’s Residente, rapper PJ Sin Suela trades verses here with alternative up-and-comer Riccie Oriach over a gratifying dembow beat accented by electric guitar, disorienting samples and twinkling keys.
“Dandy del Congo”
Antibalas singer Amayo enters late in the game for a sartorially themed mash-up of African and Afro-Caribbean styles, giving patient listeners a relatively lighthearted reprieve from the album’s headier overall motif.