President Obama has danced salsa with flirty Mexican pop singer Thalia and hosted Latin stars including Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan and Aventura at the White House. But none of those artists made his summer playlist on Spotify, which has just two Latin tracks: “Tengo un Trato” by Spanish rapper Mala Rodriguez and “La Salsa La Traigo Yo” from Colombian salsa band La Sonora Carruseles.
Obama’s unexpected choices show that he’s a badass — at least as far as his taste in Latin music is concerned.
Rodriguez’s “Tengo un Trato” is from the Andalusian MC’s raw (and arguably best) album, 2003’s La Niña Amor y Respeto, and it’s the track that brought her the attention that would lead to a following among Spanish-language hip-hop music fans and, eventually, to a major-label contract.
La Mala was born in Jerez de la Frontera, the city known as the cradle of flamenco, and her music has naturally underscored the ties between rap and flamenco, both rhythmic urban forms with roots on the street. The Obama playlist pick is the remix version of “Tengo un Trato,” which has her rapping over some flamenco guitar chords and handclapping, and includes her own raspy flamenco-tinged singing.
While Rodriguez may seem like an unlikely choice for an artist Obama would be drawn to, or even know about, they actually have a point of view in common: Both use their voices to speak out for the underdog. While Rodriguez is not known for being diplomatic — and straight-spoken songs like “La Niña,” about a young female drug dealer, have been controversial — her rhymes are inspirational at their core.
While we hope Obama would never take the lyrics literally — “Tengo un trato, lo mio para mi saco” (“I have a deal, what’s mine goes in my pocket”) — the empowering message of “Tengo un Trato” is on point for the Prez. We can imagine him cranking this up while preparing to address his opponents in Congress.
Obama has been captured on video dancing salsa more than once, most virally when he took a turn on the floor with Thalia, a coupling that seemed to annoy Michelle Obama, who was not invited to join that dance. While the president’s Latin dance skills have been noted with approval by his Latino constituents, the addition of the La Sonora Carruseles song to the playlist suggests that his salsa steps are more than just political moves.
La Sonora Carruseles is a long-standing band from Medellín that performs hard salsa, the more aggressive and improvisational style of the music popularized by New York’s Fania All Stars. Obama picked “La Salsa La Traigo Yo” for his 2015 summer “day” playlist. We don’t know where he first heard the song, but maybe he’s been a fan of the band’s music for a while. After all, Sonora Carruseles’ biggest hit is called “Micaela.”