Calle 13 cofounder MC Residente explores his bloodlines with diverse styles on his stirring solo debut | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Calle 13 cofounder MC Residente explores his bloodlines with diverse styles on his stirring solo debut


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Three years ago wildly imaginative producer and MC Residente (aka René Pérez) disbanded Calle 13, the shape-shifting hip-hop and reggaeton project he started with his stepbrother Eduardo José Cabra Martínez (aka Visitante) in 2004 in their native Puerto Rico. That project catapulted the duo to global fame, and it gave Residente the resources to pursue his vision for self-titled 2017 solo debut—a musical investigation of his ethnic roots inspired and fueled by the results of a DNA test. To create the album, he traveled the planet, working and recording with musicians and producers from China, Ghana, the Caucasus, and Burkina Faso along his way. Upon first listen I was repeatedly surprised to hear such a staunch exponent of urban Latino music giving Tuvan musicians like Mongun-ool Ondar (of Chirgilchin) and Chinese opera singer Pan Xiaojia such prominent roles, replete with melodies shaped on traditional instruments from each region. But Residente couches all of that style hopping within his own banging beats and Spanish-language rhymes, and the music ultimately coheres. While I wish the interaction and engagement with his diverse guests sounded more interactive, as it does on “Dagombas em Tamale”—a pounding collision of Caribbean rhythms with those from Ghana, played by the Tahma Cultural Troupe—Residente has still pulled off the project with impressive skill. The album bubbles with his curiosity, and each song has lyrics that touch on themes and subjects that dominate life in a particular region, such as the endless fighting in Chechnya on “Guerra,” and the realities of climate change in China on “Una Leyenda China.”   v

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