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These two collaborating on a full album is as big a deal for world music and urbano as Taylor and Ariana teaming up would be for domestic pop. Separately, J Balvin and Bad Bunny — respectively, Colombia’s global ambassador of reggaeton and Puerto Rico’s leader of Latin trap — have remade the future of Caribbean culture and Spanish-language hip-hop in their image and, more importantly their heritage. If there is a revolution to be had in the new crossover market, these men have done so by sticking to their guns, and mining their countries’ sonic and social riches, not America’s, for gold. Rather than offer caucasian audiences lyrical signposts to what they’re thinking, Balvin and Bunny make you come to them, with only a shared sense of explosive, downright experimental musicality and almost brutally propulsive rhythm. Several generations of Iglesiases couldn’t do as much.
Both inspired as much by salsa crooner Hector Lavoe as they were reggaeton king Daddy Yankee (Balvin more the former, Bunny, the latter), each man comes at his individual tone, audaciously and uniquely. Balvin has peeled away layers of reggaeton’s usual misogyny for a sound as compassionate and vulnerable as it is passionate. Rather than barking his stark lyrics, Bunny has a drawling conversational tone to his raps in league with U.S. trap-hop’s finest.
Besides, it’s not as if these gentleman haven’t teamed together in the past. From Cardi B’s “I Like It” to Jhay Cortez’s “No Me Conoce,” Balvin and Bunny are well acquainted with each other’s ways and means, to say nothing of the top of the charts.
But to have these two collaborate on a full eight-song album of their own (with but two notable guests, Nigerian vocalist Mr. Eazi and Marciano Cantero from Argentina’s Enanitos Verde) is as crucial to the currency of world music, global pop and urbano as having Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande team up would be for American pop. Though Latin music’s history is rife with big-name collabs (e.g. Ray Barretto and Ruben Blades), nothing as such has occurred between two mod, NuLatin superstars until “Oasis.”
For this historic teaming — produced in part by two of Latinidad’s top knob-twiddlers, Sky and Tainy — Balvin and Bunny have recorded a handful of subtly memorably melodic songs (no grand anthems, here) with casually zesty grooves, humid atmospheres, intricately complex arrangements and lyrics that do their best to unite all Latin markets and moods while entertaining their devotees. Neither man is trying to do outdo the other here, though each man does his swarthy finest (Bunny’s sensualist lounge hound on “La Cancion,” Balvin’s sensitive emotionalist on “Que Pretend”) to impress his new bestie.
|A2||Yo Le Llego||4:09|
|A3||Cuidao Por AhÍ||3:18|
|B4||Como un Bebé||3:38|
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