Tego Calderón is known and loved for his politically correct, 'alternative' reggaeton, often injected with traditional latin music elements. Though he kinda missed the big reggaeton hype, he is still regarded as one of the three strongholds of the genre (along with Daddy Yankee and Don Omar). The Underdog/El Subestimado is his major label debut, so you might expect a more mainstream gangsta sound instead of his typical fusion style. Luckily, that's not the case - Tego even dropped all of his bling bling after visiting a diamond mine in Sierra Leone. No diamonds, a seventies afro, sunglasses two sizes too big.. you wouldn't say this guy just made the only good reggaeton album ever recorded.
The Underdog is the new sound of the latin urban genre, a sound that blends Afro-Carribean influences with some of the hottest beats around. It's hip hop and reggaeton with soul and fuego. Production is near-perfect, everything sounds crystal-clear and basses dig deep. Tego proves himself as the master lyricist, pouring explosive raps on politics, racial issues and personal emotions.
Some examples of the innovating fusion that mark the album. Mardi Gras is what reggaeton would sound like in New Orleans, with a blues guitar backing Tego's raging raps. Llora, Llora is a salsatón duet with Venezolan master Oscar D'León, and (unlike previous salsa-reggaeton collaborations) it's a perfect symbiosis of latin rhythms. Llevatelo Todo is a sunny hip hop song influenced by traditional Puertorican bomba. Don Omar joins in on Chillin', where reggae organs and steel drums take you to a Kingston slum. And Los Maté features a sample of an old mariachi song, pitched up to a slightly irritating speed (too bad this song was chosen to be the first single - watch the video here).
Tego sees himself more as a hiphop artist, but I must disagree. The hiphop cuts on the album lack variety. His smooth flows are best accompanied by a heavy reggaeton beat. Cuando Baila Reggaeton (featuring Yandel) is a certain floorfiller, albeit lacking the specific Tego touch. When the beat kicks in on Extremidades it will make all your extremities randomly shake. Fuego!
The album boasts a few big suprises, mostly related to Tego's emotional side. Chango Blanco is a risky cover: a pure salsa song, talking about racial difficulties and black pride. A succesful experiment if you ask me. Bureo, Bureo is delightfully funky, a bit too short though. O Dios (Odios?) and A Mi Papa are both emotional songs, with Tego respectively rapping about the frustrations of shared custody, and his recently deceased father.
So unlike others, who call themselves King of Kings and release mediocre albums, Tego achieved -in all his modesty- the true mastership over latin urban music with this essential record. Hopefully The Underdog will do for Tego Calderón what A Lo Cubano did for Orishas - give him worldwide exposure and critical acclaim.
Tego Calderón ft. Oscar D'León - Llora, Llora
Tego Calderón ft. Don Omar - Chillin'
mp3 video lyrics buy@iTunes
Tego Calderón - Llévatelo Todo