Their self-titled debut launched them as one of the smartest and most innovative acts in reggaeton. Merely 14 months later, Calle 13 is back with Residente o Visitante, the Puertorican rappers' sophomore album. We told you already how eagerly anticipated the release was, and now we can safely say: it was worth it.
Rapper Residente (René Perez) has found his style in clever, satirical lyrics, and they're the first thing you'll notice on the album. He will make you laugh with his witty wordplay, and even if you don't understand Spanish you must feel the playfulness of his texts. DJ Visitante (Eduardo Cabra) still provides the most innovative beats in latin urban music, experimenting with sounds from all across Latin America ("Tango del Pecado", "La Cumbia de los Aburridos"). But on this album, Calle 13 sounds more mature - sometimes they'll even move you ("Llegale a mi Guarida", "Beso de Desayuno") or incite you to start thinking ("Pal Norte", "Algo Con-Sentido", "La Era de la Copiaera").
Residente o Visitante has an impressive guest list: Tego Calderón (our other favorite reggaetonero) joins in on "Sin Exagerar", clearly having the time of his life while Residente makes fun of hiphop-style bragging:
Tengo cuatrocientos carros, cuatrocientas motoras
Un caballo que vuela a cien milas por hora
Tengo comprada a todas las emisoras
Y pa' lavar el dinero, treinta lavadoras
Yo consigo lo que sea
Mujeres con dos, tres, cuatro, cinco tetas
On "Llegale a mi Guarida", the characterful voice of Vincentico (former lead singer of ska band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs) gives the song a serene feel, like an indigenous ritual dance. A greasy rock riff spices things up a little. And "Pal Norte" features the distinctly Cuban voices of Orishas. It's a socially conscious song on migration, a key theme on the album - the title, Residente o Visitante, not only refers to the two half-brothers' pseudonyms, but also to the status of latino immigrants in the USA).
Language is another key issue on the album: you'll find both poetical ballads and shocking profanities. The "Intro", for example, starts by saying "We promise you no bad words on this record", followed by an endless litany of Spanish swearing, performed by a church choir. Excuse me if I find this hilarious - kinda reminds me of what Molotov used to do.
On the other hand, in "Mala Suerte con el 13", misplaced profanity gives a rancid taste to what could have been an intimate hiphop song with a great guest rapera (La Mala Rodriguez).
Both the religious and the language themes come back in bomb single "Tango del Pecado", but you've already read all about that song here ;)
About halfway through the album, Calle 13 changes the pace for some more mature and serious songs: aforementioned "Llegale a mi Guarida" is calm and hypnotizing, and on "Beso de Desayuno" Residente proves he can write a beautiful ballad with imaginative lyrics. Visitante puts a wicked bossa nova/drum 'n bass sample under it - and it magically works.
More wicked samples, courtesy of Visitante and Oscar-winning producer Gustavo Santaolalla: "Algo Con-Sentido" is a 50's ballad disguised as hiphop, and "La Era De La Copiaera" sounds like a video game gone crazy. Both songs share the same subject: there's too much copying and fakery in latin urban music these days. When Residente -literally gone mad- starts shooting everybody in sight, "Con-Sentido" ends with "Don't worry, this is fake - just like most reggaetoneros. OK?".
The absurdity does get irritating sometimes: "Uiyi Guaye" has a horrible chorus (though beatwise this is still prime material) and "El Avión Se Cae" is a bad B-side, at the most. But as a whole Residente o Visitante is even more impressive as their debut: Calle 13 have matured. Visitante confirms as a key innovator in latin urban music, Residente proves his splendid lyrical skill and sharp sense of humor. You'll discover some real gems ("Tango del Pecado", "Sin Exagerar", "Pal Norte", "La Crema"), but really the album needs to be savored as a whole to appreciate all the irony and deeper meanings. I wish Calle 13 a great future, and a dozen more Latin Grammy's.
Calle 13 ft. Orishas - Pal Norte
Calle 13 ft. Tego Calderon - Sin Exagerar