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Calle 13’s Evolution of Sound
By Kathy Iandoli
In 2004, the Latin urban music world received an unexpected jolt of energy when reggaeton rose to the forefront. Artists like Daddy Yankee and Tego Calderon slowly crept into the American hip-hop landscape, achieving what so many Spanish-speaking artists attempted to do for years. Perhaps it was because the sound is so stylistically similar to rap, or maybe it was just a change of pace and tempo. Regardless, reggaeton became a surprising force in music. As the movement progressed, so did the popularity of a group called Calle 13 (Spanish for “13th Street”). After seven years in Latin music, Calle 13 shows no signs of stopping.
The group comprises two stepbrothers, Rene “Residente” Perez Joglar and Eduardo “Visitante” Cabra Perez, along with their sister Ileana “PG-13” Cabra Joglar on background vocals. When the Puerto Rican family entered the scene in 2005 with their self-titled debut, Latin music was knee-deep in reggaeton. The album attempted to bypass that movement and simultaneously accompany it, combing through sexually charged lyrics with dark humor and finesse. Leaning more on hip-hop than traditional reggaeton, Calle 13 earned the duo three Latin Grammys, including Best New Artist and Best Urban Album. During that time, track “Residente” appeared on the remix to Nelly Furtado’s hit single “No Hay Igual” off her 2006 album Loose, extending the group’s reach to the mainstream Latin audience.
By the following year, reggaeton was losing steam as quickly as it gained it, so Calle 13 began pursuing more of their sonic passions in their follow-up, Residente o Visitante (“Resident or Visitor”). The album charted higher than their first, despite its experimental stamp. Lyrically, Residente o Visitante introduced more mature songwriting, developed after a trip to South America inspired the brothers to discuss elements of their life that weren’t present on the previous project. Sonically, the album grabbed parts of Latin music but also added an electronica element. Tracks like “Un Beso de Desayuno” (“A Kiss For Breakfast”) showcased a smoother vibe from Calle 13, proving their versatility traveled well beyond their earlier party anthems like “Suave.”
Residente o Visitante won Best Latin Urban Album at the Grammys, and also won four Latin Grammys, including Album of the Year and Best Urban Music Album. The momentum continued the fol¬lowing year, as third release Los De Atras Vienen Conmigo won the same awards at both Grammy ceremonies as Residente o Visitante had scored the previous year, as well as Record of the Year, Best Alternative Song and Best Short Form Music Video at the Latin Grammys.
Two years ago the group released their fourth studio album, Entre Los Que Quieran (“Come in if You Want To”), and the fans came. Featuring collaborations with artists such Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta and Seun Kuti, the work aimed to continue the experimental progression for which Calle 13 has become known. The album won nine Latin Grammys at the 2011 ceremony, breaking a record for the Academy, and just this year, the duo took the Best Latin Urban Album, their third consecutive win in the category.
Calle 13’s success story is built on constant evolution, where tinkering with new sounds and consistently bettering their songwriting remains a priority. Fans may enter as visitors, but they stay as residents. With universal appeal, the duo continues to make history, traveling one “calle” at a time.