Puerto Rican reggaeton rapper rocks the neighborhoods


When Tego Calderon released El Abayarde, his debut album, last summer, you couldn’t walk down a street in any of the city’s sizable Puerto Rican or Dominican neighborhoods without hearing the beats of “Pa Que Retozen” or “Loiza” thumping from behind tinted car windows or blasting from the steps of barber shops and bodegas. Equally an acolyte of Tupac Shakur and Ismael Rivera and an avatar of the Spanish dancehall hybrid known as reggaeton, Calderon made inter-island spice that seemed more reflective of current Caribbean cross-pollination than a dozen Buena Vista retreads. A native of Carolina, Puerto Rico (near San Juan), the 31-year-old also proved unafraid to lay down flat-out salsa, as he did with “Planté Bandera.”

With his sophomore set, Enemy De Los Guasibiri, Calderon advances the hybrid further, mixing bomba and plena elements with hardcore hip-hop beats. He raps exclusively in Spanish, his style recalling early-’90s Panamanian star El General. So even for the trained ear, his Boricuanisms can be hard to puzzle out. But though many of Enemy‘s songs have been floating around as compilation tracks for years, the newer numbers and Calderon’s passion make up for any redundancy. From the opening accordion-spiked rap of “Elegante de Boutique” through the sinuous keyboard melody underlying a new version of his own “Guasa, Guasa” (where he takes to task reggaeton rivals in the inflamed manner of dancehall DJ Ninjaman) to the guest appearance by Dominican-born, Puerto Rico- dwelling merengue star Toño Rosario in “No Sufras por Ella,” the album points Latin music in hell-raising directions.

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