Until 2009, Calle 13, a Puerto Rican band formed by stepbrothers René Pérez (lead singer, songwriter) and Eduardo José Cabra (multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, beat producer) became famous with their deeply controversial raunchy sex lyrics and potty-mouthed songs mocking women and latin rappers through a preeminently Eminem-ish hip-hop style, known to locals as Reggaeton.
If you think some artists change their music and political orientation as they mature, you will find Calle 13 epitomizes a political and a musical transformation into a narrative discerning viewpoints of our society as a whole like very few artists have been able to achieve; touching on global political issues and controversies that project him into the caliber of the industry’s most notorious social activists like Bono and Alanis Morrisette.
While it is true Calle 13 hinted at his political views early on with songs like “Querido FBI”, an angry denunciation of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos’ assasination by FBI agents in 2005 and “Pa’l Norte”, which touches on the subject about illegally crossing borders and the hardships faced by undocumented immigrants, it was not until his recent “Multi_Viral” that Calle 13 not only made an ambitious hip-hop album but fully unveiled his political colors with an LP full of criticism of government, corporate and media propaganda, and not just at regional level but at a global scale!
Don’t believe me? How about “Ojos Color Sol” a collaboration with Silvio Rodriguez, Cuba’s Trova most prominent voice, or “El Aguante” a song focusing strictly on human resilience calling out dubious leaders like Hitler, Idi Ami, Stalin and Truman or Multi_Viral, the song bearing the LP’s name and video featured in this article, in collaboration Palestinian artist Kamilya Jubran and Julian Assange (Wikileaks) who recorded his following spoken-word part in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy in London:
“We live in the world that your propaganda made But where you think you are strong you are weak Your lies tell us the truth we will use against you Your secrecy shows us where we will strike Your weapons reveal your fear for all to see From Cairo to Quito a new world is forming The power of people armed with the truth”
Ruben Blades, an accomplished salsa singer, political activist and Calle 13’s collaborator in La Perla, most famous album was “Buscando America” and it appears Calle 13 just found it which makes you wonder if, like Blades, he will pursue a political career. As opposed to Blades and given Puerto Rico’s latest economic turmoil he might just succeed at it.
At the very least and with 21 Latin Grammys to their name–more than any other act- they have reached a level that every artist wants to reach when complete creative freedom and meaning is achieved all while having fun in the process.
This article is dedicated to Rafael Escudero, Kurrent Music Senior Designer, a Calle 13 fan but above all a Boricua.