Reggaeton’s White Hope and the “Reggaeton Crash”

By Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally posted at post pomo nuyorican homo

I have a lot of feelings watching this video, but not quite any thoughts yet. I have had some thoughts on Calle 13 in general recently though.

While I like Calle 13, there is something as of late that makes me completely uncomfortable with how Residente’s blanquito flow and his “art school/class clown attitude,” as Wayne Marshall aptly terms it, are being heralded by reggaeton supporters and detractors alike as shining example of where the genre should go. Calle 13 is being positioned by many as the great white hope that is going to resuscitate reggaeton from its supposed “death.” (pero no con mas gasolina, that’s for sure).

Wanye Marshalll just blogged a fantastic post entitled “Can We Talk About ‘Can We Talk About the Reggaeton Crash?’?”, responding to, among other things, Willie Colon’s assertion that reggaeton has peaked Wayne says,

i think reggaeton’s gonna be around (and popular) for some time to come. we’ll see what it sounds like, though. and whether people still call “it” reggaeton (they did, after all, used to call “it” any number of names).

colon may be right that the “euphoria” has passed, but that doesn’t mean the genre’s days are numbered. plus, this is clearly a bit of self-promotion for his own music, talking bout how people have returned to salsa. they never really turned away.

on another note, isn’t saying “música urbana” basically like saying “música negra”? it is in english — a pretty specious euphemism really. might as well say “race records.” so maybe we’re back where we started, but in a worse place?

I think Wayne makes a good point that “música urbana” basically functions as a (seemingly sexier and less scary euphemism) for reggaeton’s old moniker of “música negra.” So it’s interesting to me that reggaeton’s resident blanquito has appointed himself the gatekeeper of said race music. Check out this clip from Calle 13′s NYC concert at the NOKIA Theater from October 2008:

Residente goes on a whole tirade about the contours and future of “música urbana,” placing himself squarely at the center. I’m curious about the work that placing a blanquito at the center of “música urbana” does. For sure it makes the music palatable to the a wider audience, as so many blanquitos have crossed-over “race musics” in the past. But I think the work that Calle 13 very clearly does is “fuel fantasies about reggaetons inherent latinidad,” as Wayne points out in his chapter “From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino” in Reggaeton (Duke UP). There is something appealing to the many music critics who have profiled the group in their brand of Latin World music, something in stark contrast with the repetitive samples and versioning of Black music that is central to many other reggaeton acts.

Is it time to think of sampling practices within reggaeton as an overtly political act? Is sampling consciously hailing an audience and interpolating the performer and audience in a specific genre? (I’m sure Joe Schloss would have an interesting opinion on this).

I think this is what makes it difficult for me to situate the video for “La Perla,” it simultaneously dismisses and trafficks in notions of authenticity. Its impossible for me to reconcile all this — the music says one thing, the lyrics another, the video another, and Residente’s public performances and persona yet another — of course maybe I shouldn’t be trying to reconcile any of it.

Anyway, I welcome thoughts on Calle 13 and/or the video for “La Perla,” hit me up.