Music Industry Talks: Behind The Rise of Latin R&B on Spotify
Welcome to our new editorial series for Music Industry Talks, where we cover topics related to the Latin Music Industry, and the movers and shakers behind it.
Spotify’s Monica Herrera Damashek, Head of Latin, Label Partnerships Artist (US), and Antonio Vázquez, U.S. Latin Editorial Lead, talked to us here at mitú about the rise of Latin R&B on the platform, the artists that are paving the way in the genre, and how Latin Trap has impacted the growth of Latin R&B.
Since 2016, Spotify has seen significant interest in R&B beats from Jesse Baez to Kali Uchis’ hit single telepatía, which reached the #2 spot on the Spotify Global Chart in March. In 2021 alone, there’s on average more than 71,000 hours, an equivalent of over 8 years, of Latin R&B songs streamed on Spotify per day. Monica and Antonio from the Spotify team shared their thoughts on the rise of Latin R&B below.
From your perspective, which artists do you think are leading the wave in the Latin R&B genre?
Antonio Vazquez: “You have artists like Paloma Mami, Rauw Alejandro you know some of his tracks are like pure R&B, and what’s next for him is also switching and playing with different genres. Obviously, the whole Rich Music family has been pioneering this movement from the beginning. Dalex is one of the standouts that has more R&B influences on his music. Cazzu recently released an EP that was purely R&B, you also have Rels B from Spain also making waves.
“The trend that we’re seeing here is that there are many artists from the mainstream and emerging spaces that are playing around with R&B, and in Latin [music] you don’t see many artists that are doing 100 percent R&B, compared to Anglo music, where it’s very outlined who’s doing R&B. For example, H.E.R. comes out with an album and that’s only R&B or soul. In Latin, it’s a fusion of many things, and you get to see artists do one or two purely R&B tracks, but Latin artists do play around more generously with R&B beats than the general market.”
Monica Herrera Damashek: “I think that we’re seeing artists that are mixing R&B with all kinds of different styles. Kali Uchis mixes R&B with Pop and Soul, with a little bit of Urbano, a little bit of Experimental Pop feel, and I think all of those things come together to create this beautiful, perfect storm in ‘telepatía,’ which you know surprised even us with how high it reached on the Global chart. This is a testament to the fact that there’s an appetite for this music now, and a lot of us are becoming bigger fans of it. She’s been able to bridge this gap and make this bilingual R&B song become a global hit, this was very exciting for us, and reaffirmed the trends we’ve been seeing for a couple of years now.”
Read: Kali Uchis Is First Solo Female Artist To Hit No. 1 On Billboard’s Latin Chart In Nearly A Decade
Where can fans go and listen to the latest Latin R&B playlists on Spotify?
Antonio Vazquez: “The US flagship is called Are & Be, and we have a Latin version of it called Are & Be Latin. That’s where we gather all the different influences of R&B in the same place. It’s interesting like I said because sometimes it’s not very clear the fine line of, ‘Is this Trap or is it R&B?’ We can see more often the general lines are dissipating more and more, and artists want more creative freedom and they don’t want to be boxed in a genre or doing one specific kind of music. We also have the Vibras playlist, which we launched two years ago for Latin Heritage Month.”
Antonio Vazquez: “We also have the Radar playlists, which are localized depending on the region/country. Every month Spotify picks one emerging artist to focus on to invest in, promote, [and offer] marketing support. For Radar US Latin, I remember we picked KORDELYA, who has a lot of R&B influences in her sound. Even though I would consider her to be more Pop, Elena Rose’s song “La Ducha” is pure R&B and it’s great to see artists play with R&B sounds.”
How has Latin Trap influenced the rise of Latin R&B?
Monica Herrera Damashek: “Just like the nature of Trap being what it is, the same way in the English language, the Trap beat lends itself to a different form of expression, so the artist can kind of flow over it if they want to, but they can be more melodic and a little more experimental.
“From the very beginning you had songs like Bad Bunny’s “Soy Peor” or Karol G’s “Ahora Me Llama” or “La Ocasión,” where you hear Ozuna have both flow and bars, but then they can get super melodic as well. I think that’s part of it, we get to see artists playing around with rapping and singing as well, and getting more comfortable with that, which led them to make its way into pure R&B, so it’s been really interesting to see that evolution.”
Which artists do you personally think will have their big break next in the Latin R&B space?
Antonio Vazquez: “Personally, I’m excited about Micro TDH, he’s really killing it. He has amazing songwriting skills, and I feel like there’s nothing better than a good love song. I feel like R&B brings that kind of sensitivity to music that sometimes you don’t get from a rhythmic song. I think that’s why you get more Urbano-leaning artists doing some R&B-infused songs because the songs are so romantic that they wouldn’t do well with a dembow beat behind it.
“Another artist I’m excited about is marcos g, and what’s exciting about him is that he’s Latinx, and we’re always trying to find and support Latinx artists as well because sometimes it’s not easy to find them. For example, marcos g is Latinx and sings only in English, but we didn’t know he was Latinx until we read his bio and find out “Oh, he’s Colombian“, so that really motivates us to continue to find this type of talent.
“Also, Chita from Argentina [is] someone that we’ve been supporting since the beginning. She was highlighted by the Spotify South Cone team and she ended up doing a feature with Cazzu on her last EP. It’s very satisfying to see how some of these artists started and how now they’re making waves thanks to the growing popularity of the genre. This reminds me, back when I started at Spotify in 2016, I discovered Jesse Baez with the ‘Decile Remix’ and he was already doing R&B even though the big Latin boom didn’t happen post ‘Despacito,’ and he was already doing his thing, not caring if Latin R&B was popular or not. Now look at him with his latest release ‘Limo,’ and he’s killing it now.”
Monica Herrera Damashek: “Obviously, Jesse Baez was an early one. Another early one for me and, obviously she’s bigger now, was Paloma Mami. When I first heard ‘Fingías’ I just completely fell in love overnight with her sound. I’m a fan of Girl Ultra, Teo, there’s just a lot of experimentation happening in the genre, and it’s exciting to see.”
Talk to us about creating these new Spotify playlists featuring emerging Latin R&B artists
Antonio Vazquez: “Editorially, we have the responsibility of always finding homes for any new genre or wave that’s rising. We always try to make sure everyone is represented and everybody, even if it’s like the strangest beat or sound, they can find a home. That’s quite exciting. I think that that really has helped some of these artists just emerge and find their niche, which is not so niche anymore. One of the data points that was super interesting is that there’s more like than more than 71,000 hours of Latin R&B listened to every day on the platform, which is just mind-blowing.”
If an up-and-coming R&B artist reads this piece and would like to get featured in one of the Latin R&B Spotify playlists, where should they go?
Antonio Vazquez: “We have this tool called Spotify For Artists, which is really good and successful at letting artists pitch their songs for editorial playlist consideration. It has really granular filters where artists can literally pitch a song and say ‘This is Latin R&B,’ so editors around the world filter out depending on their curation needs. We would go into this tool and check releases weekly and plan around that. There’s many opportunities to get noticed by using that tool.”
Thank you to Monica Herrera Damashek, Antonio Vazquez and the Spotify team for this insightful conversation about the rise of Latin R&B on the platform.
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