It feels truer and truer every day: the most exciting music, across sound and continent, is being made by Latinx voices. It’s not that the rest of the world is just starting to take notice of the massive Latin genre — it’s that it’s become unavoidable. When looking for the trendsetters, from political punk powerhouses to future rap superstars, we realized there were many, many innovative musicians coming from Latin backgrounds. Here are few to keep an eye out for in 2017.
CREDIT: Credit: Ángel Flores / Alegría Rampante / Facebook
Alegría Rampante (“Rampant Joy” in English) is the project of Eduardo Alegría, former co-founder of Superaquello. Rampante is his pop project, one both theatrical and outspokenly queer in nature. All of his beautiful songs about love and loss songs manage to resonate with both his queer and his Puerto Rican identities.
CREDIT: Credit: Audri Nix / Facebook
Boricua rapper Audri Nix has been around the underground hip hop scene for the last two years or so, first piquing the interest of sites like Vibe with her hauntingly earnest tracks “1,000 MPH” and “Veneno.” After taking a break to deal with her depression, she released an EP titled “El Nuevo Orden Vol. 1” last year. Her R&B-tinged music reflects that sorrow and the result is something that will make her fans feel a little less alone. We expect more beautiful things from her, and soon!
CREDIT: Credit: Maluma / Facebook
Colombian singer Maluma is already huge in Latin America, but 2017 is the year that his fame translates stateside. He’s hitting the road in the U.S. for the first time this spring and we anticipate his world takeover soon after. Check out “El Perdedor” if you haven’t already — 500 million plays do not lie.
Listen: “El Perdedor”
CREDIT: Credit: The Tracks / Facebook
Los Angeles has been a hotbed for indie rock for a while now — there’s something very attractive about trying to enter the unforgiving music industry on your own terms, with your own DIY ethics, under the shadow of the Hollywood skyline. Though the city’s population is nearly half Latinx, garage rock is still a very white subgenre. But The Tracks, a band out of Boyle Heights, is changing that. With their debut album due later this year, we know they’re going to be a very important band for Latinx people both in and out of L.A.
Listen: “Go Out Tonight”
CREDIT: Credit: Helado Negro / Facebook
Helado Negro, the electronic pop project of Roberto Carlos Lange, has caught the attention of major mainstream press outlets like Rolling Stone and SPIN while maintaining a distinctly personal feeling. “It’s My Brown Skin” and “Young, Latin & Proud” prove that other worldly experimental pop can be resonant in a tumultuous racial climate.
Listen: “It’s My Brown Skin”
CREDIT: Credit: Downtown Boys / Facebook
Recently referred to as America’s most exciting punk band in Rolling Stone, Providence, Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys operate in a crucial bilingual space. All of their tracks deal directly with social and political injustices. Singer Victoria Ruiz’s refrain of “She is brown! She is smart!” in the song “Monstro” might be the most important punk lyric of the last five years. Here’s hoping for a new album in 2017.
Eduardo F. Rosario
CREDIT: Credit: Eduardo F. Rosario / Facebook
This one is not for the faint of heart. Eduardo F. Rosario is an experimental musician based in San Juan — his noise textures are mechanical and cold, a sound not normally associated with warm Caribbean climates. There’s a certain physicality to his music that can make it feel disorienting but controlled. This is the closest you’ll get to hearing visual art.
Listen: “Obsolescencia Programada 4”
CREDIT: Credit: Maria Usbeck / Facebook
Maria Usbeck released “Amparo” last year, an album sung almost entirely in Spanish and produced by indie celebrity Caroline Polachek of Chairlift. Of the Spanish-language acts on this list, this one has probably enjoyed the most indie press for its soft soundscapes and its release on beloved label Cascine Records. There’s a really attractive fragility to the release, one that makes use excited to see where Usbeck goes next.
Listen: “Moai y Yo”
Colombian band Bomba Estéreo are well on their way to major mainstream fame. It’s all about “Soy Yo,” the lead single from their album Amanecer out last year. You might recognize it from a certain Target commercial that runs in Anglo-phonic spaces… shouldn’t be long before they’re infiltrating American pop radio.
Listen: “Soy Yo”
CREDIT: Credit: MNTJY / Facebook
MNTJY is an up-and-coming Costa Rican producer who first landed on our radar when he dropped a mixtape last year via Bueno Aires art collective I NEED SPONSORS. Most recently, he’s dropped “me calientas” and tagged it “elegant reggaeton.” It feels like the perfect moniker for this sound — it’s a bit sultry for the club, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect song to get down to.
Listen: “her note”
CREDIT: Credit: Porter / Facebook
Porter hail from Guadalajara, Mexico and have already had a long and industrious career; they’re on this list is because of their recent reunion. If you missed them the first time around, it’s time to revisit the band. It’s been three years since 2014’s “Moctezuma” and it’s about time for them to drop a new full-length, so now is the time to do a deep dive into their older discography.
Listen: “La China”
CREDIT: Credit: Las Robertas / Facebook
Las Robertas are the lo-fi garage pop acts of every indie Latinx’s dreams — the band hails from San Jose, Costa Rica and in the last few years have become festival staples, hitting South by Southwest, NRML, Primavera Sound and others. Their last EP, “The Feel,” dropped in 2015, so new recordings can be expected soon. Thank goodness!