Puerto Rican group Calle 13 started out as a reggaeton duo, moved closer to hip-hop the farther along they went, and now encompass everything from dance to Latin pop to electro. The duo, who released their latest disc, "Entren Los Que Quieran" (translation: Those Who Want To, Come In), last fall, are famous/notorious for their super-violent, hyper-sexualized and politically incendiary music, sung, at least until now, in Spanish.
In advance of their gig at Galaxy Night Club in Hyattsville on Thursday night, René Pérez (aka Residente, the group's de facto frontman) called in from Miami the night after recording his first English language song to talk about the process, and what it might mean for the group's future.
[Past reviewers] have compared you to Eminem. Is that comparison overblown?
People want to sell [magazines]…I don't think we're controversial. I think we talk about the things that happen around us. In my lyrics, the narrative is very rich, and we talk about what's happening in our country. It's like a documentary film or something like that.
[So you're recording] your first song in English.
Yeah, I just did it last night…I'm very happy with what I have. It was a nice practice, a nice experience, translating my Spanish ideas to English. It's very difficult because your rhyming [is different]. I don't want to compete with the rappers here in the states.
You had been debating singing or rapping in English. What changed your mind?
The idea of connecting with more people. It's not selling albums — that's the last reason. I studied art for eight years, and I know how important it is to communicate, and I want to communicate with more people. It's not gonna be in English only. My girlfriend, she's from Brazil, and I know that sooner or later I'm gonna do something in Portuguese. But right now I'm going to do something in English. When I'm in English, I think I write very well. I just have problems when I have to speak, but in the studio I'm working that out.
For some people who only sing in Spanish it's a pride thing. They say it's harder to speak from your heart in another language.
No. Every head is a different world. But in the end, everyone has things in common. I think it's pretty sad that because of your ego, you stop communicating with people. I don't think it's cool…like they have to learn Spanish [to understand you]. You don't have to learn Spanish to know what I'm saying in my songs. I'm gonna learn English and I'm going to sing it to you in English.
So, will the next album be a mix of Spanish and English songs?
No, it's gonna be the whole thing in English. Because I don't want to look like this Latin guy that wants to, I don't know...
You want to commit.