Following El Quinto Escalón, a viral music competition in Buenos Aires, Argentina, teens across the continent became obsessed with freestyling and rap battles. As a result, a glutton of musica urbana talent has bubbled to the surface, featuring names like Paulo Londra, Lit Killah, and Ecko.
Post-competition, the impact was immediate, and after its boom, trap music quickly established itself as the new flag to carry. Urbano music is now intrinsic to Latin America.
Below, we have listed 10 artists—we had to draw the line somewhere—currently responsible for some of the biggest revolutions in Latin hip-hop. Their music is innovative, authentic, and fully representative of how Latin America is presently processing hip-hop.
On “Quavo,” one of Modo Diablo’s most viral hits, Duki sings, “Ya no es Ysy, Duki y Neo, es algo nuevo.” Translation: “It’s no longer Ysy, Duki, and Neo; it’s something new.” One year after the song’s release, that phrase feels almost like a warning. While members Ysy A, Duki, and Neo Pistea made a name for themselves individually before transforming the catchy phrase into the most cutting-edge trap group in the continent with bangers like “TRAP N EXPORT,” “Uh,” and “Vuelta a la Luna (Remix),” the trio has consistently expanded urbano’s boundaries. Modo Diablo are, on their own terms, the kings of Latin trap.
No Rules Clan
Boom bap is alive and well in Colombia. On the heels of releasing the best Latin rap album of 2019, Pantone, No Rules Clan took a clear stance against the mainstream wave flooding urbano music as of late. As an orthodox rap group respectful of what made rap great in the first place, No Rules Clan’s messaging is clear: returning to the roots is in itself a form of rebellion.
Tomasa Del Real
Neo Perreo is urbano’s most recent creation. Sparked by Chilean tattoo artist and singer Tomasa Del Real (who first coined the term in an interview with Red Bull Radio), the genre is similar to reggaeton but has a more colorful, booming, and even futuristic sound. The production is also more harsh, which gives Del Real a louder, almost revolutionary identity. Del Real, who isn’t shy about championing sexual liberation, is on a mission to unsettle urbano’s sexist principles while keeping her music joyful and dance-floor-friendly.
A familiar face in both the Ecuadorian and South American music scenes, Guanaco’s music mixes hip-hop with local and Andinian sounds. On single “Mascara,” Guanaco explores new BPM counts while undertaking the complicated task of expanding a musical movement in a country that struggles to believe its rap artists can shift music culture.
Cazzu’s latest release, Error 93, carries an element of political relevance to the explosion of trap in Latin America. Coinciding with the eruption of the feminist movement in recent years, women needed and deserved a figure in the trap movement to admire. While not alone (see Dakillah, La Joaqui, even Delfina Dib), Cazzu acts as that resisting face and light of hope in a mainly male-dominated scene. Her appearance on “Tumbando El Club,” a song that gathered some of the most notable names of Argentinian trap (from Modo Diablo to legend Marcianos Crew and youngster LuchoSSJ), showcases an artist who deserves a seat at the male-dominated table.
Drefquila has made a name for himself as one of Chile’s most prominent freestylers and rap battle competitors. At present, he stands as a fully realized artist, with hits like “Damelo” and “A Fuego” under his belt, and the ability to concoct the catchiest of hooks without a second thought. On “Sin Culpa,” he sings with Argentinian boss Duki, stealing the show on what was considered by many—myself included—to be one of the best urbano songs of 2018.
Córdoba’s Juan Ingaramo is Argentina’s most prolific male pop star. His last release, 2018’s Best Seller, blends trap and reggaeton with his pop star appeal, which resulted in his best and widest-ranging work to date. In 2019, Ingaramo’s focus has been to draw on as many urbano sounds as possible into his pop soundscape. A prominent example is “Fuego y Pasion,” a cover of cuarteto legend Rodrigo. The song re-imagines the DNA of the original, making urbano a past, present, and future phenomenon.
Ca7riel & Paco Amoroso
Cato and Paco arrived on the scene in 2019 with a carefree attitude, an energetic live show including a full band, and a series of songs that kept a distance from the typical Argentinian trap sound. Unsurprisingly, both members got their start in the rock world, leaving bands because, in their own words, “[the] money is in trap music right now.” “Ouke,” released this past March, is the duo’s craziest release yet and sums up their raucous, fuck-it-all energy.
For both Mexican and Latin American rap connoisseurs, Eptos, whose involvement in hip-hop dates back to 2003, is a legend. In addition to possessing an enviable discography, and relevance most artists can only aspire to achieve, he founded the first freestyle league in Latin America, Spit Mix, and is responsible for the expansion of the practice. Eptos released his album Hacer Historia earlier this year, borrowing from the sounds of trap music while maintaining a lyrical fervor.
Argentina’s most beloved rapper and freestyler, Wos is currently on a break from battling to work on releasing new music. Last year, he won Red Bull’s Batalla de Los Gallos international final in his hometown Buenos Aires, following a rematch with Mexican MC Aczino. Wos’ departure from rap battles felt bittersweet at first, but the music he has since released has more than made up for it. “Terraza,” his third single, showcases his ability to both spit bars and play around with uncharacteristic melodies, sometimes eschewing rap influence in favor of more traditional musicality.