Strong beats and pulsating rhymes is what Calle 13 is all about. The music is classic rap, and the strongest aspect is the beat. There are Latin and reggae influences, and the result is an interesting sound focusing on the rhythms. Calle 13’s self-titled debut CD was released this past November.
It carries a parental advisory for explicit lyrics but you may not be aware of what those lyrics are unless you speak Spanish. At the end of the track “Pi-Di-Di-Di” there is a 30-second string of offensive profanities in English similar to what you would hear on an Eminem or Puff Daddy CD. “Sin Coro” also has a small portion of its lyrics in English, but the majority is in Spanish.
The literal translation of the band’s name is 13th Street. It was chosen because the two half-bothers who formed the group, Rene Perez Joglar and Eduardo Jose Cabra Martinez, use to visit each other weekly on 13th Street in El Conquistador, Trujillo Alto.
Both brothers grew up with a rich history in music. Eduardo learned to play the saxophone, flute, and piano at an early age and later taught himself the classical guitar. Explaining where their sound comes from, he says, “During my last years in school, I started playing music in the streets… having done this led me to experience the rhythms of the streets… pop, salsa, and Brazilian music.”
Rene’s focus while growing up was on the opposite side of the spectrum. He spent his youth writing poetry, songs, and film scripts. His mother encouraged him to read literature and he continued to fine tune his skills while studying animation at Savannah University of Georgia. After both finished college, the brothers decided to join forces and put their talents together to create the group and the debut CD.
Calle 13 is rich in that pop salsa beat Eduardo spoke of. A good example is the song “Suave.” Heavy in the calypso sound, it also has a real street feel to it that is found in the mainstays of today’s rap.
There isn’t much in the way of melody on the album. The only exceptions are parts of “Hormiga Brava” and “La Jirafa,” and even then the melody comes only in small doses. Still, it adds an interesting twist to the song and shows a bit of diversity on the part of Calle 13. “La Jirafa” uses a nice mix of cello, viola, and violin, making this song the one that focuses most on the music instead of the rhymes.
If you are a fan of mainstream rap, reggae, or salsa, you will enjoy Calle 13, because the CD is rich in the basic elements of those genres. If lyrics are important to you, remember that it is recorded in Spanish.