Perreo and reggaeton have come a long way from the clubs of Puerto Rico and even further from the Jamaican workers who brought reggae and dancehall to Panama. Today, perreo has become a globally recognized method of artistic expression. Artists like Bad Bunny are pushing the boundaries of what was once a tightly guarded, macho genre. But reggaeton has proven that it can adapt wherever it lands and to whoever is on the mic. “Reggaeton is a unique genre,” reggaetonero Dímelo Flow tells POPSUGAR. “From the lyrics to the beat to its sandungueo. This genre represents many countries and cultures, and each artist has the possibility to make it unique to their own personality and style, creating a versatile genre for all Latinos. Over time, reggaeton has evolved to incorporate new mixes, influences, and themes. From dancehall to salsa and cumbia and now even electronic. The genre lends itself to different fusions that showcase the best of Latino culture.”
Perreo, which is the music from which reggaeton is derived, has been developing in Veracruz, Mexico, since the early ’90s, but historically, this state is no stranger to African or Caribbean influence. At the height of the Spanish occupation of New Spain (modern-day Mexico), people from all over the world passed through the port city of Veracruz. With the sharp decline in the Indigenous population due to genocide, overworking, and disease, Spaniards had an increased need for laborers. Between 1519-1650, New Spain received at least 120,000 enslaved Africans, or two-thirds of all the Africans enslaved in the Spanish colonies. Veracruz in particular became a state with one of the highest African populations (second to Mexico City) because of its sugar plantations and silver mines. It also had high mixed-race populations as a result of criollo, Black, and Indigenous intermixing that was at times sanctioned by Spanish law to promote the spread of Spanish culture and hopefully quell slave revolts.
Today, the enduring history of Mexico’s colonial period is reflected in Veracruz’s distinctive perreo sound that’s attributed to the rebellious “jarocho” culture, which is the convergence of Indigenous and African cultures in the region. Although jarocho culture is typically associated with fandangos and zapateo, “son jarocho” is the folk music style that emerged from jarocho. Its most recognizable song is “La Bamba,” which went all over the world via Ritchie Valens.
The perreo that came out of Veracruz is directly tied to DJ Marcelo and the Capezzio Nightclub in Puerto de Veracruz, where he would play reggaeton from Puerto Rico and Panama. Unsurprisingly, a new generation of local musicians were inspired by the working-class themes and began battling and crafting their own sound. Mr. Grillo, La Dinastia, and Da Family are some of the more well-known artists to come out of Veracruz. Nightclubs in Mexico City also became scenes for new sounds and artists who made the genre their own by mixing perreo with regional music like cumbias and other Caribbean music like dembows. This dembow-cumbia fusion became known as cumbiaton and was founded by Panamanian producer El Chombo. It has since turned into a signature mark of Mexican reggaeton, where artists like Uzielito Mix, DJ Beckman, and El Habano have developed the sound.
Today, perreo and reggaeton, along with Mexico’s distinctive urbano music scene, represent a turning tide in the country’s rigid social order. Younger artists seem much less concerned with preserving and promoting machismo or worrying about gender constructs. Mexico’s perreo and urbano artists are combining the influence of trap, grime, electrocumbia, R&B, dembow, and so many more genres culminating in two distinct sounds: the more traditional-sounding reggaeton crossed with cumbation and the experimental electronic lo-fi-esque sound called neoperreo.
With hubs in Mexico City, Chile, Spain, Sweden, and Veracruz, neoperreo promotes an early 2000s Tumblr-y aesthetic while being a women- and queer-friendly space that is just as sexual and raunchy as the cis-hetero men — but with a more sensitive bravado. The term neoperreo was coined by Chilean tattoo-artist-turned-reggeatonera Tomasa del Real, who continues to be one of the most popular artists in the genre. Neoperreo can be described as futuristic and incorporates throwback perreo rhythms with ambient synth and electronica. There is also plenty of collaboration between underground artists like Bad Gyal, La Zowi, La Goony Chonga, Kaydy Cain, Ms Nina, Bea Fight, Mi$$il, Florentino, and Lizz.
Here are eight artists who showcase the wide range of Mexican reggaeton and perreo sounds.
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