By Jessica Rodriguez
A multi-hyphenate artist, Residente has donned the cap of rapper-producer-filmmaker-activist and humanitarian, since stepping on to the musical scene in 2004 as one half of the Puerto Rican alternative group Calle 13. Fifteen years, 39 music awards (more than any Latin artist yet), two humanitarian awards and multiple world tours later, in 2018 Residente reached new heights.
First there was his first solo album, “Residente”, featuring hits such as “Rap Bruto” that dropped in late 2017 and snagged him a Grammy. Using his DNA as a map he made an entire album utilizing music from each of those countries. Later in the year he released a documentary of the same name that follows him as he troops across continents learning and playing each country’s music. The movie made its way to Netflix along with a book he released about the experience of discovering his ancestral roots.
"Social art goes hand in hand with social militancy. Artists have the responsibility to speak out through their work, artists have to power to effect social change."
All the while Residente was returning to Puerto Rico to provide aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. He did not hesitate to call global attention to the slow federal response or call out local politicians when assistance from other countries was turned away. Most recently he’s been meeting with local government to discuss education and financial reform and violence that is plaguing the island.
The man isn’t just unafraid of controversy, he seems to court it. Whether engaging in ideological debate with fellow hip hop fans on Twitter or putting Latin music/rap on blast via his tracks he talks the talk and walks the walk. “Rap Bruto” which features Spanish rapper Nach, should just be called “Ether 2.0” for how hard Residente went to town with his beats and his lyrics.
Residente’s artist statement, found on his website, gives you a glimmer of the man and why his music and art push the limits of genre, medium and purpose.
His activism for Puerto Rico, education and indigenous rights in Latin America were recognized by BMI this year when he became the first Latin artist to receive their Champion Award for his music and humanitarian work. This goes along with the 2015 Nobel Prize he received for the same reasons.
Once upon a time, Rene Perez Jolguin was like any kid from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico: drawing in notebooks and harboring baseball dreams. His artistic side won out and he went on get a BA from the School of Visual Arts in Puerto Rico and an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. After trying his lot at filmmaking and design in Spain, he returned to Puerto Rico and opted to make music his profession. With his brother Eduardo and sister Ile, they created music that blended different genres — hip-hop, cumbia, reggeaton, pop — with Residente rapping about everything from the silly (“Se Vale To-to”) to the serious (“Querido FBI”). He takes on all topics and forms in his music because as he told The Nation, “It’s super important, because if you disconnect from the masses, it gets complicated; people stop hearing your ideas.” With the kind of year he has had, we can’t wait to see how he continues to impact positive change and the art that results from it.