Every week we will be sharing one of the pieces from our first ever print magazine which discusses all things Latin America! We hope you become inspired to read and learn more about this fascinating region of the world. Here is the eighth article from Alfred Davies about the Monterrey-born reggaeton artist Chico Sonido.
With bass-heavy beats, sexually charged lyrics sung by female vocalists and a futuristic digital aesthetic, producer José Rosas – better known as Chico Sonido – has established himself in recent years as a key player in a growing alternative reggaetón scene.
The Mexican’s production oscillates between new-wave Latin trap, classic Caribbean dembow beats, and a hodgepodge of rhythms from around the world that come together to form an electronic sound that belongs unmistakeably and unapologetically to Chico. “Chico Sonido as a project is a little bit of a journey through many different phases of my life,” he says. “The influence of American music has always been within me, then there’s the more tropical and Caribbean side of it that comes from growing up in north Mexico, so yeah, it’s a little bit of a fusion of everything.”
The producer’s discography is evidence of this musical journey. His Nalga Bass (2013) album is a heavily cumbia-influenced affair, while Club Redy (2017) marked a step into more dembow-centric territory. Chico’s latest offering, Muerde la Manzana (2018) is an exploration of hard and weighty trap beats. The presence of dark and heavy basslines is a constant over the years.
A trip to London in his youth inspired Chico to experiment with beats from this side of the pond: “My music and my DJ sets are connected with UK bass vibes as well as with a more global sound, I try to put my own spin on it. Early on, I experimented with different things like cumbia and tribal, which then turned to reggaetón, hip-hop and trap.”
Chico speaks fondly of his current home, Los Angeles, which he says is the perfect place for his music to grow: “LA is a bit of a production city. We try to push each other and make everyone better. It’s a music city, a lot of competition. LA always has a vibrant scene, it’s like NYC or Tokyo, there’s always different things going on, even things I wouldn’t even know about.” The relationships that living in Los Angeles has allowed the producer to build are evident in his career—which is rich in collaborations. Noticeable in his work is a clear preference to work with female vocalists. Argentinian Ms Nina, Cuban-American La Goony Chonga and Chilean Tomasa del Real are regular collaborators – all of whom are closely linked to the neoperreo movement, pioneered by the latter and named after the reggaeton-style perreo dance.
While reggaetón stars like J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Ozuna are making a name for the genre around the world–collaborating with The Black Eyed Peas and Drake among others–the underground, sexually-uninhibited and female-led neoperreo scene is also turning heads. For Chico, the decision to work almost exclusively with female artists from this scene was multi-faceted.
“It’s really about empowering women, giving them that place. Everything is taking over that male energy, that’s something I really wanted to bring. But also, it complements my sound.”
This new neoperreo wave of reggaetón distinguishes itself from its predecessors in that female artists are at the fore. The genre has long been associated with machismo and the objectification of women, but this new wave may just be bucking that trend, and Chico is proud to be a part of it: “I see it as a natural evolution through music. It’s like if you’re with music, if you’re with the times, you know, then roll with it.”
Illustration: Capella Buncher