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Residente is a Puerto Rican rapper who combines his musical talent with his strong sense of social injustice.

Why the rise of Residente is important to Latinos

The Puerto Rican rapper has sought to empower Latinos by combining his musical talent with his strong sense of social injustice.

If you're Latino, then it's likely you're a fan of Residente.

And, if not, then you will at the very least have heard his music.

Since arriving on the scene in 2005, the Puerto Rican rapper and producer has not only embedded himself in the public consciousness, but made many Latinos rethink their place in the world.

Born René Pérez Joglar, his first break came with the alternative hip-hop group Calle 13 in 2005. Its members were Residente, his step-brother Visitante, and his half-sister iLe.

From the outset, something about their music struck a chord with Latino audiences and he was soon being hailed as a true visionary.

I myself remember my teenage years in which Calle 13's song "Atrévete-te-te" was being played everywhere from clubs to radios.

It was starkly different from what was being played at that time. The mix of rap and reggaetón was refreshing. And although I might not have completely understood the meaning of the lyrics at the time, it was evident even then to a teenager that social protest was a big part of it.

You could see thousands of teenagers and young adults rapping along with the lyrics and, in turn, starting to question their own beliefs and opinions about the topics.

Family life & the impact of Calle 13

Residente's origins as a public figure began as the frontman of Calle 13 with whom he went on to win more than 30 Latin Grammy awards. But his relationship with music started from a young age.

As a child, he was surrounded by art and music. Both his parents had strong artistic interests – his dad was a musician and writer, his mum was an actress. He went on to study music in Puerto Rico and the United States, where he began to develop his own style rooted in his heritage.

Growing up, his parents also imbued him with a strong sense of social justice, which can be felt in many of his songs.

Since his early days with Calle 13, he used his voice to stand up for causes he believed in, writing lyrics that spoke of social injustices, particularly those suffered by the lower class. Some of his most important songs with Calle 13 include:

  • "Latinoamérica"
  • "La Bala"
  • "Baile de Pobres"
  • "Gringo Latin Funk"
  • "Pal Norte"

These songs, and others by Calle 13, were seen as empowering because they address important social and political issues, promote pride in one's culture and heritage, and challenge stereotypes and negative representations of Latinos in the media.

Their recognition with dozens of awards helped to amplify their voice beyond Latino communities and gain them widespread publicity in the United States and beyond.

Puerto Rican rapper, Residente, empowering the Latino community through music.

Residente's solo career

In 2017, Residente launched his first solo album and has gone on to win five more Latin Grammy awards.

His solo venture represented a departure from Calle 13's style: Calle 13 was known for its eclectic and experimental style, blending different genres such as reggaeton, hip-hop, rock, and traditional Latin American music. Residente's solo music, on the other hand, is more focused on traditional Latin American rhythms and instruments.

However, his belief in the power of music to speak out against social injustices hasn’t changed, helping him gain more than 1.2 billion views on his YouTube channel.

If anything, he started to ramp up this side of his music, with his lyrics taking on stronger and deeper meanings.

He has become increasingly vocal, in particular, about the political and social issues affecting Puerto Rico, highlighting the government's lack of action taken to address poverty and inequality on the island, and its failure to provide adequate services to its citizens. 

In "This Is Not America", one of his most popular songs to date, he also strives to remind people that America is not just the United States, but a whole continent. Throughout the song, he speaks of his Pre-Columbine pride, while suggesting he wants to give "America" back its meaning and "give the continent its name back".

"Everyone is American on this continent," Residente said in an NPR interview. "And it's how they took the word and made it for them. It's like another way of colonization."

Although some people don"t agree with the way he expresses his ideas, what can"t be denied is that Residente has taken on a hugely important role as an advocate for what he believes in.

His lyrics defend Latino cultures and offer a different perspective compared to many other Latin artists. Residente has become a crucial figure in the defense of Latin American identity thanks to his verses which encompass elements of the continent and how proud he feels to be a part of the Latino community.

I, like many others, have always respected Residente's work, as he is not afraid to use his voice to trigger social change.

Regardless of whether people agree with his view or not, Latin pride is something that runs deep in all Latino communities, and we always like to see others with strong voices defending it.

Residente has always been one of the most reactive voices of the time and provides a lesson for how others in the music industry can use their platforms as a force for good.


Sebastián Fuentes

Sebastián was born in Mexico City and enjoys traveling to meet family and friends in the US. He has written for Orgullo Latino since 2022.

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