Hip-hop has been the leading cultural movement in Latin America for the past several years. Driven by the mainstream success of reggaetoneros, the influence of American artists, and the tremendous growth of freestyle battles, Latin rappers have stepped up their game across all platforms. The beats are better, too, a sign that producers are more relevant than ever before. See also: Tainy.
Even album and single covers now display explicit attention to detail once ignored by Latin artists. Fans throughout the continent are paying more attention to their local talent, finding a sense of belonging and representation in the music.
With the explosive success of artists like Bad Bunny and Anuel AA, Latin trap has become directly associated with reggaeton and clubs, relegating it to a fad for party music. The genre is one unto itself, however, with its many codes and distinct sound.
On a local level, there is a burgeoning crop of Latin trap artists who are inspired by rap beginnings and who embody the whole of hip-hop culture. Their music exists removed from the mainstream sound of Latin trap. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of 10 Latin trap artists whose sound is rooted in authenticity. Be it their superb production or crisp writing, these 10 acts are leaving their signatures on Latin trap.
YSY A is an important name in the current Latin hip-hop movement. The 21-year-old gave birth to a whole new scene in Argentina and is responsible for creating El Quinto Escalón, the biggest park freestyle competition in the country.
As an artist, YSY A is aggressive and disruptive. He has a raw and crispy voice, like a rabid dog’s bark, making for a powerful delivery. YSY’s innovative nature finds him selecting the most daring beats to rap over, like on the hit “Vamo a Darle,” where he flows over a house instrumental, displaying his eagerness to innovate his craft. This has helped YSY A become one of the most unique rappers in all of Latin trap.
To date, YSY A has released two solo albums—Antezana 247, HECHO A MANO—as well as multiple singles with his chart-topping group, Modo Diablo. In HECHO A MANO, he works with 11 of Argentina’s best producers—one for each song—to showcase his adaptability to any production style, and to honor the hard work producers do, elevating their status to a feature-like level.
Colombia has a historical and serious boom bap tradition, and, over the past few years, its artists have produced the best hip-hop albums on the continent—see No Rules Clan’s 2019 Pantone, Luis7Lunes’ 2018 El Armador del Sol, and Alcolirykoz’s 2017 Servicios Ambulatorioz.
For at least the past decade, Colombia has been the mecca of Latin rap, and Angel Dumile has presented himself as the next big thing—despite breaking tradition and rapping over trap production—convincing both local audiences and critics about the artistry of his music.
Flirting with lo-fi beats, the 18-year-old invents enchanting flows and delivers clever lyrics that even the most orthodox hip-hop heads would nod to. “Mi perro es mi único amigo leal, cabezazo a lo Rada letal. Tu Martin Palermo botando 3 goles de tiro penal,” he raps in “Provocation freestyle.”
No matter what instrumental he’s rapping over, Angel reminds fans hip-hop can take on many forms. Recently, recognized hip-hop journalist Santiago Cembrano chose him as one of his 2020 music bets.
Puerto Rico’s Catalyna caught the attention of the world when reggaeton legend Yandel hand-picked her as a producer, releasing their song “Mirame” in 2018. As it turned out, working with one-half of the biggest duo in reggaeton was Catalyna’s big breakthrough.
At just 20 years old, Catalyna has entered the game successfully, using her powerful voice to sing openly about her sexuality, empowering all women to speak their minds.
Living in the United States should be a boon to her recording career, but the fact she sings entirely in Spanish allows Catalyna to remain a great representative of Latinxs in the American market and the world beyond.
Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a city lacking a hip-hop movement and functional recording industry, NEELO has managed to make a name for himself worldwide. His wondrous flow combines his heavy Ecuadorian accent and the tone of Spanish rappers who hail from Alicante, a city known for its distinct “metrica alicantina,” a term used to describe how rappers from the city play with sounds and words.
NEELO can adapt to many different rhythms, like on the song “Te Cansé,” where he sings over a cumbia beat. His clever wordplay, too, gives his bars a lot of personality (“Se que sientes la presión, Rafael Varane. No mire' a los ojos al faraón, Rafael Nadal. Como te tiras pal chapuzón sin saber nadar, es lo mismo para el calentón, soy el rey del trap”), and provides them with his “guayaco” impronta, a kind of swag and way of speaking that people from his city are known for.
In 2019, NEELO’s collaboration with Argentinian sensation Trueno, “Pentakill,” marked his formal entry as a true artist to watch, given how particular Trueno is about his collaborations.
Polimá Westcoast is the son of an Angolan war refugee and the face of the rising trap scene in Chile, another country that has made a name for itself in the Urbano movement for its strong hip-hop culture. A high pitched and distinctive voice allows Polimá to play with different textures, making for a great tool for hooks and choruses.
Polimá’s shape-shifting vocal quality is perfect for just about any occasion. In recent years, his extensive and ever-growing list of feature work includes Young Cister, Steve Lean, Pablo Chill-E, and even the previously mentioned NEELO. These collaborations, like his session with Argentinian producer Bizzarrap, showcase Polimá’s potential to make hits and have opened up a path for his international acclaim.
On his first full release, 2018’s No Love More Bitches, Polimá employed fun samples and funny song titles to catch our attention. Two years later, he is more mature, singing about love and getting hammered with the correct tone for each scenario. Polimá is a compelling rapper who can set a mood with both his bars and vocal range.
DUKI is the face of Latin trap in Argentina. It’s no exaggeration to say he is responsible, in part, for the creative bar being set so high for the entire scene.
DUKI gained his first wave of fans by being recognized as one of El Quinto Escalón’s most successful competitors. See: his first minute in his battle against pop sensation Paulo Londra
A member of Modo Diablo, DUKI has a vast aptitude for melody and consistently delivers incredible and dizzying flows. From his first single, “No Vendo Trap,” to his latest release, a remix to “Goteo,” DUKI is steadfast in his quest to continually reinvent himself.
With a string of sold-out tours, DUKI has not only conquered Argentina but also Mexico and Spain. Of the 10 artists on our list, he’s the one who has far and away “made it” on his terms, and in a relatively short amount of time.
Puerto Rico-born and Mendoza, Argentina-raised, Lenny Tavarez is the most popular name on our list. Tavarez was formally a part of the duo Dyland & Lenny, a big name in the late 2000s that signed with popular reggaeton duo Luny Tunes—a move that enabled his solo career with an already established name and allowed Tavarez to work with several big artists, including Sech, Farruko, De La Ghetto, and more.
On his 2017 album, Pop Porn, Tavarez takes a break from his classic reggaetonero phase, rapping over a bevy of trap production. This feat resulted in catchy songs, neither generic nor stiff, and laid the blueprint for his future success.
Young Eiby might be busy conquering South America, but that hasn’t stopped him from representing Peru. In Eiby’s relatively short career, he has released a slew of songs that have managed to impact on Puerto Rico’s most important Urbano radio. He even landed a song on Trap Land, a Spotify playlist featuring the best trap music in Spanish, both a first for a Peruvian rapper.
Eiby’s most well-known track, “Tu Fronteas,” samples reggaeton godfather Tego Calderon and has drawn the attention of Boricua listeners. Thanks to these achievements and bangers like “Prende el blunt” and “Perra” under his belt, Eiby is set to conquer the continent in 2020.
Besides great rapping, Eiby, 24, can also sing a pleasant chorus. On “Mariana,” one of his most laid back songs, Eiby’s standout hook sounds like a Paulo Londra single, with the Peruvian’s signature all over.
Venezuela gave birth to some of the best MCs Latin rap has ever known: Akapellah, Letra, and even the King Canserbero himself, who deserves an entire page in Latin rap’s history. However, its current political situation has overshadowed some of the country’s latest talent.
Royal Arm, with his distinct Caribbean accent and dark lyrics, stands as one of the newest names in a relatively new movement. He may be young, but Royal Arm has already proven to be hungry for success—with the creative drive and technical skills necessary to succeed in music for years to come.
Being a woman in the current trap movement is quite a challenge. Argentinian trap star Dakillah knows about the macho-pose surrounding the scene and has dedicated more than a few bars to it. “Dicen que sobra actitud, pero actitud veo poca. Antes querían ser rappers, ahora dicen que son rockstars,” she says on her single, “Actitud.” Many believe the line to be a direct hit on DUKI, who rocketed to fame with a song called “Rockstar.”
At only 19 years old, Dakillah is quick and catchy, with an undeniable and breathless flow that would make even the most established rappers jealous. Her rapping is her greatest asset, but her daring and confrontational lyrics, which highlight Dakillah as the one calling the shots in relationships and in the local scene, make for a full impronta that’s difficult to ignore.