There’s a new sound emanating from Spain’s poorest neighborhoods. It’s loud, brash and infecting all who hear it across the country’s sun-baked streets and beaches. It’s a familiar sound to American ears, particularly to Atlantan ones, but it’s not quite the same. It’s infused with reggaeton, salsa and even sometimes flamenco. It’s the sound of Spanish trap.
Nobody seems to know quite when or why this particular sub-genre made the voyage across the atlantic, especially when many others haven’t. What’s for sure is that it has developed into a genuine subculture that’s just as much about a lifestyle as it is the music. Money, at least for now, is secondary. It’s not without it’s criticisms – violent and organized crime and heavy drug use are as widespread as they are in the US trap scene – but it feels genuine and authentic. The music is chaotic and sometimes unpolished, it’s trap but distorted through a washing machine of bleach and acid.
Now, as the scene’s poster boy is picked out for a place in Calvin Klein’s “#mycalvins” campaign, it’s probably a good time to acquaint yourself with the country’s up and coming. Here are 10 of the best Spanish traperos.
Los Zafiros members Big Jay aka Papi Trujillo & Vicious aka Cuban Link (trappers using many different aliases is something you have to get used to in Spain) may hail from Puerto Rico/Dominican Republic and Cuba, respectively, but now they’re strictly Madrileños.
They live in the barrio of Ventilla and record their music from the front room of their tiny apartment. The music is infused with Latin vibes and while it’s not as danceable as the merengue of the Dominican Republic, or the Cuban band after which they take their name, the influence is certainly there for all to hear.
They are, by their own admission, involved in some shady activities in the city – in a recent VICE Spain documentary, Big Jay is seen totting a pistol while surrounded by drugs and ammunition. Hit up their Youtube account for more tracks.
Perhaps the Spanish Drake, nice guy C. Tangana (Anton Alvarez Alfaro) is more interested in songs about sadness, romance and heartbreak than he is in songs about guns, money and fancy clothes. Like Los Zafiros, he also hails from Madrid, but his music is softer, popier and a lot more accessible.
Formerly known as Cream, he has a degree in philosophy and finally got his break in 2012 while working at a Vodafone call centre. He renamed himself C. Tangana and, according to him, stopped trying to be something that he wasn’t and instead concentrated on showcasing his true personality.
His flow is tight and melodic, and his videos broke new ground by unapologetically showing branded clothing and middle class surroundings – something that clashed, and still does, with prevailing hip-hop prejudices.
He works as both a solo artist, and as a part of the wider collective Agorazein. Check out more here.
Step away from the capital city and head closer to the beaches of the country’s south coast and you’ll find 26-year-old Yung Beef. His recent involvement in Calvin Klein’s “#mycalvins” campaign confirms his status as the Spanish trap scene’s poster boy, but it’s been a long time coming for the man from Grenada who was previously making beds in various hotels in London and Marseille.
He’s been hard at it since 2013, when he and others (who’ll we’ll get to, shortly) formed the collective PXXR GVNG. His output is incredible, releasing hundreds of tracks as Yung Beef, his salsa/reggaeton alias Fernandito Kit Kat, and PXXR GVNG.
His collective has been named by El Pais, Spain’s largest newspaper, as the country’s most important rap phenomenon in decades. His swaggering aesthetic would come across as crass was it not for the quality of the music – a powerful crossroads that sees the sweaty sounds of Caribbean dembow and reggaeton collide with contemporary hip-hop.
Listen to music from all three of his project over at his Youtube account.
Another PXXR GVNG member is Kaydy Cain, real name Dani Gómez. The group itself was founded on the fact that each member was poor and wanted to do something with their lives, hence why they sometimes go under the name Los Pobres (The Poor.)
It seems to have worked out well enough: in a recent interview, Kaydy was asked to described his current lifestyle, he replied “eating, smoking, fucking.” On an earlier release put out by Sony Music Spain he comes in on a auto-tuned verse singing, “We’re going to die rich, we deserve it.”
He’s from Madrid and is the younger and seemingly quieter member of the group, but has recently began putting out songs under his own name. His track “Givenchy Dons” is particular impressive, as he spits in a deep drawl over an old-school hip-hop beat. Listen below.
The third member of PXXR GVNG is Khaled. Like Yung Beef, he’s also from Grenada, but half of his family originate from Morocco. His style is throaty and aggressive, and sounds like he’s spitting both phlegm and rhymes at the same time – in a good way.
He wears far more gold chains than the rest of the group, smokes strictly Marlboros, and drinks Jägermeister (“The poor only drink Jägermeister,” he says) with tonic, not Red Bull.
As per, he releases tracks both with the collective and as a solo artist. You can listen to them here.
Unlike other artists in the scene who defiantly want to remain in the barrios in which they were born and raised, Kidd Keo has more international aspirations. He’s from Alicante, but half of his family emigrated to Canada and his stepfather is German – influences that clearly rubbed off on him as he now raps almost entirely in English.
Perhaps because of that, he’s now starting to make big waves with some of his tracks receiving over two million views on his Youtube channel. Check them out here.
There isn’t much known about Dellafuente, apart from that he’s another Grenadian, his nickname is “El Chino” (The Chinese) and that his music is garnering a hell of a lot of attention on Youtube and Soundcloud. He and singer Maka create music which is laced with Flamenco guitar intertwined with rap and trap beats.
His lyrics reflect the insecure feelings of our youth, and speak about family, love and desire. He’s put a voice to the feelings that many feel but can’t or won’t express. He told El Mundo: “I don’t want to be tied to the other rappers. I think the lyrics are easy in rap, besides that’s something that already exists, that’s been chewed over and over. You always try and distinguish yourself.”
Listen to more of his tracks over at his Youtube channel.
Dubbed “The Trap Queen” thanks to her songs with huge choruses and verses about being an independent woman with lots of money, Chanel is one of the country’s most promising female artists.
She was born in Jerez and later moved to Mallorca, but in neither place was she particularly surrounded by musical inspiration. She says her home situation was complex, with neither of her parents interested in music. Trap sounds wandered into her life almost accidently after stumbling across a remix of Ciara’s “Body Part” featuring Future and B.o.B.
Now she’s unapologetic about where she draws influence from: Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane. Listen to more here.
Takers are a loose collective comprised of rappers Israel B, M. Ramirez, Marko Italia, Caballo de Rally, AEL BEAT$, and another we’ve already covered, Kaydy Cain.
Sound and style wise, they’re almost undistinguishable from PXXR GVNG (they’ve even joined forces before for a song about the Nike Air Max TN) but that’s beside the point. The whole scene is essentially one giant supergroup made up of smaller collaborations. Takers is one of them, and a good one at that.
You can find most of their tracks here.
If not much is known about Dellafuente, then we know practically nothing about Bejo. We know that he comes from the Canary Islands, that his sound breaks away from the trap scene of the mainland, that he puts out stunning visuals for each of his tracks, and that he has a intricate rhyming style. He often plays off whole songs arounds one word – like the one above around “Poco.”
You can listen to all of the songs he’s put out so far here.
They’re not rappers, they’re producers, but it would be unfair not to mention them. The grammy award winning duo of Big Size and Zock have their tentacles spread across Spain, producing tracks for a lot of the aforementioned artists. They drawn in many of the big names, including Yung Beef, to create more traditional hip-hop tracks like the one above.
Nicki Minaj, Mac Miller, Pusha T, The Game, YG, Curren$y, Redman, Jim Jones have all sought the duo’s talents in recent years, and they’ve now mustered up over 15 million streams on Soundcloud and over 4 million downloads. Not bad.
For more European hip-hop, here are five upcoming French rappers.