Our favourite Puerto Ricans kick off Best Mates Thursday…
Chuck Eddy: There’s a multidirectionality at work in these seven minutes more akin to Los Fabulosos Cadillacs-style rock en español than to the reggaeton Calle 13 were once tangetially identified with — Brazilian drum barrage á la Chico Science, jazz-horn solos, heaping helpings of salsa, Top 20 1984 Pazz & Jop finisher Blades rapping wordy. I never much got him then, and I don’t much get Calle 13 now, though I’m sure that says nothing about lack of ideas on either artist’s part. And here, Blades’ gentility and Calle 13’s gratingness balance each other out.
Martin Kavka: As with “Electro Movimento,” Residente is the worst part of this song. For the first three minutes, it’s carried by the performances of the samba group La Chilinga. And then … Rubén Blades begins to rap, and it feels as if a sage is passing on age-old lore to me, binding me to the responsibilities of adulthood.
Martin Skidmore: I’ve been a little tepid about them compared to most here, and really this is another I kind of like without much enthusiasm. Its rapping is almost conversational most of the way, and the music is very restrained and almost timid. Ruben Blades sounds as smooth as ever, but he’s not given much energy to work with. As usual, I find it very pleasant, but unexciting, and it rambles on for ages.
Ian Mathers: You can add some points if there’s a good single edit I’m not aware of, but the version of “La Perla” I’m listening to is a bloody interminable seven goddamned minutes, and much of it is spent listening to Calle 13 muttering to himself about… something. Maybe if I understood the language I’d be dazzled by the wordplay, but as a gringo this is just boring boring boring.
Hillary Brown: Is this about underwear? It kind of sounds like it.
Michaelangelo Matos: I’m turning this one over to my sister Brittany, who knows more about Latin music than I do: “Residente has a distinct voice but it is pretty monotonous. When paired up with Ruben Blades it is actually tolerable. Judging from the Spanish that I do speak Residente is a good lyricist, I just can’t stand listening to his voice for any extended amount of time. This song is about La Perla which is a very poor neighborhood in Puerto Rico and he is basically giving a shoutout to people who live there and other Latin neighborhoods with similar living situations. I loved the horns. It was a far cry from what I’ve heard Calle 13 do before. I think Blades adds flavor that Calle 13 lacks. His voice definitely outshines Residente’s. Obviously there is no competition there.”
Matt Cibula: I had this figured at an 8 until I heard the chorus. It’s a god-damned work of art, a ghetto symphony that brings lagrimas to mis ojos.
Rodney J. Greene: While “La Perla” is both more conservative and more representative of their current sound than the tryhard electro-caca with which they last entered the Jukebox, it is as ambitious in its scope as any individual song they’ve done to date. It works its way from a primitive clave clack to a warm and relaxed summer night salsa groove, the lyrics a poetic tribute to a San Juan barrio. Halfway through, gears shift and the tune becomes an extended showcase for salsero Rubén Blades and percussionists La Chilinga. Blades is not to be outdone by Calle 13 emcee René Pérez, rhyming verses of his own with surprising aptitude for a sexagenarian non-rapper, drawing lines between San Juan’s La Perla and his native Panama. Then he shows what he really does, joyously loosing his vocal chords over the soaring call-and-response section.
John M. Cunningham: Calle 13 once again proves it’s the world’s most inventive reggaetón act, as it enlists arguably the most famous personality in Panama, Rúben Blades, to add some rousing salsa vocals to a track that’s half mellow rap and half Afro-Cuban block party. It’s a wonderfully ambitious idea, but I’m not sure it ever quite comes together, and at nearly seven minutes, Residente’s usual easygoing flow feels a touch monotonous.
Alfred Soto: Knowing all the Spanish makes this generic track a little funnier. He loves his barrio like Tito, hits his chick with a flip-flop, feast on shish kabob… he’s not a bad sort. But what are you supposed to do with this?