Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So we can disrespect each other

(For the version in Spanish in today's El Diario / La Prensa, click here.)

So we can disrespect each other

So many things captivated me about last Friday’s concert at Manhattan’s Nokia Theater featuring Calle 13 and Spanish hip-hop artist La Mala Rodríguez.

The music was great and the audience was hyped. Of the many details I could elaborate on, I feel compelled to write just about a tiny part of the show: the only song that Calle 13 and La Mala interpreted together titled “Mala suerte con el 13” (Bad Luck with 13).

It’s the most (simultaneously) tender, romantic and dirty song I ever heard. It actually put into lyrics a vague feeling I had been having during the whole show: that the contradictions and opposing forces onstage were somehow conveying a delicious sense of balance.

La Mala herself is the embodiment of several seemingly opposing forces: skilled rhyme-sayer with a gorgeous singing voice who comes across as hard, sometimes even violent, and at the same time intensely loving. Thin, with usually delicate gestures, dressed in angel-white, she is also (in her own words) “una patá por la boca” (a kick to the mouth). The same woman who asked all of us in the audience to hug the people around us and refused to keep singing until most of us shyly complied.

Calle 13 is also the synthesis of multiple and disparate forces: Residente is grimy, highly politicized, sometimes sweet, hardly ever serious. His counterpart onstage is his adolescent sister PG13: half nymph, half elf, always strong; sometimes fluttering her arms like wings, sometimes joining her brother in stressing the crudest words in his rhymes.

But back to the song at hand, where La Mala and Residente exchange verses that manage to be tender, philosophical and filthy all at once.

The hook says it (almost) all: “Vamos a faltarnos el respeto, usando el alfabeto completo” (Lets disrespect each other, using the whole alphabet.”

Below, a few gems from the song:

La Mala:

Quiero un hombre sin complejo [I want a man without an inferiority complex]
Que tenga buenos reflejos [With good reflexes]
Pa' ver como se hace viejo [To see how he gets old]
Miro el horóscopo pa' ver qué me depara [I check the horoscope, to see what awaits me]
Cuando me pongo perra, tú, nada me para [When I get like a bitch in heat, nothing can stop me]
Llévame pa' la cueva[...] [Take me to the cave]
De los pelos arrastrá [Drag me by the hair]
No me dejes ni hablar [Don’t even let me speak]
Si tengo la oportunidad [If I get the chance]
De agarrarte como quiero la presión [To check your blood pressure]
(¿La presión?) [(¿Blood presure?)]
Se te va a disparar [...] [It’s going to shoot up]
Me sabe mejor lo que no me das [What you don’t give me tastes better]
Que lo que me das, ay papá [Than what you do give me, ay papá]
¿Qué es lo que tú tienes pa’ mi? [What do you have for me?]
Tengo que gritar, yo estoy en libertad [I have to scream, I’m free to do so]
Vamos a ponernos a llorar[...] [Lets start to cry]


Oye, flaca [Listen, slim]
Este sudaca quiere tener sexo con caca [This southener wants to have sex with shit]
Kinki, peludo como Chubaca [Kinky, hairy like Chewbacca]
Quiere tener sexo puerco, sucio, como de inodoro [He wants to have sex, dirty like a toilet]
Oríname en el pecho [Piss on my chest]
Te lo juro que yo te enamoro, mi tesoro [I swear I’ll make you fall in love, my treasure]
(Escúpeme en la boca) [(Spit in my mouth)]
Mientras me agarras las tetillas [While you grab my nipples]
Con solo verte las rodillas yo me lubrico [I get lubricated just looking at your knees]
(Ay, que la tienes muy pequeño chico) [(Yours is too small, man)]
Pero eso lo sabes tú na' más y ahora todo Puerto Rico[...] [But only you know that, and now, all of Puerto Rico]
Yo te quiero decir cosas bonitas mamita [I want to tell you pretty things, mamita]
Pero no me sale [But they don’t come out]
Es que yo fui criao por los animales [It’s just that I was raised by animals]
Sin modales [With no manners]
(Mamando teta de orangutanes) [(Sucking orangutans’ tits)]

In an interview with Ernesto Lechner for The Chicago Tribune, La Mala said: “Things can get really boring if you lose your sense of humor. I loved turning this grotesque song into a parody of the typical flirty duet between a man and a woman.” Also in an interview with Lechner, Residente described his initial idea for the song as “a duet between a guy who's weak and inadequate, and a woman who's a sexual psychopath and has all the power in the world.”

Frances Negrón-Muntaner, author of a forthcoming essay on Calle 13 titled “Poesía de porquería” (Poetry of Filth) describes the song as “a mockery of macho stereotypes” that proposes “the body as nourishment, a source of pleasure and knowledge.” I agree. And I’m impressed with the way humor, romance, raw desire and scatology are all present in this song at the same time, balancing each other out in a splendid juggler’s “malamarismo” (La Mala’s latest album is titled Malamarismo).

These judgements are all, of course, highly subjective. One blogger objects to the “misplaced profanity” that “gives a rancid taste to what could have been an intimate hiphop song with a great guest rapera (La Mala Rodriguez)”.

I, on the other hand, welcome the song for pushing (from the realm of rough play) the limits of decorum and social criticism, an opinion shared by Lechner and also by reviewer Joey Guerra.

So if its going to be like La Mala and Residente are proposing, I say we can definitely “disrespect each other,” since, in reality, we’d be doing exactly the opposite.


mOnO said...

hola saludos... me gustó mucho lo que escfribiste... a mi en general Calle 13 me produce muchos sentimientos encontrados... me gusta eso de que la gente se quede en la coprolalia que emana de su boca y de pronto descubrir que tiene tanto que decir tras las groserías (hay algo de fondo mucho más profundo que esa superficialidad...) enfrentar problemas políticos, de idiosincracia (como en el tema "La ley de gravedad"), temas de amor... a mi la verdad sus temas románticos me impactan por lo simples y directos... sin esas cursilerías de Ricky Martin u otros que en el fondo despues de fumarse el cigarro post coito dudo que anden cantandole tanta cosa romántica a su amante....

raquelzrivera said...

Gracias por el comentario! No sólo dudo que anden cantándole cosas románticas a su amante toda la noche... es que a los típicamente románticos no les creo. Lo romántico me huele a gran embuste. Igual que Tego, Residente como que me inspira más confianza. En el caso de Residente, me da la impresión de ser tan puerco como tan franco. Quizás me equivoco. Son simplemente mis subjetivas impresiones y gustos.

fvs said...

I am writing a paper on Calle 13 and his criticism of consumerism and social standings of puerto rico. Do you know how I could get a hold of Frances Negron's forthcoming essay? Thanks! (