Afro-Honduran Rapper Stands Poised to Smash the Genre's Color Barrier
Perhaps the biggest and most legitimate criticism levied at Latin trap as an industry has to do with its apparent elevation of white and white-presenting artists at the expense of non-white ones. Given this music’s obvious origins in and undeniable links to a U.S.-based scene represented overwhelmingly by African-American rappers operating out of cities like Atlanta and Memphis, having artists like Anuel AA and Bad Bunny at the forefront of the Spanish-speaking world’s movement rightfully doesn’t sit right.
Even before the rise of Latin trap bolstered its crossover prospects, longtime listeners to reggaeton and urbano previously saw firsthand how whitewashing led to the diminishing and veritable erasure of Afro-Latinx acts, including some of the pioneers of these styles. Even in the Caribbean, colorism appears to be a hindering factor. So, for example, while Tego Calderon commands respect for his work as a reggaetonero, he hasn’t had anything quite the commercial success of Daddy Yankee. Earlier this year, Remezcla columnist Eduardo Cepeda detailed the ways in which Afro-Panamanian artists helped usher the dembow-driven genre into existence, details that prove inconvenient to those who seek to position it more as the product of Puerto Rico and New York.
Though there are arguably more white rappers in the U.S. right now than ever before, English-language rap music still maintains a predominantly black presence. While G-Eazy or Machine Gun Kelly currently enjoy levels of fame and presumably fortune, they operate stateside as tolerated outliers in hip-hop, a minor phenomenon Your Old Droog summed up well in his 2017 song “White Rappers (A Good Guest).” While American trap fiercely defends its blackness and the black experience as integral to the music’s authenticity, Latin trap’s proffered vanguard projects the opposite. Current Billboard charters Brytiago and Cosculluela have conventionally white Hispanic looks while subversively tattooed types like Lary Over more closely resemble Lil Pump than Lil Wayne.
In contrast with most of the Carbon Fiber Music, the formidable urbano imprint whose roster includes consistently hitmaking co-founder Farruko and hotly tipped recent signees DM and Mr. Perez, Menor Menor stands out in more ways than one. After linking with the eminent imprint last year, the blue-haired Afro-Honduran has since dropped some of the label’s smoothest singles. His formal introduction came back in November when he was just 21 years old with the Lary Over collaboration “Ahora Se,” his voice providing sonorous counterpoint to his cohort’s tone. While neither that track nor its remix failed to appear on the Puerto Rican trap fixture’s debut album, it set the stage for Menor Menor’s solo follow-up “Rola Cola,” a hypnotic banger co-produced by Sharo Torres and teeming with boisterous bars and staccato flows. Subsequent team-ups with Dominican singer Amenazzy and Afro-Panamanian Carbon Fiber labelmate El Boy C kept the momentum going, as did his appearance on the label’s group showcase over producer Sinfónico’s “Me Compré Un Full” beat.
This summer yielded Menor Menor’s finest track to date. Produced by Lil Geniuz and the aforementioned Torres, the sung/rapped “Falsas Promesas” boomed with its laidback trap beat while delivering an unapologetic kiss-off to an ungrateful ex. While overshadowed in the warmer months by the similarly themed Nio Garcia-helmed posse smash “Te Boté,” a fresh remix emerged this month featuring Farruko, who piles onto his artist’s acrimonious sentiment with a that Instagram and WhatsApp curve for good measure. Given the label boss’ considerable clout, an opportunity exists for “Falsas Promesas” to make an impact on Billboard’s Latin charts.
As if that weren’t enough, Menor Menor followed up the remix a week later with “Volver.” Over a beat similar to that of the airy, almost hypnagogic trap of “Falsas Promesas,” he switches from scornful scoundrel to remorseful rebel. Here, he pleads for a lover’s forgiveness and her return to his life and, more immediately and specifically, his bed. Both radio-friendly singles capture his skill as both singer and spitter. Where others operating in Latin trap might need to rely on someone else to deliver a winning chorus, he’s his own hooksmith, putting the young talent in a position to succeed much like his mediagenic peers provided he can overcome the insidious color barrier that so stubbornly persists.
With the high profile support of Farruko as both label boss and recent musical collaborator, he has a shot at breaking out that black artists in this part of the genre still struggling for recognition rarely receive. Both of his latest singles have the potential to put him in front of the cameras at the next rounds of Latin music awards stateside. At a time when moneyed interlopers like Steve Aoki, Dillon Francis, and most recently DJ Snake can engineer an instant crossover hit, we clearly need more of an Afro-Latinx presence like Menor Menor in trap now more than ever.
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