With his supersized Afro, just-woke-up-after-a-late-night voice, and I-can't-believe-I'm-a-star humility, Tego Calderón might be the most lovable thug of all time. Certainly, he's the most loved rapper in reggaetón. The kid who was such a pest that he gets his nickname from the pesky abayarde ant ("fire ants," we call 'em up here) suddenly started to look like the savior of everything from the boyz in the barrio to the Latin music industry. All of which makes El Enemy de los Guasíbiri that much more disappointing.
Tego's first outing felt like a revelation, a kind of commercial conversion for a sound that wasn't so much new as it was persecuted or ignored, just like the young black Puerto Rican men who made and listened to it. But a funny thing happened on the way to success. The follow-up now sounds overly familiar. There's just been too much mind-bending dancehall and dancehall-influenced hip-hop breaking out in the last year or so between the major-label rerelease of El Abayarde and this year's model: The straight-ahead bass and reedy synth riddims (bueno, ritmos) on most of El Enemy de los Guasíbiri's tracks betray reggaetón's real age. Tego's delivery is all good, but the ritmos lack the precision and inventiveness to do his rhymes justice.
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