The new year is starting with a bang for Cuban duo Yomil y El Dany (Roberto Hidalgo and Daniel Muñoz). First came “Musica Vital,” a joyous ode to Cuba and its music they recorded in collaboration with the band Buena Fé and the legendary singer Omara Portuondo. And today, with the release of their highly anticipated LP “Dopados de la Mente,” their fans can finally enjoy a full-sized offering of their ferocious, innovative brand of trapton.
Trapton is the next step in the evolution of reggaeton, the hip-hop-infused Puerto Rican musical genre that has conquered the airwaves since its emergence in the late 1990s. Trapton combines the well-known reggaeton rhythm base with the darker moods of electronic trap music and, in a pleasantly dissonant synthesis, the upbeat sounds of Cuban son and Jamaican reggae. As “Dopados de la Mente” amply shows, the new subgenre is pliable and versatile, allowing for slow, ominous rhythms along with some eminently danceable beats.
“Pa’ Qué Me Llamaste” is a good introduction to Yomil y El Dany’s music and to trapton as a whole. The track begins with the loud drums and synthesizer sounds that characterize trap, then periodically speeds things up, adding layer upon rhythmic layer, the Latin drumming merging with the hip-hop flow seamlessly, as do Yomil’s muscular singing voice and El Dany’s quick-delivery rapping. The song earns extra points for its devilish riffing on the feel-good hit by Mexican icon Juan Gabriel, “Pero Qué Necesidad,” as well as for its music video, which provides a panoramic view of life on the streets of Havana.
The energy in these songs is impossible to miss, be it in soon-to-be dance club mainstays such as “Lola” and “Tú No Tienes Ticket” (featuring Micha) or heartfelt, confessional ballads like “Por la Street.” The lyrics are thoughtful and deft, a level or two above most of the offerings at the top of the Billboard charts. My favorite and the one that may have the longest shelf-life because of its subject matter is Messi vs. Cristiano, a kinetic marvel that makes the most of its soccer metaphors and shows real love to two of the most recognizable athletes in the world.
Not all of the songs are as successful. “Ni Santas ni Finas,” one of the first singles to be released, is frankly a drag, virtually indistinguishable from dozens of Latin hits from the past decade, its video packed full of all the trappings of “urban” culture: a mass of strutting, jiggling, half-naked women, pimped out cars, and money shot through the air like confetti. Cuban artists may try to make this pass as a rebellion against their nation’s anti-capitalist official doctrine, but the result is tired, overdone.
A couple of missteps, though, should not take away from the energy and originality that pervades the album, which will doubtless win Yomil y El Dany a trunk full of awards and inspire throngs of imitators.