Brothers of the street, united by the same “flow,” Rene Perez, the Residente (Resident) in the Calle 13 duo, and Eduardo Cabra, the Visitante (Visitor), have shown that, when it comes to musical innovation, everything's fair game.
But Calle 13 do not only preach the mantra of breaking molds in international hits such as 'Atr..vete-te' (Dare to do it) and 'Se vale to-to' (Everything's allowed), they also practice it. Thus, with their 2005 debut album, "Calle 13," Residente and Visitante took the genre of urban music to new levels.
With rock-solid lyrics and music, Calle 13 are reggaeton's unsuspected alternative. An alternative that blows the conventional right out of the ring, that knocks down taboos and winks at sensuality, humor, and popular culture.
Starting April 24, the evolution/revolution of the duo continues, with the worldwide release of Calle 13's new album, "Residente/Visitante."
"We have handled this record the same way we did the first one: genuinely," says Residente, born in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. "With the first one, we were living on the island and there were a few things we didn't know. But from then on, we had the opportunity to travel, and we discovered many new elements and incorporated them into our music."
Without betraying their roots, but feeding off new influences as well so as to share the Calle 13 experience with the whole world, popular musical manifestations of other countries find their way into "Residente/Visitante".
"Lyrically and musically speaking, we maintain our Puerto Rican identity," says Residente about the creative spirit shared with Visitante that pervades their second album. "And that's attractive even for someone who's not from Puerto Rico. Now, however, I am much more conscious of what a word can mean in another country. In that respect, there's a new maturity."
A maturity that becomes evident as well in the collaborations for the album between Calle 13 and some of the most renowned names in the music industry, such as Oscar-winning Argentine producer Gustavo Santaolalla, Cuban rap group Orishas and Spanish female rapper La Mala Rodr..guez, among others.
In the work with Santaolalla, 'El tango del pecado,' for example, sounds of the streets of Buenos Aires and of Puerto Rico come together.
"In Argentina we recorded tango with reggaeton, something that no one else had done," says a pleased Residente. "The song is really cool. Different, like the whole album, which is a trip."
A trip that also stopped in Bogot.., Colombia, to record 'La cumbia de los aburridos.'
"There we worked with some very good alternative artists, who have made their name in that scene," explains Residente. "What we are doing is something new for everyone."
The dark humor that is also an integral element of Calle 13's music, is present in this new production as well, says the singer. Just the names of some of the new songs, he adds, tracks such as 'La era de la copia era,' 'La fu kin moda,' 'Me voy pal norte' and 'Algo con sentido para los consentidos,' have that playful, mischievous air.
"But the album is much more violent than the last one. Violent in terms of images and words," cautions Residente, who in 2005 authored a politically-tinged song, 'Querido FBI’, that was highly criticized for its disturbing lyrics, but which in the end was used by the government of Puerto Rico in a campaign against stray bullets. "And much more conscious of what the message being relayed is too."
Audiences and colleagues have been equally aware of Calle 13's contributions to music: their self-titled album has sold more than 400,000 units and, last year, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (LARAS), recognized the duo with three prestigious Latin GRAMMY awards.
Awards that Residente and Visitante never dreamed of while growing up in the area of Trujillo Alto, in Puerto Rico. There, on 13th Street (Calle 13), Eduardo would visit his half-brother Ren.., and would identify himself as Visitor upon entering. Ren.., meanwhile, would identify as Resident.
Eduardo, born in Santurce, was a visitor to the music world from an early age. At six, he began formal music training with the Suzuki Method, and later, took piano classes with a renowned maestro on the island, Jos.. Acevedo. He continued his studies at the Conservatory of Music and at the Manolo Acosta School, where he learned to play saxophone and flute. He taught himself how to play the classical guitar, and also found in the computer new ways of expressing himself musically.
Although he studied accounting and information technology at the University of Puerto Rico, his real passion was producing and composing music.
Ren.. was a resident of the art and music worlds from an early age too. As the son of actress Flor Joglar, he was exposed to literature. For five years, he studied at the fine arts school Escuela de Artes Pl..sticas de Puerto Rico. Three more were spent studying animation at Georgia's Savannah College of Art and Design. Besides writing songs, he has also made videos and has been involved in different artistic aspects: at the 2006 Art Basel Miami Beach art fair, for example, his voice could be heard as part of a video installation for the artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.
"There are times when we feel way too flattered," reflects Residente upon the success achieved by Calle 13. "I have plans to do many other things [like writing scripts], but Eduardo and I are living a dream."