A Rapper, Hitting His 30s, Reinvents Himself as a Scion of Spanish Pop

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LONDON — C. Tangana, one in all Spain’s greatest rap stars, two years in the past hit “slightly little bit of a disaster.”

He was driving a wave of fame, recognized for provocative songs and equally provocative interviews. However he was quick approaching his 30s, he stated in a current Zoom interview, and risked turning into a kind of “cringe-y, embarrassing” rappers who act a decade youthful than they’re.

So C. Tangana — actual identify Antón Álvarez Alfaro — did a U-turn and determined to strive his hand at different types of music that he had liked since childhood, like flamenco and rumba, even Spanish people.

“I used to be opening a window I’d saved closed,” he stated, including, “I assumed it might go incorrect.”

Álvarez’s experiment seems to have paid off. In February, he launched “El Madrileño,” an album that mixes conventional Spanish and Latin American types, together with rock, with digital sounds and beats extra acquainted to his entice and reggaeton followers. It’s turned him from Spain’s greatest rapper into one in all its greatest pop stars.

One of many album’s early tracks, “Tú Me Dejaste De Querer” (“You Stopped Loving Me”), has over 100 million views on YouTube.

“You may hearken to his music anytime, in any store” Pablo Gil, a music journalist at El Mundo, a Spanish every day newspaper, stated in a phone interview.

A few of the musical types it options had been final in style in Spain within the Nineteen Seventies, when the nation was underneath Franco’s dictatorship, Gil added. Álvarez, he stated, was taking old school sounds, “subverting their which means and making them fashionable.”

In a evaluation for the newspaper El País, the music critic Carlos Marcos wrote, “It stays to be seen whether or not that is the delivery of a brand new Spanish pop, or one thing that we’ll neglect in a couple of years.”

“However who cares?” he added. “Let’s get pleasure from it at the moment, and we’ll see tomorrow.”

On YouTube, C. Tangana’s movies now appeal to feedback from older music followers who would presumably by no means have gone close to his information earlier than. “I believed the music my son listened to was for landfill,” wrote Felix Guinnot, who stated he was in his 50s, “however this boy is altering my musical notion.”

Álvarez’s street to fame has been winding, with a number of modifications of identify to replicate new musical personas. Born in Madrid, he began rapping in his teenagers, he stated, however twice gave up on music solely. When the 2008 international monetary disaster hit Spain significantly onerous — its lingering results are nonetheless felt by the nation’s youth — he stopped rapping to work in a fast-food restaurant. Later, he received a job in a name middle promoting cellphones.

He began rapping once more after falling in love with a colleague. It was a poisonous relationship, Álvarez stated, however it impressed him to get again into the studio. “I stated, ‘It have to be potential for me to generate income doing this slightly than promoting telephones or cleansing,’” he recalled. “It modified my complete mentality. I began to suppose I needed to promote myself. I began to do issues to get consideration.”

In 2017, Álvarez had his first main hit with “Mala Mujer,” a monitor about his eager for a “unhealthy lady” whose “gel nails have left scars throughout my physique.” However he was quickly recognized extra for his relationship with Rosalía, a Spanish pop star (he co-wrote a lot of “El Mal Querer,” or “Dangerous Love,” her breakthrough album, though they’ve since damaged up) and for moving into political controversies.

The following 12 months, the northern Spanish metropolis of Bilbao threw C. Tangana off a live performance lineup, saying that his lyrics had been degrading to girls.

Extra lately, he called for people to reclaim Spain’s flag from fascists, a probably contentious endorsement in a rustic the place some affiliate it with Franco’s dictatorship.

Ana Iris Simón, a music journalist and creator who has written concerning the response to “El Madrileño,” praised Álvarez’s outspoken nature. “He’s not afraid of getting concerned or giving his opinion,” she stated in an e-mail.

Some critics nonetheless accuse him of being overly macho, Simón stated. They level out that solely one of many new album’s 15 visitors is a girl (La Húngara, a flamenco singer). However Simón stated these feedback had been out of contact with how Spaniards considered him. “Public opinion and printed opinion have by no means been as far aside as they’re now,” she famous.

The brand new album additionally performs to Spain’s class divides, Simón stated. It entails artists and musical types “reviled by the cool cultural scene for years for being music typical of the widespread individuals,” she stated. Álvarez makes use of these types with out irony, Iris added, as an alternative embracing them as would an inheritor.

Álvarez stated his selection of collaborators — who embody the Gypsy Kings, the flamenco band that was massively in style within the Nineteen Eighties; Ed Maverick, a “Mexican people romantic”; and Jorge Drexler, a Uruguayan singer-songwriter — was pushed by his love of artists who’ve taken their very own distinct musical paths. However he additionally hoped the collaborations with Latin American musicians would possibly change some Spaniards’ view of the area.

“In Spain, now we have this drawback that lots of people nonetheless have this colonial mentality,” Álvarez stated. “They suppose that our tradition is healthier than their tradition, and that’s so silly.”

Through the interview, Álvarez stated he was overjoyed that his experiment had paid off. He talked loads concerning the pleasure of being seen as a great songwriter. However he appeared happiest when requested concerning the album’s influence on one particular particular person. His mom had “at all times been tremendous proud” of him, he stated, “however now she will sing my songs.”

Feedback on his YouTube tracks counsel that’s mom is just not the one member of one other era doing that. Antonio Remacha, in Madrid, wrote a protracted message beneath one monitor saying that his daughter had pressured him to hearken to the document in opposition to his higher judgment, however that he had liked it.

“I’ve to confess that at 62 years of age, he’s managed to impress me,” Remacha wrote of Álvarez, earlier than politely and formally signing off: “Congratulations and all of my reward.”

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