Calle 13 talks about beginnings, new growth

All big ideas start small, and Calle 13 — a wildly popular alternative urban band from Puerto Rico — is no exception—CNN reports.

Its members, Rene Perez, who goes by “Residente,” and Eduardo Cabra, “Visitante,” are stepbrothers. When their parents divorced, Cabra would visit Perez at his father’s house on 13th Street, or Calle 13.

He was required to identify himself to enter, as either a resident, “residente” or visitor, “visitante,” in Spanish.

The names stuck.

“Later, it took on another meaning, with the question of whether immigrants are residents or visitors,” said Perez, who along with Cabra, recently sat down to talk with CNN en Español’s Claudia Palacios. “But that was how it started.”

Neither brother could have imagined then what Calle 13 would become — one of the most highly praised and talked-about groups to come out of Latin America in years. It has won more than 20 Grammys and moved beyond its reggaeton roots to include instruments and sounds from all over the region, winning critical and popular praise in the process.

Though raunchy, the group’s lyrics are often hard-hitting on social issues, and Perez is particularly well-known for being outspoken about poverty, Puerto Rican independence and education.

Asked how he views his career now, Perez said he’s matured and made some adjustments so that people can better hear and understand his message.

“I liked to use bad words,” said Perez, who raps and writes the group’s lyrics. “Because it seemed to me it gave a reality that’s missing in music.”

“There are bad words in novels, in theater, in documentaries, at the movies. Why can’t they exist in music?”

“The problem,” he continued, “was that people were concentrating on the bad words and losing the message.”

Though he’ll still swear on records if the song calls for it, Perez says he uses expletives less now in the hope that his music will be able to reach a wider audience.

To that end, Perez, who went to school at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, said he plans to start writing lyrics in English and thinks he might live in New York one day.

His words are paired with music and beats created by Cabra. Their younger sister, Ileana Cabra, known as “PG-13,” also performs with Calle 13 sometimes.

Cabra describes the group’s sound as a mix of many influences. Eclectic is a good word for it.

In spite of the variety that’s out there, though, Cabra told CNNE’s Palacios that he thinks “we’re going through a bad time, the worst time in music.”

“Everything sounds the same on the radio, different producers doing the same work,” he said. “Look — we’re not making the best music in the world. But what we are making is sincere, and I think that’s worth something.”

For the original report go to

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