Meet PJ Sin Suela, the Doctor-Turned-Rapper

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“In Meet PJ Sin Suela, the Doctor-Turned-Rapper Following in Residente’s Footsteps,”Miguel Salazar (Remezcla) reviews Puerto Rican rapper/hip-hop artist PJ Sin Suela. Here are excerpts; don’t miss the full review, photos, and music videos at Remezcla.

Life has been moving fast for Puerto Rican rapper PJ Sin Suela. It’s been just over two years since the 28-year-old hip-hop artist — born Pedro Juan Vázquez — graduated from medical school in Puerto Rico. Up until last year, he had been rapping for proms and small crowds across the island, hopping around stages in his curly, unruly mop hair, and slowly cultivating a local fan base through his free-flowing bilingual rhymes. But in 2017, Vázquez found himself performing at sold-out venues in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. as the opening act for Residente’s U.S. tour. [. . .]

Born in the Bronx and raised in Ponce, Vázquez loved listening to Vico C, Outkast, Calle 13, and Eminem from an early age, but cites MTV’s Yo Momma as what first sparked his desire to rap. “I actually began rapping because of that,” he said. “We had battle raps at lunchtime, in Spanish and English, because I went to a bilingual school.” He started writing rhymes for a reggaetonero friend, then began rapping on and off up through college at Villanova and UPR, as well as while he attended medical school at Universidad Central del Caribe. One day, while playing basketball, Vázquez discovered his stage name after the sole of his sneaker came off. He had already been known for walking barefoot around the recording studio on campus, so a friend coined the term sin suela —“sole less” in Spanish — to describe him. Vázquez immediately found a new identity in it. The sole, he said, is often overlooked despite being a shoe’s most essential component. But without it, our feet are left naturally exposed to the world. He saw his music — unfettered, accessible, and genuine — in the same spirit.

Around then, he was releasing a collection of tracks that would later form the basis of Letra Pa’ tu Coco, the 2015 mixtape that reaffirmed his reputation as a grounded, candid rapper. Songs like “Mis Caras Sufriendo,” a contemplative, critical assessment of Puerto Rico and Vázquez’s personal privilege, are coupled with more digestible, laid-back party tracks like “Oda a Las Tetas” or “Live This One,” a light-hearted, romanticized rhyme that has nearly a million plays on SoundCloud and Spotify.

Most recently, Vázquez’s hard-hitting political anthems “RePResentando” and “Vivo” – the latter of which was released last year — have earned him a reputation as an incisively versatile and socially aware artist. In “Vivo,” Vázquez, who is a self-proclaimed independentista, blends rhymes in English and Spanish to drop scathing lines against Donald Trump and denounce Puerto Rico’s current colonial status: “Aunque no sea independiente y estemos en un limbo/Mi estrella es muy grande, no cabe en la de los gringos.” [. . .]

In September, Vázquez gave his first taste of Vital with “Lo Que Nadie Quería Que Fuera,” his lead single from the album. Unlike his recent tunes, it feels much more introspective — a lingering horn adds a tinge of nostalgia over a steady synth beat — but retains Vázquez’s characteristic brashness. “It’s really personal, I talk about basically everything,” he said. “It’s five minutes of just…bars.” Vázquez penned the lyrics to LQNQQF about two years ago, shortly after finishing med school. Back then, there was much more doubt surrounding the viability of his music career. “I just wanted to be a rapper,” he reminisces as he describes the track. [. . .]

For full review, see http://remezcla.com/features/music/pj-sin-suela-profile/

[Photo above by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla.]

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