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On Peso Pluma's 'Génesis,' the rising star holds fast to the sound of his ancestors

<em>Génesis</em> delivers in all of its gun-slinging, bass-slapping glory.
Génesis delivers in all of its gun-slinging, bass-slapping glory.

2023 has been a year of many firsts for Mexican singer Peso Pluma: his first time releasing music on his own label, his first time reimagining a regional genre for worldwide radio play and his first time making it on the Billboard Global 200 chart — 10 times. The 24-year-old artist arrives in a moment where Mexican regional, a largely acoustic, traditional sound, is quickly becoming one of the most popular global genres, reworked by a new generation of artists like Peso Pluma. His new album Génesis arrives on the heels of this success and, while it fully delivers in all of its gun-slinging, bass-slapping glory, it's in the album's subtle conjuring of the singer's ancestral roots and reflection where the record truly shines.

Twisting and bending between tracks like high-energy "VVS" and more solemn "ROSA PASTEL," Peso Pluma roots the record in turbulent brass, vivid lyricism and a Sinaloan tambora, cultivating all of the emotional intensity characteristic of old-school corridos. The wax and wane of expressive guitars and guttural vocals are insistently adherent to tradition. And in a genre so heavily based in familial energy and cultural ties, community collaborators are everything. The record boasts corridos tumbados heavy hitters like Natanael Cano and Junior H, reiterating that success in this genre, for a Mexican artist, comes from staying close to where and who you come from.

On "77" he deviates for a moment. Joined by Puerto Rico's Eladio Carrión, a rapper working at the border of Latin music and American hip-hop, Peso Pluma invites the artist to play in his world, as Carrión lays poetic rhymes over the song's 12-string-guitar-driven rhythm. The magnitude of a moment like this is not lost — American-born, Puerto Rican-bred lyrics shine brighter and bump louder over beats born in 14th century dance halls.

Consistently, tradition reigns supreme. On "NUEVA VIDA," the singer weaves a melancholic melody with a meandering trombone, slowing down the instrument to a speed more akin to the waltzes the music is derivative of. The moment feels like an acknowledgement, specifically of the weight the young musician carries as he brings a musical genre that has been passed down within families and among communities for generations to a global pop stage. But then brevity resumes. Trombone and trumpets pick up in an energy akin to a bass drop, and Peso Pluma emerges doing what he does best: warping and spinning traditionally-weighted rhythms, insisting that the music of his grandparents deserves a spotlight in the present.

In the past year Peso Pluma has taken corridos tumbados to places it has never gone before, so all expectations and requirements that come with the style of music could have been abandoned. He could have traded global acclaim for a spot with key Latin music superstars, playing in spaces like reggaeton or pop. He could have left behind a sound that has been derided as antiquated and low-class. But he held steadfast to the sound of his ancestors — contemporizing his tracks with sped-up beats, zany riffs and brash grandstanding found in his creative reimagination of the genre's old sound.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anamaria Artemisa Sayre is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.
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