Equal parts reggaetón symphony and perreo megamix, it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that “Safaera” is a technical masterpiece. Featuring mid-2000s juggernauts Jowell & Randy and Ñengo Flow, the Bad Bunny track appears well into El Conejo Malo’s new album YHLQMDLG (an abbreviation for Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana, or I Do Whatever I Want). Appearing later on the 20-song album, “Safaera” proves Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio still has a couple sucker punches left in him, even as he tries to sustain the record’s momentum.
The five-minute track ventures through at least eight beat changes, five different rap flows, and 10+ years of references. A selected catalog of some of its citations: the one-stringed tumbi sample from Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On”; the bassline from Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved”; the siren-like synths from DJ Nelson and DJ Goldy’s Xtassy Reggae tape; the opening hook from Cosculluela’s “Pa’ La Pared” featuring Jowell & Randy; the Jaws sample from Alexis y Fido’s “El Tiburón”–the list goes on. Producers Tainy and DJ Orma select riddims and references that, for many of us, will evoke memories of denim stains on basement walls, transferred via contra-la-pared perreo, or maybe humid summers spent dancing at marquesina parties when visiting our families back home.
“Safaera” harnesses this musical nostalgia and transforms it into an antidote for the most formulaic tendencies of the pop-reggaetón panorama. Tainy and DJ Orma bring out all their ammunition–the former as a genre-defining architect of some of the very sounds he’s sampling, and the latter as a tour DJ who understands the dynamism required for live mixing and performance. By melding these references, breathless sex moans, and Bad Bunny’s playground baritone, they produce a blast of effervescence. Meanwhile, Jowell & Randy and Ñengo Flow interpolate lines by Blanco Flake from The Noise Live-El Comienzo, adding additional layers of homage to the production. “Safaera” does not just display Bad Bunny’s capacity to produce pop supernovas, it highlights all of what makes perreo culture so electric—the dancing, the live mixing, the rapping, and the unbridled joy that all these things can spark.
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