Rapper Residente makes case for Latinos to reclaim 'America' – NBC News

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All through his 20-year music profession, the Grammy-winning rapper Residente has established a status for difficult the established order by way of piercing lyrics, typically thought-about controversial or uncomfortable, that make individuals query their preconceived notions and political beliefs.
And with “This Is Not America,” his first single in over 18 months, the Puerto Rican performer does simply that. He disputes the idea that the time period “America” refers simply to america as a substitute of two continents making up of 35 nations (23 in North America, 12 in South America) — together with many Spanish-speaking ones.
“America just isn’t the title of a rustic, it’s the title of a continent,” Residente instructed NBC Information. “The title of the music, ‘This Is Not America,’ is from their perspective, not my perspective,” he stated about individuals who confer with america as “America.”
“What it represents is that you simply dwell in a bubble and you do not know what’s taking place exterior,” the artist added.
In collaboration with the French-Afro Cuban duo Ibeyi, Residente seeks to burst that bubble with a mixture of thought-provoking lyrics and historic references, arguing that the American continent is rooted in a protracted historical past of colonialism and slavery, programs which have contributed to the erasure of the continent’s Black and Indigenous heritage.
Whereas such programs are thought-about a factor of the previous by many, america has exploited each in current a long time through its interventions throughout Latin America, a follow that has helped the nation co-opt the time period “America” as its personal, Residente stated.
The music comes 4 years after musician Infantile Gambino launched “This Is America.” From Jim Crow to police brutality, Gambino’s monitor criticizes the oppression Black individuals in america face and questions the nation’s promise of freedom for all.
Residente stated his new music just isn’t a diss to Gambino, including he’s truly a fan of his work. However after listening to that Gambino was utilizing “America” to imply solely america, Residente stated his thought “was to finish the music by together with the remainder of the nations within the continent.”
This turns into notably evident when Residente sings, “Gambino, my brother … that is America” and reminds him that “America is not only U.S.A., bro. That is from Tierra del Fuego to Canada.”
“I simply wanted to specific what I feel is the definition of America, a part of the definition,” Residente stated.
However much more piercing than the music’s lyrics is the music video that goes together with it.
A clip of “A Logo for America,” an animation artwork piece by the Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar in 1987, units the tone for the message Residente seeks to convey within the video — which is analogous to the one Jaar communicated a long time in the past.
Jaar’s 42-second animation sequence sought to problem “the ethnocentrism of america, which habitually claims the identification of all the American continent as its personal,” in line with the Guggenheim Museum.
The clip is adopted by a dramatization of the gunshots that reverberated by way of the U.S. Capitol in 1954 when Lolita Lebrón led three different Puerto Rican nationalists on an assault on the Home of Representatives to demand the independence of Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States.
The scene kicks off a set of searing photographs of violent historic moments from the previous and current which have outlined the struggles of these dwelling in Latin American nations.
“5 presidents in 11 days. That is Argentina” throughout its 2001 crisis, Residente stated. “Reporters that are killed or disappeared … It is a part of the historical past of the continent.”
Photographs of Zapatista ladies function a reminder of when the Mexican authorities ordered a crackdown on the predominantly Indigenous neighborhood within the Nineteen Nineties out of fear that insurgency throughout these teams might threaten the ratification of NAFTA — a commerce settlement between Mexico, Canada and america.
The USA expressed it help to then-Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, who ordered the crackdown that resulted in numerous human rights violations and deaths, and did not condemn such acts on the time, according to Human Rights Watch. The worldwide nongovernmental group additionally stated that in 1995 each nations have been contemplating utilizing “U.S. monetary help” to coach Mexican police, judges and prosecutors.
“What I used to be making an attempt to do is to indicate the conditions by which the United States had an intervention or one thing occurring in the remainder of America,” Residente stated in regards to the video.
The music video additionally features a recreation of the killing of Víctor Jara, a Chilean activist folks singer who was killed below the regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who led the 1973 army coup that overthrew leftist President Salvador Allende.
Whereas debates persist on whether or not the U.S. authorities offered direct help for Pinochet, the “United States had a protracted historical past of partaking in covert actions in Chile” by offering funds in help of electoral candidates, working anti-Allende propaganda campaigns and discussing the deserves of supporting a army coup in 1970, according to the State Department’s Office of the Historian.
With photographs of Indigenous youngsters standing on piles of what seem like Coke and Amazon containers in addition to McDonald’s Joyful Meals and Starbucks espresso cups, Residente in his music video additionally takes a jab at how huge firms are additionally a manifestation of U.S. imperialism throughout Latin America.
The video additionally questions the affect of U.S. immigration insurance policies throughout Latin American nations by exhibiting gang members as spiritual and as victims of the longstanding Central American refugee crisis. It additionally refers to family separations on the U.S.-Mexico border in addition to amputated and mutilated migrants seemingly injured by “La Bestia,” a freight prepare typically used to journey from southern Mexico to the U.S. border.
Within the month since its launch, the music video has garnered greater than 15.1 million views on YouTube and spurred an array of conversations on-line as individuals, notably throughout Latin America, began selecting up on the completely different visible references of their shared histories and studying about new ones.
“It got here out organically,” Residente stated. “I wasn’t fascinated about having huge crowds from all over the place” taking a look at this.
Recreations of violent and deadly protests in Venezuela, Colombia and different elements of the continent are proven reverse dancers highlighting the eerie similarities between their steps and the bodily manifestation of police repression.
In just some seconds, Residente traces a colonialism timeline throughout the American continents by inserting photographs of pre-Columbian monuments amongst first-world skylines and an Indigenous model of the Statue of Liberty paired with lyrics reminding audiences that “the Mayans invented the calendar they use.”
Residente doubles down on this historical past with figures of Colombian “palenqueras,” ladies who’re descendants of runaway slaves who reportedly established the “first free town in the Americas,” and that of the Peruvian Indigenous chief Túpac Amaru, who was infamously quartered and burned by Spanish executioners trying to topple the Inca empire within the early 1780s.
“Tupac is named Tupac after Tupac Amaru from Peru,” Residente sings drawing a parallel between the 18th-century Indigenous chief and the California-born rapper Tupac Shakur.
One of the crucial memorable fictional scenes within the music video is a dramatization of President Jair Bolsonaro wiping his mouth with the Brazilian flag as he eats steak subsequent to an Amazonian Indigenous baby — successfully serving as a critique of the menace the Amazon’s deforestation has on Indigenous communities. Photographs harking back to Brazil’s anti-World Cup protests in 2014, when demonstrators pissed off by the billions of presidency funds that went towards stadiums and infrastructure as a substitute of schooling and well being care, additionally stand out within the video.
In creating “This Is Not America,” Residente fused historical past with science. The music’s beat is predicated on the brain waves of worms.
The concept first got here to him whereas collaborating with scientists on an entire album based on turning human and animal brain patterns into numbers that may very well be used to create music.
“I believed that it was a good suggestion to work with these worms as a result of they use solely 302 neurons, however they’ll do lots,” Residente stated, including that the thought of with the ability to do lots with little represented a part of the idiosyncrasy of many who dwell on the American continents.
However the preliminary idea of the album, which he began engaged on in 2019, has shifted. Residente is now trying to additionally make music out of any type of waves present in nature, such because the solar, he stated.
Residente stated he additionally has different upcoming initiatives based mostly on the principle message of his newest single, “giving again the title ‘America’ to the continent.”
“It’s an academic factor. Those who I like, they name the U.S. America,” he stated. “It’s not the title of a rustic, it’s the title of a continent.”
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Nicole Acevedo is a reporter for NBC Information Digital. She stories, writes and produces tales for NBC Latino and NBCNews.com.



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