Album Review: DJ Raff ghettoblasts Chilean trip-hop on his U.S. debut, Latino & Proud

My most enthusiastic applause for Latino & Proud, a truly triumphant hip-hop DJ lover’s delight. Few albums in the hip-hop dance, electro genre can claim the exquisite range, experimentation, and historic reference that DJ Raff dishes out on his U.S. debut release with Nacional Records. Although the album’s title, Latino & Proud, noted to have been a promotional ploy to present the world renown Chilean, may pin this record into a corner on the global market, even polarizing some would-be “American” buyers, I’m sure sales are the least of Raff’s worries. Traveling the world and most notably having haled from Spain’s acclaimed experimental and progressive electronic stages at last month’s Sonar, DJ/MC/Producer Rafael Pérez has made a name for himself as a DJ-set master. But, we can’t hold it against Nacional for assuming the average honky tank gringo wouldn’t know who DJ Raff, formerly of hip-hop Chileno pioneers La Frecuencia Rebelde via La Pozze Latina.

Cocaína – Dj Raff (Collage Binario) by Dj Raff

From the opening overture “Ghettosinfonia” you’re promised just that, a symphony of ghetto-blasting beats meets orchestral composition. Then followed by the most accelerated and Rusko ranking beat, DJ Raff piles the album up heavy and strong, for a steady slide down the side of his Chilean mountain peek, sprinkled with “Cocaína.” The mountain’s cool airs collide with rising warm fronts to create the “Digital Rain (en el desierto),” on par with the recent EVINSPACEY production by Cassettes Won’t Listen. And just when you thought the journey was through, you’re suddenly transported to a winter B-Boy battle. You can almost feel the clashing elbows and stretched knees, the dunks and high-tops flash past faces, palms extended, wrists bent, backs arching in the half-light, muscles bending time and space as the music throws you into a perfect and poised “B-Boy Stance.”

After the title track, “Latino & Proud” leads you from the impromptu B-Boy battle on a walk down Paseo Boricua or a zip through Lincoln Park back when it was the hood, the “Popcorn” train up to “Antártika” follow DJ Raff in his more trip-hop, experimental mode. “Paseo con audifonos,” carries like a teenage memory of the Chemical Brother’s Fight Club soundtrack, with equal warning and invitation, while “Desde el cuarto de máquinas” feat. the heavy rap flows of Chico Claudio is nicely contrasted by the melodies of Maka Melendez on “I need a beat.” But the necessary vocal tracks don’t take away from the trip-hop travel through the galaxy, as if slowly abducted in tractor beams along terrestrial terrain into the unknown. “N.A.S.A. Latina” suddenly recoils R&B, and subtle traces of soul pave the way for what feels like the third transition of the album.

This third sonic phase of Latino & Proud winds into an experimental free fall, controlled and provocative. It’s almost like listening to another album all together. The two prior movements, the aggressive dance-blasters of the opening element fade away in a separate, though by no means disjointed, thought. “Alien Dance (eXtraterrestre)” continues the gravity-less dip into the unknown. And “Steady Rock” feat. Priatesonic mixes the funkiest of old school hip-hop with the hottest of today’s dance-tron vibe. “Battle Life” is a casual banger reminding of the earlier “Ghettosinfonia” and closing out full circle with “Outrollage (these beats are what i am)” a jazzy flute and synth choir that plays like an avant finale. From club-house electronix to transcendent trip-hop, Latino & Proud marks DJ Raff’s variance and the temperance of a seasoned pro while remaining playful and all the more palatable.

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