It’s not every day that an artist records an album inspired by a DNA test. But that’s just what Puerto Rican superstar Residente did. Energized by discovering that his genetics came from literally all over the world, the former Calle 13 co-founder traveled to France, China, Russia, Spain, England, Africa, the United States and more to record his smash self-titled LP. The erstwhile René Juan Pérez Joglar brought this incredible range of sounds to his debut ACL taping for a show that made the crowd dance and think at the same time.
Residente’s seven-piece band took the stage first with “Intro ADN/DNA,” mixing Latin, African and Arabic music with rock guitar and electronica to hint at the incredible range of the music to come. The man himself came out rocking with “Somos Anormales,” the explosive opening cut from his solo album. He then dipped into the Calle 13 catalog, adapting “Bailes De Los Pobres” and “El Aguante” to his current worldbeat-driven style – how many other rappers prominently feature instruments like oud and dumbek? “We like to include everyone, not exclude anyone,” Residente explained about going back and forth between English and Spanish – a philosophy that translates to his musical vision as well. Things slowed down for that rarest of things in hip-hop: a ballad. “Desencuentro” began with a jazzy piano solo courtesy keyboardist Leo Genovese (who previously visited the ACL stage with Esperanza Spalding), evolving into a duet between Residente and singer Kiani Medina and ending with a lighter-waving guitar solo from Elias Meister. Switching gears dramatically, Residente and band brought the rock side back to the fore for the angry “Calma Pueblo,” which the vocalist dedicated to “the motherfuckers of the music business.”
Explaining the concept of his solo album, Residente introduced “Dagombas El Tamale,” a song based around the vocal and percussion styles of the African nation of Ghana. “Adentro,” a dis track aimed at gangsta rappers, followed, before the band went back to Africa for “La Sombra,” recorded with Nigerian guitarist Bombino and filled out by Meister and co-axeslinger Justin Purtill onstage. The rapper shouted out the resistance – but, pointedly, not the use of violence – for “Guerra,” a track that ended in an explosion from the guitarists, Genovese, percussionists Daniel Diaz and Brahim Fribgane and ex-Mars Volta/Suicidal Tendencies drummer Thomas Pridgen. “Latinoamérica,” a beautiful tribute to Residente’s region of the world, began with virtuoso acoustic guitar picking from Purtill before flowing into vocal trade-offs between the leader and Medina. The energy level shot back up for “Apocalíptico,” a dramatic track inspired by the Chinese landscape in which it was recorded.
As the song drifted into ambience, Residente quit the stage, but the break was brief. The rapper returned with the Calle 13 tune “La Vuelta Al Mundo,” an especially groovy number with lush synth work from Genovese. Fribgane kicked off “El Futuro Es Nuestro” with an expert oud solo, introing recorded with Bosnian singer Goran Bregović, but blew the doors off in good hands here. After the world travels of the rest of the show, Residente brought it back to Latin America for “Atrévete-Te-Te,” Calle 13’s irresistibly danceable barnburner from its debut album. It was an incredible ending to an incredible show, the most internationally diverse since Manu Chao a decade ago. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.