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Calle 13

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The second album by this hot Puerto Rican duo should be rated X for extremist. As in extreme sexuality, social rage, vulgarity and violent imagery.

Nothing so raw and outrageous has ever been heard — or allowed — in mainstream Latin music. Explicit is a weak warning for this album's foul-mouthed, subversive, scatological and sexually perverse lyrics. Yet somehow, it's both extremely repulsive and compelling.

The duo's work would be a lot less shocking if it had remained within Puerto Rico's underground rap scene, where Calle 13 started as a collaboration of half brothers, René Pérez and Eduardo Cabra, aliases Residente and Visitante, respectively. But when the new CD debuted recently at No. 1 on the Billboard Latin chart, it was like the rabble invading the palace.

The saving graces are Residente's agile rhymes and satirical humor, elevated by Visitante's pan-American musical vision that shatters reggaeton's narrow parameters. Musically, they've grown far beyond their island confines, collaborating with acclaimed Latin music figures such as Oscar-winning producer Gustavo Santaolalla, Spain's La Mala Rodríguez, Cuba's Orishas and Argentina's Vicentico.

From the start, the duo has been a heat-seeking missile of controversy. When a radical pro-independence leader was killed in Puerto Rico during an FBI raid in 2005, Calle 13 responded with an enraged Internet single, "Querido FBI" (Dear FBI), vowing to kill 10 Marines in revenge. The following year, Calle 13 was the toast of the industry with three Latin Grammys, including best new artist, for its debut album, with the devilish hit single, "Atrevete-te-te" (Da-da-dare), that turns sexual seduction into a weapon of class and race warfare.

The duo was emboldened by its success. Now, its political outrage is even more violent ("Llégale a Mi Guarida"), its sexuality more depraved ("Mala Suerte con El 13"), its satire more biting ("Tango del Pecado").

In the end, it's like watching a well-made horror movie. We succumb because we like being shocked.

— Agustin Gurza

Albums are reviewed on a scale of four stars (excellent), three stars (good), two star (fair) and one star (poor).

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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