Here are two things about the future of pop music everyone agrees upon: It will be dancey, and it’s going to be more Latino.
On those counts, Friday night’s showcase of two young Latin club-music acts at downtown’s Regent Theater should have been a packed-house blowout. 3BallMTY is one of the most promising acts in contemporary Mexican music — three charismatic young producers and DJs who blend EDM, underground house music and pan-Latin rhythms. The Oakland rap duo Los Rakas blends West Coast suavity with reggaeton bounce, dancehall grind and an Afro-Panamanian twist all their own.
These acts are crafting the new pop music sounds of the Americas, and even corporations know it. Friday’s bill was slathered in ads for its sponsor Honda Civic, which clearly wanted in on this Millennial Latino demographic.
While the music sounded great, it’s never pleasurable to see two acts so obviously at the cutting edge of pop fail to pull the crowds they deserve. That was the first stumble of Friday’s bill: There just wasn’t enough of an audience to really pop off.The Regent, a pearl of downtown’s newest nightlife wave, holds 1100 people, but didn’t look even half full Friday. The upstairs balcony was roped off, and only a few hundred people clustered on the central dance floor.
Maybe it was chilly out, or maybe fans didn’t want their club night to be sandblasted by advertising — young Latinos aren’t suckers and can’t be pandered to in order to sell compact cars — but each of these artists warranted a more respectful showcase.
They did their best to liven things up. Los Rakas’ sound feels like contemporary California: there were nods to Nate Dogg’s smooth sing-rapping, the hip-swinging churn of reggaeton and rakish good humor. Their single “Soy Raka” is a savvy rallying cry — for kids who share their specific working class Afro-Latino upbringing, and anyone who feels like an outcast who wants to party the pain away.
Their sweet-crooner single “Africana” did a similar trick. It paid attention to the particulars of where they came from, but made it all sound universal and sexy. It’s a shame Los Rakas didn’t have more potential converts in the crowd, because any survey of promising contemporary West Coast hip-hop would be remiss to not include them.
3BallMTY might have even bigger things in store. The trio is right on the cusp of many different movements in pop and club music. So much EDM fare today — house, moombahton, digital dance hall — uses drum sounds and syncopation from Latin music, and 3BallMTY has an even more authentic claim to the sound.
Singles like “Inténtalo” are as catchy as anything coming out of the Ultra Records topline-writers camp. But their tracks bump with Mexican party rhythms and Latino-cosmopolitan sheen. They look good doing it, too. Onstage, they knocked around on digital drum pads, and pulled off a perfect mix of technical DJ craft with bouts running around their mix console and hyping the audience.
3BallMTY isn’t a “rising” act; they’ve played Coachella and are huge stars in Mexico with a sound that readily translates in U.S. clubs. They would kill at HARD or Electric Daisy, arenas where their music can speak for itself without half an hour of LED-spattered marketing reminding everyone they’re part of a demographically desirable movement.
I hope Friday’s sparsely attended set was just a bit of false start, and there’s still room for these two ambitious, rousing acts to make statements in L.A. Next time, kill the ads and save the party.