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Peso Pluma: Mexico’s ‘Spider-Man’ scaling global music charts

Fast-rising Mexican music star Peso Pluma identifies with Spider-Man. His critics accuse him of glamorizing drug-trafficking villains.

Peso Pluma at this year's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles
Peso Pluma at this year's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles - Copyright AFP/File Robyn BECK
Peso Pluma at this year's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles - Copyright AFP/File Robyn BECK
Natalia Cano

Fast-rising Mexican music star Peso Pluma identifies with Spider-Man. His critics accuse him of glamorizing drug-trafficking villains.

Despite — or perhaps partly because of — the controversy he generates, the 24-year-old has scaled global music charts with a string of hits.

Former US president Barack Obama included “La Bebe” — Peso Pluma’s collaboration with fellow Mexican singer Yng Lvcas — in his list of favorite music of 2023.

And in February, Peso Pluma — real name Hassan Emilio Kabande Laija — won a Grammy for Best Musica Mexicana Album for “Genesis.”

Many industry watchers expressed shock that he was left out of the Best New Artist category.

“He sees himself as a kind of superhero, the new hero of Mexican music,” Uriel Waizel, lead editor at streaming platform Spotify in Mexico, told AFP.

On Friday night, Peso Pluma, who takes his nickname from the featherweight boxing category, will perform on the main stage at the Coachella music festival in the California desert.

– ‘Biggest new artist’ –

Peso Pluma is part of a new generation of singer-songwriters of the “corrido” genre that became popular during the 1910-1917 Mexican revolution, but these days is also known for rap-infused ballads about drug traffickers.

Last year he canceled a concert in the border city of Tijuana after a cartel allegedly threatened to kill him following a shout out he gave to a rival gang.

Rolling Stone magazine featured him on its front cover this month and described him as “the biggest new artist on the planet.”

His milestones include more than 20 songs in the Billboard Hot 100.

“Ella Baila Sola” (She Dances Alone), Peso Pluma’s collaboration with the group Eslabon Armado, passed more than one billion streams on Spotify last December — the first Mexican song to do so.

He prefers baggy clothes, sneakers and designer caps to cowboy boots and hat.

“You wouldn’t expect that a skinny guy with semi-blond, disheveled hair who breaks the stereotypes of other great figures of regional Mexican music would end up being one of the great global pop stars,” Waizel said.

In 2023 Peso Pluma performed at Coachella as a guest of the American singer Becky G.

This year “Mexico’s going to rock the house,” the performer vowed this month at a music awards show in Los Angeles.

– Cancellations, break-up –

In February, Peso Pluma pulled out of the Vina del Mar festival in Chile, citing personal reasons.

The cancellation came amid controversy over the content of his music, and coincided with his break-up with Argentine singer Nicki Nicole.

He also canceled several other shows in Latin America, before a triumphant comeback on March 29 at Mexico’s Pa’l Norte Festival in Monterrey.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has urged young people to consider other genres due to the content of Peso Pluma’s songs.

The artist justifies his lyrics as reflecting what he calls the reality of his violence-plagued country.

“It’s what I see. It’s my work. It’s what I express,” he said in an interview with Soy Grupero in 2022.

“Maybe it has to do with his personal history and the places where he has lived,” said Cesar Burgos, a researcher at the University of Sinaloa.

The singer was born in the western city of Guadalajara, but his maternal roots are in Badiraguato in the northwestern state of Sinaloa — the birthplace of infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

In at least one of his songs, Peso Pluma shouts out Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel.

The controversy has done little to dent his popularity.

“I think his lyrics, and this goes a lot with corridos in general, are aspirational but also somewhat hopeful,” said one fan, 25-year-old publicist Eduardo Lara.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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