Nearly two weeks after the murder of Puerto Rican trap artist Kevin Fret, details surrounding the 24-year-old’s tragic death remain vague and unsettling. Puerto Rican news outlet El Vocero reported that the murder has been linked to recurring threats and possible extortion, though police investigators have not yet ruled out the possibility of a hate crime. The murder underscores rising violence in Puerto Rico amidst the island’s ongoing economic crisis – a concern for locals that even led Bad Bunny and Residente to pay Governor Ricardo Rosselló a late-night visit to demand better education funding as a means to reduce violent crime.
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As Latin trap’s first openly gay standard bearer, Fret once again ignited debate over the space queer and trans people hold within the urbano movement. He was a frequent critic of the internalized homophobia displayed by many of his peers, making his death a bitter reminder of why greater visibility for queer artists is an important step towards addressing gender and sexuality-based discrimination within the music industry.
Fans and artists regularly challenge the myth that reggaeton and dembow are inherently homophobic and misogynistic, though these symptoms are undeniably ingrained in our society through normalized slurs and glaring double standards. Bad Bunny, J Balvin, and others are routinely praised for defying gender norms by embracing off-the-wall fashion and colored hair and nails – a low bar to clear on the scale of gender transgression. Queer artists are seldom afforded such freedom of self-expression without being immediately pegged as campy gimmicks or pelted with marketability concerns from industry brass.
Underground movements like neoperreo and the proliferation of independent music distribution platforms have created alternate avenues for women and LGBTQ artists looking to avoid the industry’s more stifling trappings. However, pressure to emulate the bravado and toxic masculinity of some of urbano’s biggest names remains an alluring path to gaining wider acceptance where such expectations are the norm.
Bearing that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of queer and trans artists paving their own uncompromising paths within reggaeton and dembow. Every artist on this list is an expert at fanning the flames of dance floor ecstasy, but their work is also making perreo a more inclusive experience for all to enjoy.
Sailorfag was one of the breakout stars of 2018, thanks to a series of acerbic singles and highly stylized videos that hilariously unpacked themes of toxic masculinity and self-destructive relationship drama. After dropping his self-titled debut mixtape over the summer, the Mexican internet phenom became a favorite of neoperreo fans taken with his unique blend of humor, unabashed jotería, and inclusive language, even receiving co-signs from the movement’s high priestesses Tomasa del Real and Ms Nina.