by Andrew Casillas
A couple of years ago, in seemingly another universe, I wrote about la Mala Rodríguez: “. . . don’t be surprised if a year or so after [Malamarismo] when that next album comes out if you see her on the cover of XXL.”
Obviously, there is a lot of stuff wrong with that prognostication. But it shows the innate, top-notch skills that la Mala the MC has in her arsenal, and the seemingly limitless potential she showed on her breakthrough LP three years ago. Malamarismo, while at times a delicious piece of irreverent and giddy fun, still suffered from its scattershot thematic approach. Her latest, Dirty Bailarina, steers away from the unrestrained experimentation, instead playing within the realm of retro-electro pop/rock.
And for the first few tracks, this approach suits la Mala. Lead single "No Pidas Perdón" rides some Eurhythmics-style synths, while la Mala spits straight dirty (meaning attitude, not in the scatological sense) rhymes straight into your earhole. And of the more traditional hip-hop tunes, “En la Linea” is a minimalist-banger which sounds more like classic Calle 13 than anything off of Entren los Que Quieren.
The major hurdle on this album lies when la Mala veers almost completely towards the pop field. La Mala is a fine enough vocalist, but there are far too many tracks on this album where her presence doesn’t make up anything greater than just an anonymous hook girl. Stuff like “Nene” and “Prima” aren’t awful songs, but there’s almost nothing to them, from production to lyrics to chorus. These songs would be fine as the demo from some up-and-coming 19-year old artist, but la Mala’s personality is stifled in this context.
Thankfully, the latter half of the album contains some nice down-tempo tracks, along with a pretty solid duet with Estrella Morente that closes the record, but the overall effect is that of a disappointment. This isn’t to say that la Mala is a lost cause or anything, but she’s not any closer to that XXL cover that we know she has the chops to someday earn.