El Fenomeno, Arcangel

Machete Music, Puerto Rico / Dominican Republic ***1/2
Rating: 75
By Carlos Reyes

I think we saw it coming; Arcangel was for too long succeeding with a brave stance on his urban roots, but always looking up to be a pop star, in his words, always looking up to what Prince embodies. So who is this guy and why do we talk so much about him? Simply, he is the one individual with the virtue to give some progressiveness to reggaeton, a genre we believe in despite all the hate, believe it or not, it’s in its best moment on the hands of Austin Santos. Always criticized for aspiring to be both Lil’ Wayne and Michael Jackson, this guy won the respect of his peers because of his outstanding mixtapes, quickly becoming the one to have on your record, for years expecting a first album. 2008 was supposed to be his year, but the urban genre as a business was not ready for him, his record was said to be too alternative and bipolar to be addressed properly.

Arcangel, in an unexpected move, decides to upload his album on rapidshare for free download (extremely rare with urban artists), after a couple of million downloads (yes, millions) it quickly became the big revelation of the urban circuit. He had the guts to call himself “La Maravilla”, and indeed the album is a jewel, carrying the anger and softness to mediate and reckon his faith. And the tiraera was revived, there are full mixtapes of fellow reggaetoneros and rappers confronting him, the big names were interested, his fantastic appearance in both of Daddy Yankee’s “Pasion” and “Somos de Calle Remix”, his epic flow in the majestic “Algo Musical” by Nejo y Dalmata and finally the awaited first physical release of what I hesitate to call his debut but most will do so.

El Fenomeno features some of the big producers of the genre, which is not a good thing as the album falls into the ordinary more than we had wished for, not enough to disappoint but seems like his ambition is somehow got blurry, this at its best aspires to be a good Chris Brown album. I keep using American artists as reference, which speaks volumes of how unprecedented this guy is. I can’t think of any other artist on our circuit with such power at both raping and singing, and that was perfectly showcased on La Maravilla, this new album is way too romantically lousy for its own good, but he’s even great at manipulating themes to find some balance. One minute he is talking details about how to conquer love, practice sex, destroy his enemies and thanking god for letting him do so.

Some highlights of the new album are the electrifying “Ta’ Bueno el Ambiente”, the demanding “I Got Flow”, the club banger “Nada Malo” and the intimidating/aggressive “Agresivo Part 3.” Also included are six tracks from the unreleased album, which are all great, plus one of the most embraced songs at this blog, “Chica Virtual.” I stumbled on a forum somewhere where a person reproached the album was full of “reggaepop, electronic and weird things”, reminds you of someone, cough Calle 13 cough... no way am I comparing him with the consistency of Residente & Visitante, but just like them, he has dispatched himself almost completely from the genre he was supposed progress. But hey, I don’t mind listening to these tracks on radio, it would be great to see it taking over, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see success in the proportions of a Yankee or Flex. Even if the album has producers Luny Tunes on board, this is highly pleasing album that still sustains Arcangel as Reggaeton’s current MVP.

Want to hear the best track Don Omar has ever touched? Yes, there’s a good one, grab it.

♫♫♫ “Nada Malo”
♫♫♫ “Quimica Sustancia” feat. Don Omar