Free Tempo, Tempo

Sony International, Puerto Rico
Rating: 70
By Carlos Reyes

David Sánchez Badillo better known as ‘Tempo’ is a Puerto Rican rapper who has become not only an icon in Latin Hip Hop but also sets an example of judicial dispute. Prior to the outburst of Reggaeton Tempo became a house-hold name on the island, a rising talent whose fury lyricism is said to influence Tego Calderon and Vico C, they were the three pillars of Caribbean rap until their fury was given a rush of sequenced-rhythm by El General and so the eyes of media moved on to the catchy and easier- to-swallow reggaeton. Tego and Vico jumped into the ‘new sound’ always keeping their vision where it needed to be, in the other hand, Tempo’s rising career found an obstacle on its way, he is sentenced to a 24 year imprisonment on charges of drug trafficking, and let’s fans are not happy about it. There’s much argument of a mistrial, but the strongest discussion is simple, he is the voice of his people and the ‘government’ is using him as an example.

Throughout the years acts influenced by his music have used music to demand his freedom, so far it is working. But it’ not a bad idea, after all music has proven to redefine politics in Puerto Rico, not on a great scale considering they must follow guidelines imposed by the U.S., but no one can deny the role of Urban music in political campaigns, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama included, or Calle 13’s “Querido F.B.I” which made Puerto Rico shake to its core through its message of individualism. Free Tempo is yet another campaign in support of the rapper, the most organized yet, and they have released a very interesting album by various personalities in the genre, but Tempo is now the main participant of this amendment. I’m not sure how he was able to record these pieces but they’re quite fantastic. It’s not as powerful as his collaboration with Arcangel in the song “Intro” (which is actually a recording from a phone call Tempo was allowed to do inside prison), but ironically, he makes all the other artists here look bad. You’ll find Wisin & Yandel (ew ew), Jowell & Randy (ew ew), Zion (ew), Hector “El Father” (EW), Daddy Yankee (meh) but also some hidden secrets that I deeply admire as Tego Calderon, Nejo y Dalmata and Arcangel.

The album opens with the bleak and powerful “Porque Soy Tempo”, where he confronts Justice and sustains his innocence, the entrance is quite sentimental but once he starts it’s hard not to understand all the support surrounding his case. He is no Tego, Chino Nyno, Residente or Ghostface Killah but he delivering great, angry, commanding lines like “Lo que encerraron fue la carne el espiritu no”, works especially when the production is up there in tone, which The London Symphony Orchestra is able to embrace perfectly. There are some laughable lines coming from Wisin & Yandel’s “ or Daddy Yankee’s “Denme Alas que mi esperanza ya se acabo” or the soulful chorus in “Free Tempo” (by Barrington Levy & Fat Joe). Tempo has a moment of fantasized freedom in “Mantenlo Gangster”, the angriest track in which he steps out of prison and keeps it ‘gangsta’, defying authority but claiming to keep everything on line through his music. Clearly an uneven album, it might not set Tempo free but it does make him shine, the celebrities around might help this get more attention and get him back in the business, but there’s no need “tienen que soportar a Tempo”, can’t wait to hear a SOLO album.