With its mix of Argentinean cumbia villera and reggaeton, cumbia 420 produces an incredibly danceable result. Young people in their twenties who have been exposed to these two styles of music have concocted an explosive musical mix in the working class suburbs of Buenos Aires. Its main features are the gangsta slant of the lyrics, the use of cannabis, and messages that touch the heart of South American youth in the face of prevailing gloom linked to a permanent economic crisis coupled with a pandemic.
Two characters are central to this movement: the producer Bizarrap, a driving force behind the Argentinean scene; and the rapper L-Gante, who represents the spirit of this ghetto sound. In fact, the track they recorded together entitled “L-Gante || BZRP Music Sessions #38”, has reached 200 million views on YouTube in the space of six months, and more than 100 million streams on Spotify. Broadly speaking, cumbia 420 artists enjoy very high streaming figures because their audiences consume music heavily via digital platforms. These artists build communities through their social networks, meaning their tracks go viral almost every time they are released.
Cumbia 420 is currently on the up and up, dominating the Billboard charts in Argentina. The style provides an alternative to the current supremacy of reggaeton and offers a slightly slower pace than Caribbean dembow – something appreciated by weed smokers wanting to dance. Its reggaeton component means that it’s potential for success outside Argentina is high. Recently L-Gante was invited to feature with prestigious artists from the Dominican Republic: El Mayor Clasico and Quimico Ultra Mega on the track “Por tu lengua (Remix)”. The neighbouring island of Puerto Rico has also fallen to the charms of the Argentine MC, with the famous singer Gotay ‘El Autentiko’ using L-Gante’s deep voice and nonchalant flow on the track ‘SOFIA’.
Borrowing part of its musical DNA from the cumbia villera of the early 2000s, young cumbia 420 artists have invited illustrious elders onto their tracks, creating a real passing of the baton between these two generations. This is especially the case on the tracks “Pistola Remix” and “Perrito Malvado”, where the legendary 2000s combo Damas Gratis make an appearance with the keytar sound so characteristic of their music.
In 2021 cumbia 420 has had phenomenal success: the first very ghetto tracks were aimed at audiences in the villa (the equivalent of the favelas in Buenos Aires) but now crossover artists are making it possible to go further, reaching the top of the charts in Argentina and conquering Latin America. The consequence of this meteoric rise is that the stars of the movement tend towards more pop sounds, as L-Gante does on the track “Cucurucho”, seduced by the siren song of fame and money... Let’s hope they don’t fall into the classic pitfall of distorting their sound and their punk spirit for a (very large) handful of pesos.