Puerto Rican rap duo Calle 13 are probably the feistiest major artists to hit Latin America since music legend Ruben Blades. In recent weeks they've made headlines across Latin America when they released the politically charged song "Multi Viral," an unlikely collaboration with Julian Assange (he has a spoken word bit mid song, which the band recorded with him in Ecuador.) The song also features Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Palestinian singer Kamilya Jubran.
"Multi Viral" is largely about media manipulation over information — Calle 13 shouts out to various protest movements that have erupted in the last few years, including Occupy Wall Street and Mexico's #YoSoy132. Speaking to the group's lead singer, Rene Perez Joglar, on the phone recently, he told me the goal of the song was to discuss how "media is controlling everything, even people's minds, everything. Here in the U.S. it's worse, it's like a bubble ... It's important to have the right information, and you are not going to get that from one newspaper or one TV show. You have to look for that. In order to get the full picture, you have to read a lot and look for yourself. Otherwise you'll find yourself in a war that you think is a good idea, but it's not for a good reason."
The video was shot in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, a Palestinian village. It's as visually stunning as it is grim, a good way to accompany a song that is as furious as it is thought provoking.
Calle 13 started off in Puerto Rico as one of the few politically outspoken reggaeton acts, making a splash with the brilliantly vitriolic "Querido FBI", in which Perez Joglar, known as Residente, goes on a lyrically flawless rant about the killing of Puerto Rican independence activist Filiberto Ojeda Rios by the FBI. They quickly moved past the reggaeton label, creating some of the most danceable, hilarious, raunchiest lyrics in Spanish language music. But they became increasingly socially and politically conscious, tackling issues like Latin American pride and immigration to the U.S.
"It's my right, and as an artist you have to do it. I don't know why rappers in the U.S., they aren't saying anything," Perez Joglar told me in our recent interview. "Rappers who have a lot of popularity, they aren't using it. They are just talking about themselves, they aren't saying anything. That's so wrong. It's so selfish."