Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated recent release he thinks we need to know about. This week it’s NORE, Nina Sky, Gem Star & Big Mato and Daddy Yankee’s "Oye Mi Canto" 12-inch. Watch the song's video, buy the song and read Schnipper’s thoughts on it after the jump.
There used to be an insanely fat dude who chilled outside my house, half leaning on a maroon railing with his knife holster and skintight white tee. He had tiny little eyes and shitty glasses and my super, I think, once said something about him not being able to see. I might have made that up, but it makes sense, as I never once saw him drive any one of the myriad of huge vans that would park in the bus lane and blast salsa right through my front window. This would take place only in the summers, as the fat guy apparently did not live in my building, or anywhere near it, as I never saw him when it was either raining or not May, June, July, August or Sept and he sprouted like a chubby mushroom.
I’ve lived in that apartment almost four years and he was always there, never smiling or looking at me, maybe due to his weird eyes or maybe to his general fat dickhead-ness. I always just ignored him, waved or chatted with my other neighbors and went home. But this year the music got worse, played absurdly loud and late. I have a new roommate, Andrew, this year, his first summer there, and the music killed him. I’ve never been the kind of person to be bothered by something like that—other, smaller, more tedious things fester, but constant, oppressive salsa I have shrugged off. But Andrew understandably could not deal with the semi-truck sized rig of speakers blasting into his bedroom on any given weekday and started a routine 311 crusade, which I picked up, as well. If it was late and there was music, someone called the New York City non-emergency help line and supposedly, in the following 12 hours, someone with a city paycheck would scope the scene. After a number of these calls, the fat man and the big loud vans disappeared.
A funny thing happened, after he and his friends stopped hanging out—all the old people in the building started sitting on the stoop. Their ringleader is another extraordinarily fat woman, but her more in a doughy way opposed to the fat man’s foul tautness. She has thick, Brillo hair, grey and brown, pinched skin by her cheekbones and dotted back freckles. She also has the same name as my mother, though the pronunciation is different in Spanish. Her husband often sits on the stoop with her, he’s very nice. They have a small rotating crew of friends from the building, but it’s usually the two of them with their grandkid, a very freshly born baby that she, in broken English, offers to sell me for five dollars and which I, in broken Spanish, decline to buy pero no necesito un bebe. Because it must be hot in their apartment, they often sit outside until late, also playing music. But their setup is much smaller and more bootleg, an extension cord hung out some window to power a tiny boombox. So usually, unless I am right beside the front window, I cannot hear it, though occasionally if the air conditioner is off and everything in the apartment is still, there is the thin ping of Latin pop. It’s surprising that as the elder she does not play salsa, but her preference is for the newer, more chintzy love songs of various genres, all of which she is vaguely singing along to almost always when I come home. One song recently struck me as particularly bad, but reminded me in its open-toned slur, of Nina Sky, Puerto Rican sister singers who grew up one borough north of my home. This song, “Oye Mi Canto,” came the same time of their single, “Move Ya Body,” their only real hit. They did soon after become brief queens of the hook, singing on “Hold You Down,”, a surprisingly good track with Alchemist rapping alongside Prodigy of Mobb Deep, and “Oye Mi Canto.” “Hold You Down,” is a despondent track, a bummer Queens anthem, but “Oye Mi Canto,” which is sort of reggaeton with a goofily aggressive NORE verse thrown in, I think the fat lady would like it. “If you’re proud to be Latino right now, stand the fuck up!” Even the day of the Puerto Rican Parade was quiet by my house. Last year there was a huge barbecue on the sidewalk, this year I guess everyone went elsewhere. “This is all that, cream cheee with bagel on it,” NORE says, which sounds like it should be a modern reform Jewish anthem. And Nina Sky helps along that vague nationalist hymn with with their chorus of Boricua! Morena! Dominicana! Colombiano!, a little bit of pride spread thin and equal. Daddy Yankee has a squealing verse, less feverish than “Gasolina,” but still with a quicker punch, like he was annoyed when he recorded. Too disconnected a track with too many singers vying for placement creating a bunch of jostling elbows and no clear headliner.
This song, like a microcosm of reggaeton, never hit hard. To be honest, I never hear anyone outside my house listening to reggaeton. The fat guy long ago ruined salsa for me, the incessant, honored repetition of every boring flat brass track like it was a processional. Maybe its good that reggaeton, to me, died a purer death. Not long ago, before I went out, a few friends came to my house to have some drinks. We listened to another Nina Sky song, their collaboration with Ricky Blaze on the Major Lazer album. My friend Justin said it sounded like reggaeton. For whatever reason this irked me and I yelled “Fuck you reggaeton rules!” and because I apparently felt deeply about this, I also gave him two very strong middle fingers. I made them dance in time to the snare drum. I knew how it went, because it’s the same for every song.