The dark king of Dominican mambo likes sleeveless shirts, necklaces as thick as high-voltage power cables and fitted jeans tucked into his cowboy boots. Antonio Peter de la Rosa, aka Omega “El Fuerte,” enjoys flaunting both law and artistic license: Last year he was sent to prison for 90 days but slipped out on bail in seven after throwing a concert and recording his latest single, “Dueño.” Fellow inmates ad-libbed the chorus as Omega kept time by pounding the jail bench.
Bootleg remixes of “Dueño” add to the clutter of random Omega mp3s and grainy YouTube vids. An official album floats somewhere between sidewalk blanket CD stands and the Limewire tangle, but it’s outflanked by pirate Omega compilations, remixes, whatever. His street-viral swagger means that folks at every point in the food chain—from Dominican TV producers to dudes in Washington Heights who cobble together Omega product from concert recordings—figure they can make a buck by tapping into El Fuerte’s power.
“We get a lot of fans buying flights to Santo Domingo just to see us perform,” he says via phone from the Dominican Republic. Visa and deportation problems have kept international Omega appearances scarce, so young Latinos from Holland to Canada will explode when the high-energy live show travels overseas this summer. His backing band, Mambo Violento, doesn’t rock the crowd so much as squeeze it with a deadly combo of stamina and chops. This mambo, aka merengue de la calle, is the fastest music in the Caribbean, and Mambo Violento kill it live.
Bending my ears around his accent, I’m reminded of what puts Omega above the other mamberos. His distinctive street drawl is gravelly, low-slung, unhurried. Two-syllable words often slur into one. Classroom Spanish doesn’t help unpack titles like “Tu No Ta Pa Mi” (“You’re Not For Me”). This jam starts with an ersatz Morrissey moment—Omega croons about sitting at home, lovesick and alone, with the TV on. Then mayhem erupts. A beat speeds past soca tempo to become the warped tropical equivalent of gabber. His hypnotic, rum-smashed techno, fast pianos chords and all, clocks in around 200 BPM. And Omega rides these rhythms with a lazy, devil-may-care cadence that heightens the effect.
“I started as a young boy, putting together dances and choreographies with reggaeton music. Reggaeton went international before mambo, but mambo’s moment is starting now,” he says. Omega’s collaborating with Pitbull, aiming to keep atop the mambo scene while expanding into pop. But mambo has him. “It’s strong music,” he says. “Then there’s the romantic ingredient.” A storm of lawsuits cloud the romantic side—multiple ex-lovers have sued Omega for abuse. A judge ordered him to make an anti-violence anthem. Why does the controversial singer call his backing band Mambo Violento? “It was nothing more than the name of our first merengue single.” He won’t elaborate. Like his music, Omega rolls with control and menace. We’ll learn more soon—Omega is working on a movie “based on a true story about my rise as an artist.” Title: Selfishness’ Path.
Stream: Omega, El Dueño del Flow, Vol. 2