After 25 Grammys and more than a decade as rapper and co-founder of the alternative rap duo “Calle 13,” René Pérez Joglar, also known as Residente, has started a new chapter on his own.
“As an artist, I was starting to feel comfortable and that’s the worst feeling,” Pérez Joglar said. “As soon as you start feeling comfortable, you have to quit and do something else. It would have been very easy to do another tour with Calle 13, but I took a risk.”
Over the years, Calle 13 pushed musical boundaries, caused controversy, raised awareness about social justice issues and constantly evolved. Now, Pérez Joglar, who has earned more Grammy awards than any other Latino artist, is carving another path. At South by Southwest this week, he premiered his documentary “Residente,” and will perform with his new band at Thursday’s free Latino Resist Concert at Lady Bird Lake. His solo album drops later this month.
On Wednesday afternoon, Pérez Joglar spoke in the SXSW featured session “Conversation with Residente,” where he let fans in on the past and future of the Puerto Rican rapper who began spitting rhymes at age 11.
Pérez Joglar still remembers the days when he was trying to get the attention of record labels. “I would start rapping in front of the security cameras outside of the (record label’s building),” he said with a laugh.
As a student, Pérez Joglar landed a scholarship to attend art school in Savannah, Georgia. It was there, he said, that he learned to create things that were a reflection of what affected him. It’s a lesson that he’s carried with him throughout all of his creative endeavors. “It’s impossible to be only one thing,” he said. In his music, he can rap about everything from politics to partying. “That’s the balance that I have.”
The master lyricist, known for using phrasing with double or triple meanings, said he likes his lyrics to be poetic but accessible. “I like improvisation because it’s an art, but in my writing every sentence has a meaning.” His creative process nowadays works in different ways. Sometimes music or a concept will spark lyrics or “sometimes I’ll come home drunk and start writing,” he said. “But I love the editing process because I love playing with words.”
For his documentary and new album, Pérez Joglar took inspiration from a DNA test he took years ago. Then, he documented his journey throughout all of the countries and regions that have formed a part of his genetic makeup from Armenia to Africa.
At the height of his career, when he could collaborate with any big name artist he wants, Pérez Joglar chose to instead collaborate with lesser known artists from around the world such as throat singers. Despite some of the language barriers throughout his global trek, Pérez Joglar said “music was our language.”