Everything began with “Relax,” Paulo Londra's first song, which was uploaded on YouTube in January 2017 and set the basis for a career that seems to have no roof. “I accept to be criticized, I do things my way,” he sings with a slow flow that has already became his trademark.
As many in his generation, the 19-year-old began rapping in squares. He forged his style battling in freestyle contests as the so-called El Quinto Escalón, and rapidly stepped up to trap, the musical genre that is conquering every corner of the world right now.
Though his path is similar to others in the new scene, Londra made a difference from the start: While he packs his songs with positive vibes and thanks heaven for his good luck, he avoids the trail of violence, drugs and insults.
Barely a year and a bunch of songs into his career, Londra introduced himself in the radar of international stars of the genre, such as Bad Bunny and J Balvin, and many of his videos got above the 20 million viewing mark. His success was certainly noticed in the local industry, and his name appeared on the lineup of the last Lollapalooza Argentina edition, though his show was ultimately canceled because of bad weather conditions.
“I had the illusion that the audience would sing 'Nena Maldición' (the song he sings alongside Puerto Rican Lenny Tavárez). I thought I could cry right there,” the young artist confessed to Billboard, right after the cancellation of his show was announced.
Londra talks exactly the same way he sings, and can't hide his amazement over the impact his work has caused. He has a humble but firm personality, “trusted and peaceful,” as he titled his second song, “Confiado y Tranquilo.” He's an artist of the 2.0 age and the basis of his motivation is the instant feedback shared with his audience.
“Encouraged by the positive feedback, I released 'Relax' and started to write more songs right away,” he shared. “It was actually strange that a trap song got over a million viewings here in Argentina. This motivates me a lot. I locked myself in a room just to write and even abandoned the visit of squares.
“I may look relaxed, but every time I go to sleep can't help thinking this is all too strange. I refuse to reflect upon it, I just want to enjoy it,” he revealed.
Beyond any genre distinction, Londra believes he makes music, not just trap. And he likes to make things his own way. “I like to draw certain subjects many people won't do. Almost no one sings about happiness, for instance. Everybody says 'I'm mean' and things like that. Probably that sells more, I don't know. I got enthusiastic about things nobody does, I tell you,” he explains.
It's like he says in “Condenado Para El Millón,” one of his latest hits: “While they watch our game, we already created something new.”
His early impact and his appetite for new horizons brought him to Colombia. There emerged, among many things, a collaboration with urban pop group Piso 21 in the song “Te Amo.” Far from rap and trap, Londra unfolds with rhymes in a romantic vein closer to reggaetón. And he's aware that this is not viewed well in hip-hop quarters.
“In trap and rap music, there are very extreme people,” he said. “So, perhaps a collaboration with Piso 21 have them tell you that you don't qualify as a rapper, but that's unfair. For me, the most 'rapper thing' is to rap in an unlikely situation. That's pushing the boundaries, not being locked. I'm not selling out: I just like to be present whenever is possible.”
Londra said he first became interested in making music when his sister suggested he watch the Eminem film 8 Mile, a landmark that deeply touched his life. “I could have been 9 or 10 when I watched that film, and I was floored. I wished I was that white guy between black people,” he said.
Nowadays, he maintains the same ideal, and he knows that exposure in social media involves a certain responsibility. “An artist is like an athlete,” he said.
“I guess everybody thinks I'm the good rapper, and I love that,” he shared. “It's cool being the good guy in the movie. People took me as a saint because I don't talk about drugs or talk about sex. And I like it to be this way.”
In spite of the differences, Londra is conscious of being part of a new generation, a movement of new artists he's proud of, saying, “All of this deserves a book being written. What's happening with the urban genre right now in our country is like what happened in Puerto Rico with reggaetón.”
Beyond a young audience eager to hear Spanish-language trap, Londra acknowledges that his biggest challenge is to count an older audience among his fans: “The new generation is born hearing this stuff. I mean, this is pretty common if you are 15 years old,” he explained. “Instead, if you expose someone between 30 and 40 to this stuff and he likes it there's a real chance that the artist is getting bigger. And I like that.”