Chilean Trap Star Gianluca Makes Breakthrough in New ‘Yin Yang’ LP

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Latin America has spawned countless musical movements in the 2010s, but in many ways, Chilean music has experienced its own distinct revolution. As Javiera Mena, Alex Anwandter, Gepe and Dënver ushered in a new era of South American indie-pop — loaded with roots revival, electronic wizardry, political discourse and more earworms than a Top 40 club night — it seemed that Chile’s golden age would never end. And though it didn’t, it has no doubt evolved. Today’s vanguard of Chilean musical artistry is now safely nestled in urbano, where perreo-fueled powerhouses like Tomasa del Real and Paloma Mami are colliding the global furor of reggaeton with edgy Internet aesthetics and an inclusive, D.I.Y. ethos.

Out of this fiery generation comes Gianluca, the 22-year-old trap star hellbent on transcending the sonic confines of urbano with an artsy swagger. His debut album Yin Yang, out now via foundational Chilean imprint Quemasucabeza, is an exploratory collection of songs melding Gianluca’s impeccable trap flow with influences from reggaeton (“Flotando”), gospel (“Hábitat”) and ambient (“La Lluvia,” featuring Gepe). With production helmed by Pablo Stipicic and long time collaborator Tytokuch, Yin Yang stretches the borders of Latin trap in ways not heard since last year’s Bad Bunny game changer, X100PRE.

Take Yin Yang’s title track for example: the album’s latest single, and possibly its pop zenith. Last year, after getting hooked on Jorja Smith’s hypnotic “On My Mind,” Gianluca was left with an itch to record a track soaked in Nineties house hedonism — stepping away from the headiness of previous releases, and embracing a bolder club sound. As the pulsating concoction began taking shape, Gianluca saw an opportunity to integrate a crucial voice in Chile’s dance music elite.

“I immediately felt like I should do this song with Javiera Mena because it really clicks with what she does,” Gianluca tells Rolling Stone. “The song is super pop and it was an ideal opportunity to collaborate with her. I’ve followed and respected her for many years, and she was on board right away.” With Stipicic on production, Tytokush on vocal samples, and trap drums from local beat wiz Xander, the track becomes a glittering canvas on which Gianluca and Mena’s contrasting vocals intersperse with ease.

The balance between their wildly different vocal styles is also by design, with both song and album framed within Taoist philosophy. “The concept of the Yin Yang is the backbone of the record,” explains Gianluca, “which is divided in halves. At first, it’s dark and brooding, and later luminous with more romantic tendencies. In fact, the track ‘Yin Yang’ is the album’s half-point for that reason.”

The song’s Felipe Prado-directed video also embraces duality, with identically styled dancers performing synchronized choreography inside a circular set painted in contrasting red and white. The clip also casts Gianluca as a fashion provocateur, eager to continue pushing the boundaries of genre, gender and artistic expectations.

“From the beginning I decided to establish a personal aesthetic that was my own and unrelated to any particular canon,” he reflects. “Each project has its own aesthetic: [My first EP] Vortex had more of a VHS vibe, where [my mixtape] G Love was kind of serious and sober, because I was getting into this Internet aesthetic. Now for Yin Yang there’s a whole [Eastern philosophy] feel, more production and a whole team behind it. The album sounds more personal. It sounds and looks like Gianluca and no one else.”

“The concept of the Yin Yang is the backbone of the record,” says Gianluca of his new LP.

Photo by Esteban Vargas Roa