Grab a pencil and paper, because Professor Chombo’s class is officially in session. During their stop at Molusco’s podcast as part of their joint album Los Dioses’ media tour, Anuel AA and Ozuna got into a heated argument with the Boricua host about reggaeton losing its essence and whether or not pop music qualifies as a genre. This opened a can of worms that led Molusco to chat with reggaeton royalty El Chombo, where the Afro-Panamanian producer came to an explosive conclusion: reggaeton is dead and we haven’t even noticed.
El Chombo got on his YouTube channel to give a masterclass about reggaeton’s origin and evolution, supported by audio examples and analogies to other genres. As a jumping-off point, he also used an interview-slash-reaction video Molusco did with fellow reggaetoneros Urba y Rome (who are on El Chombo’s side) and Mario VI (who clearly isn’t.)
In regards to AA and Ozuna’s words, El Chombo refuses to accept pop as a genre, seeing it instead as a black hole that feeds from everything around it. “When I say pop isn’t a genre, what I actually mean is that you can find it within almost every genre,” he explains. “Anything can be pop as long as it meets certain requirements. Every pop song has a root; whether it’s ballads, reggaeton, rock, or whatever you want, once you soften the qualities of that pure genre, you turn it into pop.”
El Chombo proceeds to debunk Mario VI’s opinion that reggaeton is, in fact, just the rhythm, and not the way it’s delivered vocally, as he interpreted from Chombo’s interview in question. He does so by contrasting songs he considers reggaeton (Nicky Jam’s “El Amante,” Xantos & Dynell’s “Báilame Despacio”) and songs he doesn’t (Shakira and Carlos Vives’ “La Bicicleta,” CNCO’s “Reggaetón Lento,”) based on the original rhythmic and harmonic elements the genre was built on.
In a respectful but incisive way, El Chombo criticizes Puerto Rican reggaeton artists and their role in the demise of OG reggaeton. “When I say ‘reggaeton is dead,’ I’m talking about the formula that you [Boricua reggaeton artists] used to follow, stopped following, and now want the rest of the world to keep calling it ‘reggaeton,’ only because you created the word.”
The crudest moment in his video comes when El Chombo takes a jab at the music industry. He says, “[The music industry], after looking down on all of us who used to follow that raw formula, […] bought the car from you [Boricua artists] when it ran out of gas, and hopped to your side. But they didn’t do it alone or by force, [it was] with your help and consent,” he says. “And when pop artists said, ‘Honestly, now that we’re sitting in this car, we can’t call ourselves ‘reggaetoneros.’ And the industry told them, “Tranquilo, Bobby, tranquilo. We’re now gonna be called ‘pop urbano’ and all of you are ‘urbano artists.’ Reggaeton sits in the back.”