The corridos tumbados bring a modern and urban twist to the traditional musical style

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LOS ANGELES — Ruben Gonzalez can’t say exactly when the change from the old country style of corridos music shifted to the emerging urban style.

But he knows that when people heard the unique Southern California style, it immediately struck a chord.

“When we recorded ‘Bien Lit’, which immediately hit the streets, and got the attention of a lot of bands – ‘Oh my god! We have ideas like that,” said Gonzalez, CEO of the label. Los Angeles-based music company Wounded Enterprises.

Ideas that reflect the culture and lives of people in neighborhoods like Compton, Calif., a West Coast hip-hop hotbed that’s home to artists like NWA and Kendrick Lamar, whose songs tell unflinching stories about how to grow up there. While traditional Mexican corridos have often focused on less gritty storytelling, corridos tumbados and hood corridos offer a different style of storytelling music to a new generation.

“We sing (about) the people in the neighborhood, who are from the neighborhood, who killed, who are in prison,” said Gabriel Ornelas, lead singer of Los Asociados, a band that describes its style as “hood corridos.”

It’s a modern, urban take on a classic Mexican style of music that Ornelas says explains, but doesn’t glorify, the reality of the life they live.

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“On the street they hurt, you can say, but trying to help people like they’re like, ‘OK, that’s what happened to me, but I’m telling my story so you know the problem and you don’t and, you know, look for another path,” Ornelas said.

Corridos are narrative ballads that grew up in frontier regions and chronicled everything from ordinary events to, more often, stories of political and cultural conflict, acting as a kind of oral history. The fast-paced songs are often accompanied by guitars, but Celestino Fernandez, a retired sociology professor from the University of Arizona, said the corrido focused on the lyrics.

“That’s why many corridos begin, ‘This is the corrido of…’ to get the listener to pay attention,” Fernandez said. “A story is going to be presented, a document, then a documentary puts something that happened in reality, the truth or inspired by something that happened in reality.”

Traditional corridos are sung in third person, but newer style corridos tell their stories in first person, according to Fernandez.

“This type of corrido was born in the city, not in the provinces, not in the countryside, right? he said. “It’s an urban corrido, that’s what they know.”

Gonzalez said he started thinking in 2017 about changing the typical attire – traditional leather boots, country-style suits and hat – of the norteño band he led to more modern clothes, like jeans, t -shirts, hats and shoes. But the group resisted the move.

He discovered Los Asociados when he heard their corridos version of Oakland rapper Too Short’s hip-hop song, “I’m a Player.” He was amazed at how the song turned out and immediately wanted to deal with them.

“They’re from Compton and I’m from Compton and we have the gangster mentality and we just write music about the gangster sh–” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez thinks Arsenal Efectivo, a group from Southern California, opened the door to corridos tumbados, and he made the move to Los Asociados: “Let’s not sing about people in Mexico or about drug lords . Let’s stop singing about them…Let’s sing about the people here.

Felipe Peñalosa, left, and Gabriel Ornelas of the band Los Asociados, whose new style of corridos, which they call ‘hood corridos’, talks about the lives and challenges of people living in urban areas like Compton, Calif., of where they come from. (Photo by Kimberly Silverio-Bautista/Cronkite News)

He invited the band to come to the studio and Los Asociados loved the idea. Los Asociados were influenced by the new wave of trap corridos from bands like Arsenal Efectivo, but they forged their own style, which they call ‘hood corridos’.

“We released this strong rhythm and people liked this movement more,” said Felipe Peñalosa, one of the members of Los Asociados.

Peñalosa said the movement is changing and people love the new generation of artists and the tumbadon beat they’ve created that’s going strong on the American side of the border.

“They’re not millionaires like Chapo,” Gonzalez said, referring to Mexican drug lord El Chapo, “but we have stories to tell, you know what I’m saying?”

Gonzalez thinks the music will be around for a while, but that shift is already happening. He notes that reggaeton, influenced by Caribbean, Latin music, reggae and other genres, began to leave Puerto Rico to collaborate with regional Mexican artists. Colombian singer Karol G released “200 Copas” in May, which combines reggaeton and corrido tumbado, with sharkto guitar.

“So I think corridos tumbados is already moving into its next stage and doing a lot more movement,” he said.

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