La Mala (Rodríguez) Returns: Our Favorite Latin Songs This Week

Jul 11, 2018

This week, musicians all over Latin America asked a lot of questions. Mala Rodríguez's first solo song since 2013 leads with the question, "Who protects me?" For La Mala, the question comes from an empowered, long-scorned woman. Gaby Moreno asks the same question, but for Central American immigrants. Other truth-seekers this week: New York-based Mexican singer Marrón offers a breezy respite and Cuban reggaeton (read: Cubaton) singer El Micha wants you to stop lying to yourself.

This playlist is part of a weekly Spotify series of NPR Music's favorite Latin songs that will be updated every Wednesday. Catch our weekly thoughts and hot takes here.


Mala Rodríguez, "Gitanas"

On her last album, 2013's Bruja, Spanish rapper Mala Rodríguez reclaimed the identity of a woman deemed wicked for harnessing her own power. Five years later, La Mala is back with a new single that reclaims a slur aimed at gitanas, women often targeted for their poverty or their visibility in the street. Calling back to her Andalusian roots and upbringing, Rodríguez takes ownership of her own gitana background, dancing in the streets with dozens of other brazen women over a trap-influenced beat in the music video.

¿Quién me protege?" she asks repeatedly in the song's chorus. Since La Mala first cast her magic in the 1990s, she's remained a stalwart in Latin hip-hop, especially as a woman often overshadowed by her male peers. With "Gitanas," Rodríguez proves that her flow has aged like a fine tinto. Who protects Mala Rodríguez? "Yo," she answers. "¡De frente!" — Stefanie Fernández


Marrón, "No Other Place"

Time to bring out the cute, summer feel-goods. Marrón delivers the playful track "No Other Place," which will have you dreaming of a change of scenery. It gently lifts you up from your afternoon slump with the sweet sounds of an acoustic guitar and up-tempo bell chimes, and gives you the will to text someone to make plans. The Mexican singer's single comes on the heels of his debut album, etc., and embodies the feeling in his lyrics of "crossing barriers to find each other, seizing the moment and not letting it slip away." — Coral Murphy


Gaby Moreno & Van Dyke Parks, "The Immigrants"

Guatemalan-American singer Gaby Moreno chose last week to release her cover of "The Immigrants" for a reason. On the week of the Fourth of July, Moreno released the collaboration with Van Dyke Parks in protest of current attitudes and policies concerning Central American immigrants to the United States, as well as the recent spike in family separations near the border. Written originally in 1998 by calypso musician David Rudder after the infamous Abner Louima police brutality case, the song rings as true as ever through Moreno's impassioned cries about the land of the free and the home of brave immigrants. — Stefanie Fernández


El Micha, "No Mientas"

Old-school is the new black, or at least that's what we've seen with summer reggaeton releases. On "No Mientas," El Micha and Bryant Myers — both artists known for their raspy and hoarse voices — integrate that old-but-gold-beat (you say "catchy," I say "dembow"). The Cuban singer brings the throwback feature to the song, while Myers reminds us that the world belongs to Latin trap and we're simply living in it. When you get Cubans and Puerto Ricans together, something's bound to work well. — Coral Murphy

This playlist is updated weekly.

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