Arts and Entertainment

Peso Pluma: From Les Calles To Dominación Mundo

In a riveting performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, regional singer Peso Pluma made musical history as the first Mexican artist to perform at the award show.

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By Zihe Huang

In a riveting performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, regional singer Peso Pluma made musical history as the first Mexican artist to perform at the award show. His attention-grabbing, passionate performance consisted of a musical accompaniment of violins and horns playing Antonio Vivaldi before transitioning into his emotional single “Lady Gaga.” He bewitched the audience in a massive puffer jacket and baggy pants, solidifying his name in the memories of those who witnessed such a jaw-dropping performance. He left the stage a legend, representing his Mexican culture with pride through the intricacies of his music and talent.

 However, Peso Pluma’s smashing success wasn’t achieved overnight; Pluma undertook a long journey before reaching global stardom. Born Hassan Emilio Kabande Laija in Guadalajara, Mexico, “Doble P” spent his childhood between New York, Guadalajara, and San Antonio, exposing him to a variety of music and cultures across North America. In his teenage years, he developed an interest in music and lyricism, teaching himself how to play guitar through YouTube videos. In an interview with Billboard, Pluma admitted that he was often bullied and ridiculed by his peers because of it. Songwriting became his escape; he started off by using it as a vessel to express his feelings through rhyme and rhythm, but soon enough, he found himself crafting exceptional lyrics.

Pluma’s career officially began in 2020, when he collaborated with his cousin Roberto “Tito” Laija Garcia a.k.a Tito Doble P on two albums (Disco en Vivo (2020) and Disco en Vivo, vol. 2 (2020)) after years of writing lyrics together. These albums consisted of live performances Pluma played around Jalisco, Mexico. Originally working with the record label El Cartel de los Ángeles and then switching to Prajin Records, Pluma released multiple albums with little to no avail due to his emerging status in the industry. Finally, he managed a musical breakthrough with his hit single “El Belicón”(2022),  drawing inspiration from the experiences of gang members and depicting both the romanticized and harsh reality of the lifestyle: “Todos mis muchachos están al tenton (All my boys are ready) / Les gusta la acción (They like action) / Con un buen cigarro me relajo yo (I relax with a good cigar) / Pero siempre al tanto en la corporación (But always aware in the corporation).” The single went viral across social media platforms, with its music video amassing hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and Spotify. Having created a name for himself in the music industry, Pluma set off for stardom.

As Pluma became more and more popular, it became increasingly apparent why his music resonated with listeners. Bringing a modern take on the more “historical” genre of corridos (stories told through song), he became a pioneer of regional music and uplifted the genre as his fame grew. Despite the fact that Latin music has become increasingly popular through albums like Luis Miguel’s Romance (1991) and Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti (2022), Reggaeton was the genre paving the path, while the world of corridos has historically been viewed as outdated “music for abuelos.”

The genre was originally created to tell stories specifically about gang members, romance, heartbreak, and drugs; due to their controversial subject matter, “corridos have always been very attacked and very demonized,” Pluma said to the Associated Press after performing at the VMAs. Pluma transformed the genre, bringing a new lightness and breaking away from the “ghetto” prejudices attached to it. By infusing his music with Latin trap and driving influences from hip-hop and Mexican music, Pluma is revolutionizing the future of corridos. He utilizes instruments such as the horn and guitar to give a fresh take on the old style. 

With the rise of corridos, Mexicans everywhere have become obsessed with the music; its embodiment of the relevance and value of Mexican culture has served as an empowering reminder of the strength of the diaspora. "Here in the U.S., we suffer a little from [lack of] social power, and the narcocorridos help us momentarily to feel powerful, somewhat similar to the way ‘gangsta rap’ in the U.S. has also been used by African American youth,” Hector Amaya, a communications professor at USC Annenberg, said in an interview with The Courier Journal. Pluma gives Mexicans (both in Mexico and America) another piece of their vibrant culture to hold dear, laying foundations for a Latin takeover. With such a bright future for Latin music, Pluma and other artists will bring their sounds to mainstream audiences across the world through their platforms and talent.

Just like Pluma’s music, his fashion sense deviates from what is traditionally Mexican. Instead of sporting the average cowboy hat and botas, he sports puffer jackets and an Edgar mullet. He is also set apart by his voice, which is perfectly suited for the genre: its nasally and versatile sound matches the vibe of corridos, capturing each note with perfect emotion. His music and style cater to all audiences, resonating with the young and old alike. 

And if listeners weren’t already convinced of Pluma’s talent, “Ella Baila Sola” (2023), a collaboration between Pluma and regional Mexican group Eslabon Armado, proved his abilities with no room for doubt. The track skyrocketed to number one on the Latin Billboard with 385 million Spotify streams, setting a record for regional Mexican songs. The track tells the story of two compas (friends) at a party talking about a pretty girl. Becoming the global song of the summer, it introduced both a Hispanic and non-Latin audience to the genre with its passionate vocals, fast-paced tune, and the tradition flowing through it that created an adrenaline rush for listeners. 

With Mexican music reaching new heights because of Pluma’s innovation, so has Mexican and Mexican-American empowerment. His accomplishments, from performing at the VMA’s to being Mexico’s most streamed artist, bring sheer pride to the cultura as he showcases his roots at a mainstream level. The language and music have broken boundaries between borders Pluma never could have imagined. In an interview with Variety, Pluma explained, “We ultimately want to stop putting that name of ‘regional Mexican’ to the music because it is no longer regional. This is global, this is Mexican music and it’s for the world.” Pluma has brought stardom to his Mexican heritage (¡Viva La Raza!) and will continue to do so; his legacy has just begun.