The going of "El más duro"
If the neighborhood never asked permission to crown their idols, the posthumous tribute would be no different. The bodies are glued together in a vigil at the foot of a basketball hoop, in a poor corner of Key West, to the rhythm of reggaeton and creole trap. They cry and sing. They film everything with cell phones.
On Saturday, July 18, in a Havana besieged by the coronavirus and the rain, thousands of people spontaneously came out to pay tribute to the last of their fallen heroes. The last and the best, say those who knew him.
Daniel Muñoz Borrego, the center of pain tonight, had been buried a few hours earlier. He died in the morning, at age 31. In a story on his Instagram, a peaceful farewell was read during the day: "... at one point we will all meet again and walk the same path".
He achieved success very young, but he did not come quickly. Before the bright trail that began to take off with his takeoff at age 26, there were times when Daniel Muñoz —who would later be known as El Dany, The toughest, the Cuban reggaeton Sensei— had to sing for almost nothing in other people's shows .
His story is similar to that of other iconic Cuban musicians who predicted much more than they did, whose careers drowned in tragic fates that cemented their legends in the popular Parnassus.
The Dany grew up in that lively collision of sounds that is Key West, between the rumba, the timba and the atmosphere of the neighborhood. Writing songs with his left hand and, as he would in life, swinging on the makeshift basketball court. His mother knocked on doors to clear his path, but few were opened: "He made himself alone," she said.
Daniel Muñoz, born on January 6, 1989, started his Medicine career and abandoned it to shine or burn everything on the track. Like him, a Roberto Hidalgo Puentes - three years younger - was bidding on his side to achieve fame in music, something that both would achieve under the name of Yomil and El Dany.
Before they were DpuntoD for three years, they exchanged the same clothes to get on the stage and crossed Havana with pennies in their pockets for the bus. In hindsight, the duo's narrative is a classic rise-to-success story, but everyone claims it's grimly true. Many of the people who accompanied them in their production team grew up in the same neighborhood.
After working together for a time as DpuntoD, they ran out of fuel, there were differences and they decided to separate. It was not his time, and each one got closer to other more consolidated groups: Los 4 (Yomil) and Jacob Forever (El Dany).
In 2015 they returned with a new concept advanced in I have and they shot up in the forefront of the genre, which by then was suffering from internal struggles and stagnation. In the uncontrolled and frenetic territory of reggaeton made in Cuba and its derivatives, Yomil and El Dany represented a guarantee of professionalism and sophisticated sound. They tried to experiment with their music and place it in the popular taste from the Island, with an eye toward global diffusion.
El Dany, armed with charisma and a flow own and rare among the exponents of the genre, it was—both in the work of voices and in the stage projection—a necessary balance for his companion on the road. Together they forged a conquest of the genre based on a studied marketing that took advantage of every alternative way to traditional media to reach the public, from the Weekly Package, through social networks to copying flash drive a flash drive.
doping in one week it impacted the local scene, sampling songs by Drake, Nicky Minaj or Snoop Dogg, and tracks completely new in a style that mixed Puerto Rican dembow and American trap. Perhaps they have been one of the best examples of how little reggaeton has needed state advertising to “stick”.
Autonomy, which is not well regarded by the officers, in this case also came with the insolence of direct, street language and an aggressive sound that spread without the help of radio, television or interviews in traditional newspapers.
Even when they were nominated for Cubadisco 2017 with MUG (We Deserve A Grammy), a silence was made around the reggaeton players in the press that shouted the prejudices that spread about the genre. Despite the constant contempt, if not the explicit barrier, the duo was eager for legitimacy before the state entities that they had left over among the public.
But it would be elusive, while outside the country they impressed international figures such as Enrique Iglesias and Daddy Yankee. The important producer of the Latin scene, Sergio George, declared himself a "fan" of Yomil and El Dany. And right here they were praised by important artists of the salsa and timba movement such as Issac Delgado, José Luis Cortés, Manolito Simonet, Paulo FG, Samuel Formell, Alexander Abreu, Haila María Mompié. Elito Revé said they were “spectacular”, and David Calzado assured, admired, that he did not know what Yomil and El Dany's style was: “I can't classify it… If it's rock, if it's pop, it's reggaeton, urban music. It's everything."
In July 2017 they left for Europe on their first international tour, which included festivals and clubs in Rome, Napoli, Verona, Austria, Barcelona, Madrid. In August 2017, they put a pike in the city that had become the Flanders of the Cuban reggaeton: Miami received them at the Watsco Center, between the scandal over high prices and the fascination with the push of the group
Yomil and El Dany continued their feverish production hand in hand with DJs like Italo, Meko and DJ Wongk Beatz. Seven discs in less than five years kept them surfing in the reggaeton and trap wave with its trapton variant. His songs, in addition to the rhythm with a very accentuated bass, have more melodic work than most of his companions in battles. Progressively they were incorporating more synthesizers and drawing closer to rap.
Along the way came wildness and luxury, and what is worse in the eyes of the powers on the Island: the exhibition of that wealth. Dany, who loved fashion, compulsively bought shoes. He bragged in jewelry and money videos - "Sacrifice plus sacrifice equals profit," they sing. After all, they were boys from Key West with a lot on their hands and nobody gave it to him.
In their songs they show codes that connect with the youth of the Cuban neighborhoods, but they are also transversal to other sectors of society. Whoever likes it, and whoever weighs it, reggaeton is the most influential sound so far in the 21st century and El Dany, together with Yomil, reached a zenith that would have to be seen if Roberto Hidalgo and other exponents can sustain hereafter.
They managed, independently, to position themselves on the Top Latin Album Chart of Billboard. They performed in international showcases such as the Premios Juventud 2018 and created their own label, Trapton Music, to promote new talents. All this with a complicated history of concerts suspended at the last minute in Cuba, video clips nominated for the Lucas Awards but ignored in programming, and a general absence of state media, which in the case of television began to gradually change in 2019. , after years with popular taste in a pocket.
Now there is no longer one side of that dumbbell that pumped oxygen into what is commonly called urban music. The death of El Dany in full creative boil, about to release the album The champions—unprecedented due to the number of exponents involved (about 30)—, has had a massive impact. Even in his departure, he carried the disdain of a sector of the population that continues to look down on popular artists, protected by an elitism that at this point is little less than cultural immaturity.
Los Champions / Yomil y El DanyJesus Jank Curbelo15.09.2020
Discrimination against that music, discrimination with class and even racist roots, is institutionally expressed in censorship and “whitening” of the genre, selecting the few that allow them to access the media, while the casts speak their own language.
The dismay caused by an event such as the death of El Dany —officially “as a consequence of an acute cardiovascular event” - should not be surprising in a wide swath of a town that long ago has not followed another narrative with greater delight than that of the reggaeton makers and its glamor. Tired of waiting for paradise, Cubans cannot be asked not to admire those who claim to have arrived on their own.
The state press, previously elusive, with the death of El Dany has given him life in its spaces that the artist did not need. He also received the belated recognition of an institutional framework that despised him and defends a Decree-Law 349 that targets reggaeton players and other independent creators, traditional subversives of what the official culture understands as "good customs."
On Saturday, July 18, nobody authorized the Cayo Hueso neighborhood to pay tribute to the Sensei who escaped. They know where to look for their idols. "We do it this way, without asking permission ..."