Calle 13’s front man rapper, René Pérez, better known as “Residente,” was getting ready to perform this past weekend before tens of thousands of fans in Chile.
He and his band are on a Latin American tour, promoting their new “Multi-Viral” album.
But the next stop on the tour was already very much on his mind.
“We want to go to Ecuador to visit the zone where the indigenous people are, to learn about the Chevron situation.”
- Calle 13's Residente
Residente said he and his band – which includes his stepbrother, Eduardo Cabra Martínez, a.k.a., "Visitante" – plan to go to the Ecuadorian Amazon, to the region where activists and villagers are trying to get damages from oil giant Chevron for decades of pollution in the area that they claim has damaged the environment and endangered the lives of the indigenous people who live there.
“We want to go to Ecuador to visit the zone where the indigenous people are, to learn about the Chevron situation,” Residente told Fox News Latino in a telephone interview from Chile. “We want to educate ourselves about what has happened, what is happening, and how we can help, perhaps with a social campaign or through our music.”
For Residente, entwining music and social activism is par for the course.
The album's title track, “Multi-Viral,” features a spoken-word part by WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange as well as Palestinian artist Kamilya Jubran, whose music also has embraced activism.
“It’s not political, though many people have distorted what I do and said it’s politically-focused,” said Residente, who is 36 and was born in Puerto Rico. “They’re social causes.”
His comments and actions often have made waves, which Residente says is fine with him.
Several years ago, while hosting the MTV Latin America Awards, Residente ruffled a lot of feathers when he said, “Latin America is incomplete without a free Puerto Rico.” He called then-Gov. Luis Fortuño a “son of a bitch” for laying off 25,000 public employees.
He also wore different T-shirts that bore provocative messages, which he said came from tweets he had received from fans, saying such things as "Uribe Paramilitary" – referring to former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe – and saying that Honduras’ President Roberto Micheletti “rhymes with Pinocheti,” a play on the name of former Chilean strongman, Augusto Pinochet.
“People said those were message from me, about how I felt,” Residente said. “But they were other people’s messages. I was just a board carrying these messages.”
Calle 13 had a concert cancelled after that, and Fortuño criticized Residente, saying he had disrespected Puerto Ricans.
Residente remains unfazed by the darts critics aim his way.
“I’ve managed the criticism, the controversy,” he told Fox News Latino, “Calle 13, we are very clear with our messages, our personal constitution, our convictions.”
All told, he said, he didn't start out planning to be an activist.
“It started when one person at a concert, a long time ago, asked us to talk about something on the stage, to let people know about a problem.”
“I don’t even remember what it was, but then it happened again, and it was two people,” he said, “then it happened again, and it was dozens, then we had hundreds and thousands of people asking us to bring awareness to a social issue in their country.”
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente