Reggaeton isn’t all that old in the grand scheme of things, yet there’s an industry-wide yearning for the halcyon days of early perreo, which was fostered in Puerto Rico’s Black communities in the Nineties and 2000s. Artists from Bad Bunny to Rauw Alejandro have offered up tributes to the sounds of their predecessors, reminding listeners that there’s plenty of history to excavate despite the genre’s relative youth. But while newer acts have had to dig deep to capture the throwback energy that everyone is after, some veterans have been around long enough to pull from their past to shape the present.
The Puerto Rican rapper Yandel, for example, started making music as part of the duo Wisin y Yandel more than two decades ago. He was in his twenties when he started working with Tainy, a production prodigy whose beats slapped so hard that he was signed by the hitmakers Luny Tunes when he was just 15. A decade and a half later, Tainy is one of the most ubiquitous producers on the global pop landscape, masterminding tracks for Bad Bunny and Selena Gomez, while Yandel boasts a prolific career that’s avoided complacency, thanks to an openness to new styles (unexpected entries into his recent catalogue include sad-boy trap on the Eladio Carrion track “Discoteca”). Despite how active they’ve both been over the years, Yandel and Tainy have repeatedly returned to each other’s orbit — and on Dynasty, a nimble, eight-song project, they team up again to celebrate their long-running collaboration.
At a time when reggaeton output seems in overdrive, resulting in albums that can end up overworked and overstuffed, Tainy and Yandel go for simplicity — a “boutique” approach, as Yandel put it recently — that serves the project well. (The LP’s leanness recalls the Bad Bunny and J Balvin joint album Oasis from the summer of 2019.) Dynasty starts with audio of the duo pretending to have just won a sports championship, a framing device that isn’t at all necessary, but the momentum picks up once the music rolls in. “El Plan” and “Háblame Claro” are sturdier, dance-driven tracks that nod to reggaeton’s club beginnings. On the whole, though, Dynasty is more forward-looking than nostalgic. Tainy’s production is sharp, spacious, and crystalline; he bends atmospheric synths and spangly loops over thumping beats on songs such as “Cámara Lenta” and “Buscando Calor,” examples of the way he’s taken the skeleton of reggaeton and morphed it constantly over the years.
Dynasty has only two featured artists, and both choices are intentional. Rauw Alejandro, the rising star whose recent album Vice Versa blasted to the top of the charts this month, dips into the slow groove of “Una Más” and adds dimension to Yandel’s verses through his ability to go up-tempo. The addition exemplifies the willingness of Yandel and Tainy to join forces with artists primed to carry the torch next. On “Si Te Vas,” the Brooklyn-born, Guyana-raised rapper Saint Jhn fires off rhymes in Spanish and English over Tainy’s casual Afrobeat riff — a hint of the cross-cultural, globally-minded way that Tainy has been envisioning reggaeton’s future.
Old-school touches throughout ground the project’s imagination. Tainy has a penchant for extending his outros and dotting them with surprise flourishes. In the last moments of “Deja Vu,” a standout on the album, Yandel lets out a few chants of “tra, tra, tra,” an ode to the iconic late-Nineties hit by Puerto Rican rapper Don Chezina. It’s a detail that doesn’t last more than a few seconds, but it’s a quick flash of where the genre has been, before the duo keeps pushing themselves somewhere new.