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Death of Gay Trap Star Kevin Fret Highlights Crisis in Puerto Rico

Foul play suspected in the fatal shooting of singer; Bad Bunny and Residente confront Governor Ricardo Rosselló about rising violence on the island

Latin trap singer Kevin Fret, credited for being the genre’s first openly gay artist, was shot and killed on Thursday, January 10th in the Santurce neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Local newspaper El Vocero reports that the 24-year-old had been out riding a Yamaha motorcycle at 5:30 a.m. when he was fatally shot in the head and in the hip. Another man was reportedly seen with Fret on the scene, but quickly fled on his own motorcycle. Police suspect foul play, possibly involving extortion, but have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime.

Fret’s death is one of 24 homicides recorded on the island in less than two weeks. A top FBI official had declared a “crisis of violence” in Puerto Rico just a day shy of the killing, citing upticks in shootings, gang activity and human trafficking.

In a statement issued to the press on Thursday, Fret’s manager, Eduardo Rodriguez, stated: “Kevin was an artistic soul, a big-hearted dreamer. His passion was music, and [he] still had a lot to do. This violence must stop. There are no words that describe the feeling we have and the pain that causes us to know that a person with so many dreams has to go. We must all unite in these difficult times, and ask for much peace for our beloved Puerto Rico.”

A true anomaly in urbano music, Kevin Fret was best known for flaunting queer pride in underground trap anthems like “Soy Así” (“I’m Like This”) and on Mike Duran’s song “Diferente” (“Different”). The emerging singer and LGBT advocate was heralded across social media for defying societal norms in both his gender presentation and his taunting lyrics — boasting of being “Frida Kahlo reincarnate” and using his superior makeup skills to confuse straight men — upending the genre’s paradigm of macho behavior and misogyny.

Fret became an increasingly public target of harassment in 2018, after trapero Anuel AA fired a diss track titled “Intocable,” which has since been taken down from the internet. The song featured homophobic slurs and inflammatory verses about Anuel’s collaborator-turned-nemesis Cosculluela — implying a homosexual relationship between his rival and Fret. (Anuel has since apologized.)

At the time, Fret took to social media to lambast Anuel and urbano artists at large for their unchecked homophobia, urging artists to stop using the gay community as punchlines in their songs. Yet as of Thursday morning, Fret’s Instagram page was mysteriously wiped of all posts, leaving just a single message in his Instagram story from the day before: “Pray, relax, wait for my times and I will do the rest. — God.” The singer had recently teased new music for 2019 through a producer’s Instagram account.

The rash of violence on the island has led to protests from Puerto Rican reggaetonero Bad Bunny and Calle 13 rapper Residente, who wandered the streets of San Juan together late Thursday night into early Friday morning, petitioning guards at Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s mansion to let them speak to the governor. The two broadcast their mission live on Instagram at 2 a.m. local time — “We’re here to talk to Ricky about crime in Puerto Rico,” said Residente, who intermittently took photos with guards and fans. The rappers were eventually allowed in early Friday morning, after which they photographed themselves inside Gov. Rosselló’s office. Bad Bunny wrote, “The sun came out, but we had the talk we wanted.”

This comes two months after feminist activists Colectiva Feminista en Construcción were reportedly tear-gassed outside the governor’s mansion, after demanding the government of Puerto Rico take action following the murder of 41 women in 2018. Although Bad Bunny and Residente made no explicit acknowledgment of Fret’s murder, or any other specific murders, Thursday’s incident may have prompted their visit. Rolling Stone has reached out for additional comment.

“The crime that lives on our island is not due to songs about crime,” wrote Residente earlier on his Instagram, blaming instead the government’s lack of funding for education. “It is unlikely that a well-educated kid with goals to work would end up on the streets.”

Added the musician: “I propose all rappers get together and record a song about [the misuse of government funds] and demand they use it for education. I’ll provide the beats and the beer. Puerto Rico doesn’t need peace, it needs education.”

This story is developing.

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