Grammy-winning rapper and activist Residente revisits his roots in his confessional new song “René.” It’s the latest single off his upcoming untitled album, which will feature collaborations with Bad Bunny and Jessie Reyez.
The rapper was born René Pérez Joglar in San Juan, and, for the video, Residente and his camera crew traveled back to his childhood home, deep in the barrio of Trujillo Alto. The track opens with the soft voice of a woman — presumably his mother — singing a nursery rhyme inspired by an indigenous Taíno ball game.
It’s one of many tender, evocative memories he shares throughout the seven-minute video. Photos of a young Residente, his family and friends are interspersed with a one-shot view of the artist himself; from the middle of a baseball diamond, he imparts highlights from the story of his life over a delicate piano loop. He recalls the joy of seeing his mother dance flamenco, or throwing a rock into a neighbor’s window with his best friend. Then follow moments of profound darkness, like the murder of said friend, to the death of Residente’s grandmother, who never saw him perform. “El concierto está lleno, pero yo estoy vacío,” he professes in Spanish, “The concert is full, but I’m empty.”
“This song helped me get out of a place that I didn’t want to be in,” Residente tells Rolling Stone. “I needed to go back to my hometown and my house to reconnect with my friends. I needed to go back to being, me — René.” Toward the video’s end, he and his young son, Milo Pérez Fandiño, stroll together across the field. With “René,” Residente is reborn.