Trueno Is Kicking Off a Brand-New Era

TruenoQandA TruenoQandA.jpg - Credit: Lea Frutos*
TruenoQandA TruenoQandA.jpg - Credit: Lea Frutos*

Before he’d even turned 20, Trueno had made a name for himself as a champion freestyle battler in Argentina’s growing rap scene. He was witty, funny, and quick on his feet, and he showed people the full range of what he could do on his debut album, Atrevido, from 2020.

But Bien o Mal, released in May 2022, was a display of maturity and depth that broke new ground. Split into two sections, one half of the album was full of songs of protests that spoke out against corruption, dictatorships, economic inequality, and police brutality across Latin America. The other half included songs of celebration that were teeming with pride and patriotism while paying homage to old-school hip-hop. The project won him his first Latin Grammy nomination and paved the way for a global tour that took him across the world.

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Trueno calls it an exciting period of traveling the world and gaining new experiences. “The truth is, the Bien o Mal tour was craziness. We went to a ton of countries, so it was a period of doing a lot and learning a lot,” he tells Rolling Stone on a recent Zoom call from Spain. He met new people and found new inspirations, all while evolving as an artist. In his personal life, things changed, too: His highly public relationship with the Argentine singer Nicki Nicole ended.

Now, Trueno is ready to close a chapter of his life that has meant a lot to him, and he’s ready for a new era of music. Already, he’s begun working on a brand-new album, and he kicked things off this month with a new track called “Dubai,” featuring the Spanish artist Beny Jr. He spoke with Rolling Stone about what else he wants to do this year, why he’s at peace with his relationship status, and who he wants to collaborate with next.

So much has happened with the success of Bien o Mal. Tell us what the last year has looked like for you.
It was a busy year with a lot of stuff happening. We started in May of 2022, and we just wrapped it up a little while ago. We went to Europe, we went to Latin America — in Colombia, in Mexico. We did a national tour in Argentina that was amazing, and we were also in the rest of South America as well, to Chile, to Uruguay, everywhere. But just recently, we released the very first glimpse of what’s coming next, a song called “Dubai” with Beny Jr from Spain. Now, there’s a new era starting.

What are you envisioning for this new era? What’s inspiring you?
I see every project as a culmination of what came before it, the fruits of your labor and everything you achieved. The new song with Beny Jr is one I had been saving for a while, and now that we’re in Barcelona, getting ready to play a few shows, it made sense to release it for our fans here. Beyond that, we’re working on this huge project that I see as result of everything we saw and experienced with Bien o Mal, of seeing new countries, of everything that happened in my life. I was also writing a lot of music and recording a lot, so this project came out of all that. We want it to come out as soon as possible, but we also don’t want to rush anything. We’re working day and night on it. I’m an artist who’s all about albums and big projects, so I’m immersed in this. But the sooner it comes out, the better.

You’ve always been influenced by your travels, by sounds you come across in different places.
Definitely. The first thing that attracted me to this collaboration with Beny Jr was that he’d experienced a lot of the same things as me. I try to collaborate with artists who I like and who I connect with and who I listen to. When I was traveling, I got to meet so many producers and so many people who are so smart and know so much about music. I learned a ton, so a lot of cool stuff is on the way — a lot of rap things, a lot of stuff that’s very hip-hop.

I was going to ask you about that. Hip-hop turns 50 this year, and it’s always been a big part of your life and artistic mission. How is the anniversary influencing your work right now?
This a year for celebrating. Fifty years is a huge milestone, and there are so many experiences and artists who have contributed so much, so we have to celebrate everything this genre has achieved. I think there’s some latent recognition of what hip-hop means in Latin America and that there have been some artists throughout history who have embraced this movement and contributed to it. I was just part of a documentary called Hip Hop Por Siempre with huge legends in Latin American rap, and to be able to do something like that is something I’m grateful for. I’ve always been a fan first, and someone who profoundly respects hip-hop culture, so to be able to to represent Argentina is something that makes me proud.

You came up through freestyle battles. How does that inform the new music you’re writing?
I’m a big fan of the freestyle world, and now there these new lyrical battles I’m also into watching. They’re really elaborate and basically kids write out songs and then have a live tiraera. As for my own freestyling, people are always asking me if I keep doing it, and I always have to say yes. I’m always thinking about that spontaneity. When I hear a beat, the first melody that comes to mind is something I pay attention to. I listen to my intuition a lot and follow what comes naturally. Sometimes when I’m recording, I’ll freestyle for a bit, and lyrics happen that way.

Bien o Mal also had a serious social component, where you discussed political issues in Latin America.
On Bien o Mal and the idea of protests, which is the first part of the album, is very much what I wanted to say in that moment. I saw a lot of that with my own eyes, and I think a lot of people find it important to express themselves artistically. It’s a reality a lot of us face as Latinos: economic issues, political challenges, none of that is new in Latin America, not in Argentina or in Mexico or Colombia or anywhere. But despite that you live those realities all the time, and you feel like no one is talking about it or fighting it. You don’t see these things on television or anywhere else. So as an artist, you have to have a conscience and a sense of social responsibility. I just wanted to say, “OK, I’m always going to say what I want and I know this can have positive and negative consequences, but I’m going to do it, no matter what people think.” The beautiful thing was actually releasing the album and seeing people embrace the message. All I can promise people that I’m always going to be transparent and say what I think is right. with something to say, beyond the battles and the freestyles people knew me for.

There have also been some changes in your private life. You were in a highly public relationship. What did you learn from those more personal experiences over the last year?
In this moment, I’m single. I think everyone who appears in your life is important. You learn something from every relationship, and you have to be grateful to each person and to yourself. Every situation you go through helps you understand yourself, and there’s a certain kind of pride in learning about yourself and seeing your own capacity to give love and loyalty to someone else. Right now, I’m really happy with the love I have from my friends, my family, and my team. But everyone who I meet through this experience and who enters my life means a lot to me, and I think I’m always learning from every person. I’m 22, and I have a lot more to do and mistakes to make and lessons to learn. It’s a path I’m still walking down, but I’m happy with how I’ve been moving in that sense. I can say that my friends are my team and my family is my team. Everyone who is part of my work right now is doing this with love.

Who are some artists you’re hoping to collaborate with in this next phase of your career?
Kind of on that topic, when we talk about Latinos in hip-hop, a major influence has been Cypress Hill. That would be a dream.

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