Revisiting the Latino Music pioneers that combined Latin music rhythms with Hip Hop and R&B years before these ruled the top of the international pop charts
I don't think there's a Latino person out there who doesn't like the Kumbia Kings. If they don't admit it, they're just lying to themselves. There's not a barbecue or party that isn't improved by one of their songs. The Kumbia Kings are the direct descendants of Selena Quintanilla, the queen of Tejano music who is still a HUGE deal to the Latino community especially Chicanos in Texas. Their music is a natural progression of where Selena left off meaning it's "techno cumbia" except there's a lot more influences from hip and r&b and also much more singing in English. Much like Selena, the Kumbia Kings found success in both Latin American and the USA and were great at bridging the gap between people of Hispanic descent who no longer speak Spanish and those who exclusively speak Spanish in Latin America.
In this era of Latino music topping the Billboard charts to the extent that even English speaking (and singing) pop giants like Beyonce and Justin Beiber are jumping on their songs, I think it'd be worth looking back at the Kumbia Kings who were very important in breaking down barriers between Latino people and giving us music we could all listen to and claim as our own regardless of where we came from. Get ready to jam out.
Azucar is the first hit off the debut album for the Kumba Kings. This track introduced what the band and it's music was gonna be all about. It features Mexican Cumbia royalty, Fito Olivares, while at the same time pushing the genre forward into new places. It features way more synths than almost any Selena song did and also has a lot more "speak singing" rather than conventional singing which is a departure off the Selena style as well. This song introduced the world to what the Kumbia Kings were going to be and was one of their enduring hits.
"Shhh!" is the titular track of the second album by the Kumbia Kings and it is a banger. From the beginning of the song featuring possibly the stickiest piano riff of all time to the callback "shh shh shh" part it's impossible for this song not get stuck in your mind. Also this song features one thing that any and all Kumbia King fans or non-fans know which is the "a-ah a-ah" cry that is in almost every song. The best part of the song is that in continues to incorporate more of the Latino sounds and instruments like the heavy use of Timbales in the chorus.
If you've ever wondered what a quinceañera sounded like in the early 21st century all you have to do is listen to "Boom Boom" . When this song came on and everyone started yelling out the "Hotty Hotty Hotty Hoo" part you KNEW it was going down. I can almost feel my palms getting sweaty right now with images of me messing up an invite to go dance out on the floor. The song has so much preamble, so much build up that you think there's no way it can deliver when it finally arrives but it does. That's what makes it great, it's just the sound of a party. It's the sound of a party full of young people who are trying to impress their peers. It's the sound of the early 2000s in Latino music.
No Tengo Dinero
Juan Gabriel + Kumbia Kings = SOLID GOLD.
That's all there is to it. If you can listen to this song and not like it I think you may not be alive. One thing to note is that the album on which this song is featured finally garnered the Kumbia Kings critical recognition earning them their one and only Grammy nomination.
Mi Dulce Niña
Kumbia Kings had many members throughout the years but I don't think there's been any one member that's been as important as Pee Wee was to the group. There's a clear "Pre Pee Wee" and "Post Pee Wee" era to the Kumbia Kings and this song was the peak of the Post Pee Wee era. This wasn't the first song that featured Pee Wee as a singer that honor goes to "Sabes a Chocolate" which was in the album prior to "Fuego" and that was a hit in its own right but it wasn't as big as Mi Dulce Niña. The song pushed Kumbia Kings to be certified platinum in both Mexico and the USA and "Fuego" was the last album released by the Kumbia Kings before feuds and fraud split the group up into a number of splinter groups. Pee Wee was in many ways a precursor to the "pretty boy urban singer" that Maluma and J Balvin occupy now, a "cute" singer who isn't as clean cut as Luis Miguel or the other pop kings of the past were. This was years before this image became popular, again showing how far ahead of their time Kumbia Kings were.
Bonus: Baila Esta Cumbia
Like I said at the beginning of this piece, Kumbia Kings are a direct descendant of Selena. Kumbia Kings performed this song for the tribute concert Selena ¡VIVE!, which premiered live on Univision on April 7, 2005. It was on the Billboard charts for weeks until it peaked at 16 showing the longevity of Selena in people's minds but also giving us a taste of how far we've come from the simpler Selena version of the past. It's a great tribute and a great song.