This Spanish hip-hop star is stepping into global music

The World

C. Tangana is one of Spain’s most-influential rap and trap artists. 

He recently composed a tune for the Celta soccer club in Spain’s northwest region of Galicia from where his father hails. 

In the Celta soccer video that C. Tangana also directed, the camera sweeps over a crowd of people along Galicia’s wild coastline. A chorus of women sing and bang out traditional rhythms on farm tools and hand drums. 

It’s part of the new normal for the artist who rode to fame on his hip-hop bravado but is now experimenting with musical styles from across Latin America. 

C. Tangana said he saw this project as a chance to support his beloved sports team, embrace his culture — and empower women.

“This is radical,” he said, “because we’re used to seeing women portrayed as passive, as seducers. It’s different here, seeing them on the Galician percussion. It shows strength and daring.” 

And it’s a far cry from how C. Tangana portrayed women in some of his earlier music when he was steeped in hip-hop and trap. 

A few lines from a song called “Fácil,” or “Easy,” got him banned from a festival in the Spanish city of Bilbao back in 2019.

The artist staged his own, free concert in protest. But he said such days are behind him.

"There were these primordial values that I’d assimilated via hip-hop,” he said from his apartment in Madrid.

Competition. Being on top.

“But there was this other side of me — sensitive, emotional — that became more central to my life but I wasn’t reflecting this in my art,” he said. 

It took a double crisis for C. Tangana to turn the corner, he said. First, COVID-19, when he turned 30. And during the confinement, another — over his identity.

“All those years I’d been a simple rapper,” he said. “I was outgrowing that. But what was next?  I wanted to break free and embrace all the musical influences that I loved from when I was young. Influences removed from urban culture and hip-hop.”

And from that transition emerged the album, “El Madrileño, or “The Kid from Madrid.” 

For C. Tangana, it was like the world had become his musical oyster. The record is a romp across Spanish and Latin music styles featuring some of the world’s finest players, like the Gypsy Kings or the legendary Brazilian guitarist and composer Toquinho.

As C. Tangano embraced new styles, he said he also discovered a new attitude, going from a chulo, as they say in Spain, or, “show-off,” to an apprentice.

“It’s been a process,” he said. “The masters nourished me. We’re still connected like a disciple to his teachers.”

Cuban singer and guitar player Elíades Ochoa, from the Buena Vista Social Club, is one of his mentors. They made a song together. 

Ironically, by taking a back seat to some of the greats, C. Tangana has catapulted further into fame. “El Madrileño” won a Latin Grammy and was Spain’s best-selling album in 2021.

C. Tangana said his musical wanderings have made him feel more authentic. 

The more he explores the world, the more he feels at home. 

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