Reviewed on this page:
Mision: La Cima - Hispanic Soul - Xplosión - Con Poder -
Aquel Que Habia Muerto - Emboscada - En Honor A La Verdad - Desahogo - Babilla
Vico C. was the king of meren-rap in the early 90s, producing big
hits for the likes of Lisa M ("El Pum Pum"), Fransheska
("Menéalo"), Toño Rosario ("Otra Vez") and El Comandante ("She Likes My Reggae"). His own Hispanic Soul wasn't as big a chart item, but it's actually the most solid
effort of the mini-genre, with his taste as a composer and arranger outweighing his pleasant mediocrity as a rapper and singer. The craze
blew over by the end of 1991, and throughout the rest of the decade, merenrap was pursued by one band, Proyecto Uno. But then the genre transformed into reggaeton, which became a huge fad by the mid-2000s, and Vico C was primed for a comeback.
Mision: La Cima (Vico-C & D.J. Negro: 1990)
Based on his later successes, I thought this
would be an engaging mix of hip hop, merengue, and humor. Nope: it's just
Vico C. rapping over dull, minimal scratch backing from D.J. Negro,
and Vico doesn't have much to say beyond routine boasting (title track)
and shaggy dog stories ("Viernes 13 Part II"). The one hint of his breakthough merenrap sound is "Me Acuerdo," with vocals by Irene Flores - it's fun, but as the only bright spot it's just not
Hispanic Soul (1991)
This is more like it! Terrific dance tracks include the merengue "Te Voy A Tomar," with its rapid succession of vocal hooks and casual horns,
and the hip hop-influenced "I Like It," in the style of Black Box or C + C Music Factory.
Plenty of variety, from the wah-wah rhythm guitars on the opening "Tradición," to the reggae "Bombar Para Afincar" to the piano ballad "No Podemos Fingir."
Best of all, though, is "La Inglesa" - built on a salsa piano vamp, it brilliantly blends live and programmed percussion, call and response, English and Spanish, sung vocals and rap.
Vico sometimes sings and mostly raps, and frankly he's ordinary at both, with decent but unexeceptional presence, smoothness and lyrical skill (though my Spanish isn't excellent, and I may be missing something).
His real strength is as a songwriter and producer, and he's at his best here: even the lesser tracks (the reggae-rap "Dulce, Sexy, Sensual") are loads of fun.
D.J. Negro adds a little scratching, and Barón López did some production, arranging, engineering and singing;
other musicians include Ramón Vazquez (bass), Chebi Rodriguez (guitar), Emilio Perez and Angel
Diaz (percussion), Pedro Mateo (trumpet), plus Angel Lopez, Lizzy Estrella and Laura Soto (backing vocals).
Traigo La Bomba (1992)
Again Vico-C wrote everything, and Barón López did a lot of the arrangements and production, but the attitude is entirely different. In a move toward the hip hop mainstream, the
genre exploration is largely missing - the reggae title track and "Así Es Que Va A Soñar," and the merengue "Pa' Mi Coleción" are the exceptions - and instead
there are a lot of tracks based on programmed drums and keyboards, either slow ("Base Y Fundamento") or fast ("Cosa Nuestra").
With such ordinary backing tracks, it's harder to overlook his lackluster "let's party" lyrics ("El") - though when he does get serious, as with his right-wing, anti-abortion tirade on the title
track, you may wish he'd go back to partying. Many of the tracks are enjoyable ("Saboréalo," which samples NWA's "Express
Yourself"; "Baby Quiero Hacerlo," based on the S.O.S. Band's "Take Your Time (Do It Right)"), but it's depressing to see an artist excise the part of his act that
made him original and vital.
Musicians include Isaac Young (sax), Stanley Kanashige (bass) and a bunch of backing vocalists: Lizzy Estrella, Iris Martínez, César Flores, Yanira Torres, Marisol Laureano,
Jesenia Feliciano, Aida Lesalle, Julio Cora, Paradise, Sonia and Crysel.
Dos Tiempos (1994)
Con Poder (1996)
Even further in the direction of Xplosion, with drum and keyboard loops and samples providing the only backing - aside from the language, there's virtually nothing to mark this as a
Latin release. There's nothing wrong with that, except that as pure hip hop the record's remarkably dull and predictable, with no compelling hooks.
The title track is a cut above the rest, with languourous trumpet and vocal harmonies driving home the pro-Christianity lyrics which recommends heaven as "better than a Holiday Inn."
Well, I guess I'd better get to church, then. "Libro Controversial" takes on the same topic (guess which book he's talking about?) over a snooze-worthy reggae groove.
"La Roca" is livelier than most of the other tracks, but it's still nothing special; "Danza" is the sort of pounding house vamp that went out of style in the early 90s.
As usual, written by Vico-C, aside from the cover of "Un Beso Y Una Flor" with Seguridad Social; he also produced with engineer/keyboardist Elvis Garcia.
Singer Lizzy Estrella is the only credited backing musician.
Aquel Que Habia Muerto (1998)
More of the same, but the looped tracks are a bit more subtle and ear-catching than Con Poder's:
lush guitars on "Quieren," Wu-like pseudo-Romantic strings on the title track.
"Donde Comienzan La Guerras" is sort of a bolero with reggae bass, and Vico singing in a pinched voice.
Trouble is, there's no real excitement: once the disc is playing, you'll enjoy the ululated voice loop in "Careta" - also Wu-inspired, now that I think of it - and "La Recta Final (Nueva Versión),"
but neither is substantial enough to make you pull the disc off the rack in the first place.
Vico-C wrote, produced and arranged; Funky co-produced and programmed.
Musicians include Miguel Caraballo, Richie Madonado, Xavier Irizarry, and Joel and Jeremy from Piedra Angular.
In 1999, Vico-C turned up on Amor, Familia Y Respeto by A.B. Quintanilla Y Los Kumbia Kings.
El Super Heroe (2000)
El Super Heroe "Vivo" (2001)
A live record, with songs including "She Likes My Reggae" and "Me Acuerdo." (DBW)
By now reggaeton - essentially hip hop in Spanish with a moderate reggae rhythm - had taken off, and Vico C switched back from imitating RZA to his original combination of Latin forms with rap. It's not always smooth - the extended quote from Eddie Palmieri's "Vamonos Pa'l Monte" sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of the electro-synth title track - but it's mostly tuneful and interesting: "¿Y Ahora Que?" incorporates lengthy violin improvisations from Sara La Cubana; "Peligro" kicks into uptempo merengue; "Abusando" sports a nifty guitar hook from Joey Juliá.
Some of the tunes are nothing special ("Por El Lente Del Cielo"), and even some of the successful experiments are too long (the rap-bolero "La Niña Modelo"), but an encouraging return to his roots.
As usual, self-written, produced and arranged.
En Honor A La Verdad (2003)
This time the Latin elements are no less present ("Para Mi Barrio" is a salsa vamp), but presented less traditionally: the lilting hook on the reggaeton "Capicu" is delivered by a synth rather than a horn; the title track's kinetic main riff is played on a harpsichord, of all things. He changes things up even more with an acoustic guitar version of "5 De Septiembre" (there's also a more predictable reggaeton mix).
For once, some other producers are involved - Echo produced five tracks ("El Bueno, El Malo Y El Feo") and Noriega produced "Mascote" - though Vico C still wrote all the songs.
A bonus DVD contains half an hour of behind-the-scenes footage confirming what most of us already knew: making a record is boring.
Apparently Vico C had just been in jail, and the disc label has a diagram of his in-cell recording setup... I'd always wondered how rappers recorded so prolifically while they were locked up.
Some big guests this time: salsa singer Gilberto Santarosa appears on "Lo Grande Que Es Pardonar" (produced and co-written by Angel "Cucco" Peña), and reggaeton star Queen Ivy duets on "Echale." "Te Me Puede Escapar" - written, produced and performed with Cultura Profetica - is the most authentic of Vico's many ventures into reggae. The sound is close to the two previous records, with a mix of live instrumentation ("Mami") and programming ("Esta En La Esquina"), and while it's not groundbreaking it's generally enjoyable.
D'Mingo produced (and co-wrote) the salsaton "Vamonos Po' Encima," which features vocals from La Mala Rodriguez.
Echo produced the title track, DJ Blass contributed the ordinary reggaeton "Se Escaman," but otherwise Vico C produced. Like the last album, this came with a bonus "Making Of" DVD - it's a little better because it includes some performance footage.
By 2009, reggaeton had largely run its course, and Vico C wisely retrenched toward the minimalist Latin-ized hip hop of the Xplosión era (title track, with melodramatic but effective synth strings).
There's nothing shockingly innovative like his first successes, but by now he's experienced enough to work with a limited palette while still giving each track an individual affect ("Prueba De Farmacia," which somehow manages not to be sappy; the salsified "Aqui La Que Fallo Fue Usted").
Another of Vico C's strengths is his ability to vary vocal tone and timbre to suit a song: playfully prickly on "Payasito"; tender on "Moriré"; commanding on the upbraiding "Polvora."
He still has an unfortunate tendency to moralize ("El Corazón Se Pone Bruto"; "Angelina"), but his skills are equally undimmed by time, and though no one tune is a socks-rocker, it all adds up to a satisfying whole.