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Becky G Grabs Her Own Spotlight on the Excellent ‘Esquemas’

Mexican American pop artist Becky G has spoken frequently about the way she’s elevated her career by collaborating with her female peers, especially those in the Latin-music landscape. She’s also worked with some well-known men who dominate the charts — from Bad Bunny (2017’s “Mayores”) to Maluma (2019’s “La Respuesta”). That sense of community is all over her new album, too. Yet, there comes a time when an artist has to assert their autonomy — and on Esquemas, Becky G takes center stage, even when she’s collaborating. The result is her best music yet.

There’s certainly no lack of features on her sophomore full-length. “MAMIIII,” released just ahead of Esquemas, is a hand-in-hand effort with Karol G — a much-awaited duet between longtime friends that has already, unsurprisingly, became a megahit. “Ram Pam Pam,” reignites the chemistry of “Sin Pijama,” the 2018 hit with Dominican singer Natti Natasha that helped launch Becky G out of the confines of English-language pop and into the upper echelons of Latin music. Together, they deliver another sex-positive romp that’s more about their own party, fully on their own terms, than serving the male gaze. 

But when she takes over a song herself, she does so with zero qualms. Becky G gets more personal than ever here, mainly by taking musical risks. Esquemas, more or less, translates to schemes — and all the moves Becky G has made here feel absolutely deliberate. 

As with her 2019 debut LP, Mala Santa, reggaeton and dembow are mainstay rhythms throughout. But a track like “Flashback,” featuring Becky G’s frequent Miaimi-based collaborator Elena Rose, is a welcome shake-up: It’s a kind of doo-wop duro, silky slow but simultaneously raw, with heavy rhythmic breakdowns. “No Mienten” is an experimental electronic track ready for a dance-floor remix, and unlike anything Becky G has released before. “Dolores” is an even more intimate number, a pro-femme ballad inspired by her grandmother, her younger self, and other women in her family, throughout which she employs electronic reverberations that evoke a kind of mesmeric nostalgia. 

It’s also invigorating to hear how strong Becky G is alongside Dominican superstar El Alfa, whose singular voice and flow are a nice match for Bad Bunny’s undeniable prowess. (Everyone knows the best part of Bad Bunny’s “La Romana” is El Afla’s closing “Fuego, fuego!”) On “Fulanito,” El Alfa caters more to Becky G rather than simply supplying a cohesive verse; she’s crushing on him but it sounds like he’s doing everything he can to impress her, making for the rare pop romance where everything flows both ways and feels mutual. Similarly, when Puerto Rican rapero Guaynaa guests on “Tajin,” the track still feels like Becky G’s. He’s the guest.  

On cuts like “Que le Muerda,” a post-breakup diss, and “Guapa,” where Becky G glides past catcalls, she fully holds her own. “Kill Bill” — replete with the sound effects of swords being unsheathed — centers on her speak-style rapping, with some menacing whispers to drive the point home. “Bailé Con Mi Ex” is a singular surprise, too, a start-to-finish disco-pop treat. 

Esquemas couldn’t be more appropriately named. It’s all intentional. And nobody better challenge her sovereignty, because she’s most certainly earned it.

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