Wos, the rapper who turned his music into a political cry: “You have to understand why young people are challenged by what challenges them” | ICON

There is no adolescent music lover who does not fantasize about being listened to by thousands of people or, even, that his songs change the world. The Argentine rapper Wos, artistic name under which Valentín Oliva (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 23 years old) performs, not only lives with the fact that his recordings on Spotify or YouTube accumulate a dizzying number of listeners, several over 100 million, but also with that one of his themes, Kangaroo, acquired the rank of political anthem during the social outbreak of Chile in 2019.

“It was impressive. There can be nothing more beautiful than feeling that one is accompanying all those people who fight for their own, ”the rapper tells ICON, in whose lyrics he denounced conformism and encouraged people to go out to combat precariousness. Emerged in the final stages of the Macri government, in the midst of the economic crisis, Wos justifies its scope in the universal character of the song: again. I think that’s why he represented so many people and jumped to Chile ”.

Oliva is in Spain these days to close the international tour of his first long studio album, Caravana (2019), which is taking him to seven cities. In Barcelona, ​​due to the high demand for tickets, he scheduled a second concert. After the double performance in the Catalan capital, Pamplona and Granada, it will call in Madrid on Tuesday, November 30, to continue in Alicante (December 3) and Tarragona (December 4). “It is being beautiful, I am visiting places that I did not know and people have given me an incredible welcome, I am very grateful,” he says.

Argentine rapper Wos, real name Valentín Oliva.
Argentine rapper Wos, real name Valentín Oliva.

His visit has been accompanied by the publication, last week, of a new album, Dark ecstasy, whose contrast of words reflects the structure of the album itself, with a first half dedicated to introspection and a second much more festive. “It has to do with something that I was going through and with what I live with, many sensations that seem like one thing but then have a dimension of 360 degrees. For example, the vertigo that one has at the height and, at the same time, the desire to jump … or the heat that the support of the masses gives and the feeling that these masses suffocate you ”, explains Wos, who sees the album as a continuation of the path he took last year on his EP Three ellipsis, composed and published during confinement by the coronavirus pandemic in Argentina.

For the musician, the “luminous” part of the album also has to do, in fact, with the return to the old normality and live performances, a break that Wos, in this sense, believes has been especially hard in his country for the passion with which people live music. “For Argentines, bands are not just entertainment, but part of their identity. It is something very strong that is at the root of all and that can be seen in the concerts, that is why it permeates all the processes “, reflects Wos, who last year participated in the Netflix documentary series Break it all: The history of rock in Latin America, where he appeared talking about Babasónicos and Patricio Rey y Sus Redonditos de Ricota.

Despite the apparent border that could exist with rap, he does not hesitate to point out the importance that rock has had in his music, as can be clearly seen in the guitars of songs like That they get better, from his latest album, or 40: “It is the music of my country, it is inevitable. It is in our DNA, it is in my childhood, in my family, in my friends … Our direct [Wos actúa con banda instrumental] they also have more to do with rock ”.

Asked about the recent controversy in Spain as a result of criticism on television by the pianist James Rhodes to Bad Bunny, Valentín Oliva considers that the new generations are leaving behind “the limitations of purism, an imposition that does not encourage deepening or progress”. “What matters is not the forms, but what is happening. You have to know how to investigate why young people are challenged by what challenges them, see what is there and lose their fear of the unknown ”, he says. In his music, this idea of ​​miscegenation is very present: in addition to the fusion of genres, in one of the cuts of his new album, Changing skin, collaborates with singer Nicki Nicole, a duet that, at first glance, could be unusual. “Nicki has great versatility, my producer and I knew that he would fit in very well in that rhythm, rapping, singing and playing his style,” argues Wos.

Rapper Wos.
Rapper Wos.

After debuting at just 14 years old in the now-defunct El Quinto Escalón tournament, which between 2012 and 2017 represented an important movement within Argentine urban culture and served as the starting gun for a new generation of artists, Wos continued to grow in the music scene. rap and him freestyle in Spanish, until his victory in the 2018 Red Bull Batalla de los Gallos international tournament. His confrontation with the Spanish Arkano at the Ego Fest in Buenos Aires the previous year is considered by many fans as the best duel there has ever been between the two countries. “The rivalry remains on stage, it’s like boxing. Contrary to what it seems, it creates a lot of unity and friendship, even though the rhythm is intense and there are some bites, ”says the rapper, who is currently retired from competitions.

Valentin Oliva arrived at hip hop in full preadolescence through the culture of graffiti. “I had some friends who painted and that was the first approach. Later I met people who did freestyle, we found out that there were competitions in the squares and one day we decided to go, after spending some time throwing rhymes at each other ”, he recalls. On Animal, a song he performs with rapper Acru, Wos pays tribute to the Spanish Kase.O and Sho-Hai, members of Violadores del Verso: “Kase was a super important reference for me. I have eaten a lot of Spanish rap, in terms of lyrics it opened a new world for me ”.

For the Argentine musician, the genre has also grown in inclusiveness over the last few years, and links machismo and homophobia of some lyrics to the society of each era. “Everything always goes according to the context, the artists absorb what is around and the lyrics are always going to be a reflection of how people are in general, with some exceptions. When that context evolves and changes, that change affects everything ”, believes Wos. What does not change, as the 23-year-old rapper’s success shows, is the capacity of urban and popular music to deeply appeal to humble people, in Argentina and everywhere: “There may be those who walk away of you when talking about certain topics, but it is very gratifying when people connect with what you do, take it as their own and feel represented ”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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