Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in 1972 but raised in nearby Carolina and in Miami, FL, rapper Tego Calder+¦n got the multicultural backbone he'd need to become a star in the genre-mixing world of reggaeton. Growing up with massive Ismael Rivera fans as parents exposed the young Calder+¦n to envelope-pushing Latin pop music, while his father's love of jazz added yet another flavor. Studying percussion set Calder+¦n on the path to creating his own style, one that mixed the rhythmic sounds of salsa, plena, dancehall, and hip-hop. Lyric-wise, he combined hip '60s slang with current slang and tales of barrio life. Calder+¦n made a couple appearances on other Latin rappers' albums before the White Lion label signed him. Issued in 2002, El Abayarde became Calder+¦n's full-length debut. An instant success, El Abayarde sold 50,000 copies during its first month, and Calder+¦n was now an official Latin music superstar.
Returning to Miami led to an increase in the dancehall flavor of his music. This, combined with Calder+¦n's outspoken viewpoint that salsa had become too corporate and too safe, made 2004's El Enemy de los Guas+¡biri a punchier, more hectic, more street-level affair. With the reggaeton genre blowing up with New York City's hip-hop tastemakers and spreading its influence further and further, Calder+¦n soon found himself fielding offers from hip-hop producers while landing tracks on numerous street-level mixtapes. His voice ended up on remixes of Usher's "Yeah," Fat Joe's "Lean Back," and N.O.R.E.'s "Oye Mi Canto." Looking to expand beyond reggaeton, Calder+¦n declared his 2006 release The Underdog/El Subestimado "a musical journey through the Afro-Caribbean culture." The album kicked off his relationship with the Warner Brothers imprint Atlantic. ~ David Jeffries
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