Last year, Residente (born René Pérez Joglar) shocked the world with a self-titled album released in March. The rapper and songwriter visited 10 countries during two years to make music based on his own DNA, a journey that took the Puerto Rican to unexpected places such as China, Burkina Faso, and Armenia.
Now, with Netflix’s release of the album’s documentary earlier this month, also titled Residente, audiences can bear witness to the musician’s incredible global journey through 10 different lands to discover his roots and craft an awe-inspiring album based on his lineage.
The highly anticipated 96-minute documentary not only shows how Residente created the album, but also goes deep into the historical context that inspired each of his songs. In the Caucasus, where he visited Georgia and Armenia, he produced “Guerra” (“War”), a song influenced by the region’s endless civil wars that contains elements from both cultures.
Later, he visited Beijing to produce a song about climate change inspired by China’s severe pollution. The result is a tune called “Apocalyptic,” on which he collaborated with a Chinese singer he discovered at a local bar. The documentary, produced by Paraiso Pictures, also follows Residente to Burkina Faso, London, and his native Puerto Rico. (Spoiler: There’s also a cameo by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who happens to be Residente’s cousin.) In Puerto Rico, the rapper interviews Governor Ricardo Rosselló, a pro-statehood politician, and the former political prisoner Rafael Cancel Miranda, who was imprisoned after he fired gunshots inside the U.S. capitol in 1954 to protest colonialism.
Residente, who rose to fame with his band Calle 13, is notorious for his organic, earthy approach to music. He told Billboard he needed to trace his lineage because he longed for a deeper connection with other people outside a studio. “I wanted to create an album where I tackled certain themes, and follow through on its authenticity by traveling to the countries I have roots in,” he said.
Through the years, the MC has also been critical of the music industry, which is reflected in the documentary. “Today the music industry has a priority and that’s sell at all costs, ” he says in the filming, adding: “The need to create something real and true is less important each day.” During the Latin Grammys last year, he dedicated his win for Best Urban Album to “real MCs,” taking umbrage with reggaetoneros for producing hits while sacrificing art and originality.
Watch Trailer below: