The collaborative album has a storied place in hip-hop. It’s a celebration of two artists’ creative synergies, typically honed in prior team-ups that became hits and/or fan favorites. But sometimes, it can be an opportunity for each rapper to test their mettle. The examples are plentiful: Jay-Z and Kanye came together as The Throne for their now classic LP, Method Man and Redman entertained audiences for nearly a decade, and the legends of Black Star and Madvillain will outlast us all.
But in the world of Spanish-language hip-hop and reggaeton, it’s harder to recall projects with the same kind of consistency. Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam released knockouts in the early aughts as Los Cangris, and Arcángel and De La Ghetto still insist they were never an official duo, in spite of all the singles they’ve released together. Fast-forward to the present: The burgeoning alt-urbano scene in Puerto Rico has transformed into a hotbed for experimentation. Two of its most promising acts, Gyanma and Enyel C, have appeared on the same bills in recent years. In early 2020, they dropped “Oro Centro,” which has become a show-stopping live staple. Later that year, they jumped in the booth again for “Joe Exotic.” So they decided to take the next logical step: releasing a joint album under the moniker Duo Deleite (aka Delightful Duo, or Duo That Delights).
The self-titled album collects many of the styles that have made alt-urbano so rich over the last few years (and a creative hub where labels discover new talent). As solo acts, Gyanma and Enyel occupy different lanes: Gyanma’s sound is the lovechild of trap, R&B, and the roguish energy of reggaeton, while Enyel C began his career as a lo-fi hip-hop savant who eventually came into his own as a lyricist and producer on his debut EP Angelito. Those abundant influences make Duo Deleite an album whose biggest strength is its variety; it forgoes some of the more predictable pop templates that currently dominate the urbano mainstream.
Take “Café,” a song that resembles an urbano version of the “jet set” song made popular by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Tony Bennett (a “Corcovado” for the streets, if you will). Produced by New York’s Balbi, the song wafts through the air like the aroma of its namesake, quietly lighting up the synapses as Gyanma and Enyel rap over a smooth, samba-fusion beat. It’s far removed from the boisterous trap they’re known for, but even in tranquility, the duo is capable of innovation.
Even when they venture into familiar thematic territory or dabble with a more standard pop sound, the duo avoids monotony. “Millonari” and lead single “MTV” kick the album into a higher gear, as they let loose and lean more aggressively into catchier trap hooks and bars. Both tracks touch upon the well-trodden topic of daydreaming about wild success, but they don’t feel redundant when the production and lyrics are so snappy.
Around 2020, urbano producers began to experiment more frequently with house and electronic music. Some artists, like Rauw Alejandro and Randy (of Jowell & Randy) successfully pulled it off, but others became victims of their hubris, thoughtlessly overlaying one rhythm over the other and calling it a day. Gyanma and Enyel are both producers themselves (the former is a Berklee alumnus), so the care they take around crafting and selecting beats is palpable, especially on tracks like “De Vogue.” Here, they traverse ballroom’s steady synth stabs, modulating their cadences and darting between tempos to match the lightning pace. With the added spice of a cheeky YHLQMDLG interpolation, the track proves that when it comes to making the music authentic, Duo Deleite have done their due diligence.
The last two songs on the eight-track album contribute to that mission of authenticity: “To’ Los Gantel” and “Número Uno” invoke two pillars of the Puerto Rican urbano sound—malianteo (read: gangsta rap) and perreo. Both are filtered through Duo Deleite’s vision, yearning for light-heartedness without diluting the song’s effectiveness. “To’ Los Gantel” carries Enyel C’s best verse and a ragga-inspired coda, while Gyanma excels on “Número Uno,” flaunting his talent for threading romantic overtures with flirty innuendo, as he did on his previous EPs Rompecorazones and Lado A/Lado B.
Duo Deleite showcases the pair’s symbiotic relationship and the versatility with which they can tackle new genres. The interest in older sounds is foreshadowed even in the cover art, as Enyel dons a colorful New Jack Swing-type jacket and black beret, and Gyanma appears in ’90s street hoops drip. But don’t get it twisted: The twosome is still very much of this moment, not just in the tangible enthusiasm they imbue in the production, but in their lyrics as well. On “Café,” Enyel raps, “Damn, mi loquite, conmigo tú coronaste,” utilizing the gender-neutral “e” suffix (a practice that has caught on among younger Latines to make their Spanish more inclusive).
Duo Deleite is a lean array of easygoing anthems—one that feels like a soundtrack for road trips, beach days, and vacilón. The duo has said that “good vibes and having a good time” is the thesis of the album, and while they’ve certainly achieved that, it more closely resembles a goodie bag rather than a cohesive, well-rounded collection. If and when they decide to reteam, here’s hoping for a more linear sonic throughline. Still, the LP illustrates the indie scene's capacious, experimental vision of urbano, which is forcing the mainstream to take notes. The young guns got next, and they have the talent and drive to back it up.