Arepa, the new mixtape from MJ Nebreda, seems designed to leave blue denim stains on basement walls. The Peruvian-Venezuelan producer and singer’s newest release is a clubby reggaeton thrill, one that revels in the genre’s sauciness, sex, and singular sense of humor while providing curative carnal nourishment. The troublemakers in these songs know it’s okay not to be liked. They come quick and make money fast. They post thirst traps for themselves and no one else. Here, being messy and sexy is a way of life—and a perreo sucio is the only appropriate soundtrack.
The Miami artist has only been making music for three years, but Arepa already positions her as a deft newcomer. Nebreda is credited as a writer and producer on every song on the tape. She sparkles as a curator, too, perhaps a result of her former role in A&R. She twists together sticky dembow riddims, chonga aesthetics of excess, and raptor house’s mind-numbing drum loops. On top of all the heat is her insolent voice, which frequently feels like it’s about to break into an orgasmic moan. “Muy Fina” is a full-on playground taunt in which Nebreda and guest Gini Santana assume the role of “pretty bitches” demanding that trifling men cough up (“Better to transfer that money to my PayPal,” they spit in Spanish). In these moments, Nebreda channels reggaeton icons like Glory and Jenny La Sexy Voz—women whose sex appeal was foundational to the genre’s commercial triumph, even if they were almost never credited for their indelible, generation-defining hooks.
Nebreda’s irreverent one-liners often feel liberatory, but never rely on strained or corny empowerment tropes. “Calor,” featuring fellow Miami producer Nick León, is a linguistic romp, the verb tenses and grammatical gender limits of Spanish stretched into an elegantly bratty rhyme: “A mi me sobra lo que a ti rest’/Así que vengase pa’ca/Que te lo compartex.” And then there’s the unabashed horniness. On the title track, she uses the yonic form of the arepa, a Venezuelan national dish, to represent pussy. She and guest Calacote slur the hook on “Agua Sin Gas” so that it ends up sounding like “I’m gonna fuck” in Dominican slang. Later, on “Teta” (Spanish for “boob”), Nebreda threatens to lick your belly button.
Arepa doubles as a showcase of the producers and vocalists defying fixed interpretations of reggaeton as misogynistic and homophobic. This genre has always had ample room for the queer and the femme; all you had to do was hand over the mic. Across Arepa, the pronouns are fluid and so are the genders of whoever you’re fucking. There are appearances from fresh faces like trans and non-binary Puerto Rican artist Ana Macho and the Toronto-based Dominican experimentalist Móry, as well as more established names, like neoperreo matriarch Ms Nina. With a crew of equally ungovernable baddies in tow, Arepa’s directive to misbehave and shake your ass is irresistible.
Arepa illustrates that the most promising artists in reggaeton aren’t signed to Columbia or Universal; they’re building dembow riddims in their bedrooms and raving on the weekends. Only a handful of tracks here sound rough around the edges. “Teta” drills through raptor house bedrock, but the Mussa Medusa verses land in a lo-fi haze, resembling demos more than final products. This is technically a mixtape, so that unpolished finish adds its own charm. Reggaeton is often a pleasure practice, and Nebreda seems less interested in perfection than immersive ecstasy. In the fantasia of Arepa, everyone is a ruthless man-eater or a drop-dead vixen who deserves to feel good.