He was never flashy, even when reggaeton exploded into the mainstream circa 2005 with Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina.” While Yankee, Don Omar, and Wisin y Yandel were basking in the spotlight, Tego Calderon stayed in the background, experimenting with a sound that was never solely reggaeton or rap. It was poetry, informed by the rhythms and circumstances of his island.
Calderon’s sense of responsibility to make music with a message was handed down. From his late father Esteban, he inherited an appreciation for the older, socially conscious salseros like Ismael Rivera, who exposed racism in Puerto Rican society. Since the early days, when he released 2004’s El Enemy de los Guasibiri up until his most recent work like “Robin Hood,” off his latest album, The Original Gallo del Pais, Calderon has tackled topics like corruption and inequality. And as Puerto Rico continues to grapple with issues like skyrocketing crime, Calderon continues to stay true to that urban vigilante persona.
At 40, Calderon continues to perform for loyal fans all throughout Latin America, dabbles in acting (Illegal Tender, Fast Five), and commands the respect of his peers and the music industry as a whole. The Original Gallo del Pais was nominated for a 2012 Latin Grammy in the Best Urban Album category (the award went to Don Omar).
A recent phone conversation while he was promoting his latest album reveals that these days, Calderon seems content with his life and fulfilled as an artist and a family man. Whether people buy his music or not almost doesn’t matter, because on any given day, you’ll find Tego Calderon in “El Sitio,” his home and recording studio in Santurce, P.R. – doing what he does best.