Lyanno: The Trailblazer Bringing R&B to Urbano
A new generation of artists is incorporating R&B sounds into urbano, and they're not here for the bubbly lyrics heard in romantic ballads. They don't want to be classified with those ballads, either, and artists like Rauw Alejandro, Alex Rose and Lyanno are making sure that doesn't happen. “I think that [unity] is what has helped this generation the most,” Lyanno tells People CHICA. “We've never had that fear or bad vibes, [or looked] at one another as competition.” The three worked together for the “Toda” remix last spring, and Lyanno teamed up with Alejandro again for Ozuna's “Luz Apaga.” “I'm a full believer in the new generation and what we are bringing to the table,” the 23-year-old says. “It's refreshing, and even those established in the genre recognize that, and that's something that's important to us.”
Most recently, the singer released the EP Episodios, which the Puerto Rican native treasures as a symbol of his career's current stage — a more commercial reggaeton sound infused with the R&B essence that he fought for in his initial years. “The idea was to drop it in the summer, so it was kind of intense,” he says. “There was a bit of stress among the producers and me because we were there day and night — no sleep.” It's hard to believe now, after his explicit lyrics and smooth bars have attracted female fans all over Latin America, but he did face harsh criticism in the beginning stages of his career. “It was hard,” he admits. “They would say there was no audience for it. Or, ‘You're too advanced for this, you should hop on reggaeton.'”
Growing up between Trujillo Alto and Río Grande, Lyanno fell in love with underground reggaeton at a young age. ”I think I had my first CD at five years old,” he says, noting that the first album he purchased with his own money was the compilation album Blin Blin Vol. 1. As he hit his teen years, he began to listen to Randy Nota Loca and De La Ghetto, whose 2006 collaboration “Sensación Del Bloque” was heavily infused with trap and R&B sounds. “I didn't classify it as R&B,” he says of the music, which at the time was simply linked to urbano or reggaeton.
His breakout happened thanks to another icon of urbano. “It's destiny, really,“ he says. ”I've known Almighty since the first grade. We were really good friends.” The two grew up together but lost connection once they entered middle school, then reunited via music. “He calls me one day and says, ‘I heard you're singing, I have a studio set at home,'” Lyanno recalls. There in his old friend's studio, he recorded on a mic for the first time; the experience motivated him to purchase simple equipment for himself. He reconnected with Almighty again in high school, helping in his studio as a sound engineer, and began networking and recording tracks, eventually connecting with Freddy and Phantom [of Subelo Neo], who are his present-day producers.
Episodios is a refreshing EP that recalls classic reggaeton phrases and serves as the pregame to the perreo. “Contra La Pared” in particular evokes the perreo salvaje, with lyrics like “against the wall” keeping it from becoming too romantic. The last track on the EP, “Repeat,” is the truest to his sound, remaining faithful to the R&B essence and featuring Cazzu, Dalex and Alex Rose. Though that same sound is infused throughout the other tracks on Episodios, Lyanno plans to incorporate even more R&B into his future projects, and hopes to one day release a full-length R&B album.
This past July, he performed with urbano peers Cazzu, Amenazzy and Eladio Carrion at Premios Juventud. “It felt amazing to be recognized, with such a short career in music,” he says. He also made sure to represent his native land while the #RickyRenuncia protests were ongoing. “I felt sad I couldn't be in Puerto Rico while everything was happening. I wanted to add my grain of sand even if I was a bit far, so they could feel my support. My family is still there, everyone I love is still in the country.” The caption on the photo of the shirt he wore to the awards read, “I'm not physically there in P.R., but I'm always with you guys!” Though his time spent in Puerto Rico will soon be limited — he's got an opening slot on J Balvin's U.S. tour this fall — he's right on track to become an icon like the veterans he grew up admiring.