These albums helped define Latin music’s most daring and creative year yet. 

As we inch closer to the end of another memorable chapter in music, the Spanish-language gap gets bigger by the day. To anyone who believed reggaeton’s second coming or Latin trap was a trend were gravely mistaken as artists across the diaspora found success on the charts and in the streaming world. Artists like Bad Bunny, Rosalía and J Balvin continued to thrive off last year’s releases while dropping memorable singles (and joint projects). Others like Sech broke the mold for the marriage of hip-hop and reggaeton with Panamanian pride. Legends like Mark Anthony and Ivy Queen reminded us of their magic while rising artists like Rico Nasty, DaniLeigh and Melii provided major star power and creative visuals for their tunes. Latinx music has continued to push boundaries and the same goes for our list. – VIBE staff

12 /25 ‘Motions’ – Melii

Almost two years after Melii dropped her “Cardi B – Bodak Yellow (Melii Remix)” music video, the bilingual singer-rapper solidified her mainstay potential with her 2019 debut album, phAses. And nearly seven months following the buzzworthy project’s release, the Harlem-native further catapulted her growth musically in 18 minutes on, MOTIONS, her latest EP.

The Power-produced leading track, “No Hard Feelings,” and the corresponding audiovisual unraveled a more self-assured artist. Melii’s around-the-way girl aesthetic boasted the photoshoot perks of fame and its designer comforts onscreen for this break-up bop. Rapping, “Said you’re doing better, I heard you/ Now you run your mouth and say I ain’t deserve you,” listeners realized there was bad blood overhead the bass-knocking chorus.

With the exception of the Caribbean-collab, “High For U,” alongside Gyptian, the 7 tracks on MOTIONS do not exceed three minutes. This song component readied the EP’s viral hit probability. Through the witty bars of her self-proclaimed “Sad Girl Winter” offering, Melii makes it clear to fans she isn’t here for any f**k boy antics. On the Murda Beatz and Cariak co-produced Spanglish song, “Here We Go Again,” the MC identifies her wasted time on a man that can’t seem to do right by their dynamic.

Showcasing a new vulnerability far-removed from her “Icey” past, Melii’s cross-continental melodies on songs, “Paris” and “LA,” bring forward the relatability of entertaining a lover in spite of emotional reservations. MOTION’s vibey soundscapes shift the starlet between languages highlighting her fluency amidst one-liners and the tendency to embrace her Dominican roots in heated moments.

“Nena,” Melii’s Spanish guitar lullaby, soared across streaming service platforms with over a million plays on Spotify alone. The single amplified her vocal range. Still, the production of London on da Track’s contribution titled, “TM Interlude,” summed the archetypal theme of MOTIONS – the need to be desired – all in time for Melii’s current set on Summer Walker’s The First and Last Tour.

8/25 ‘Gangalee’ – Farruko

The narcotic-induced LP, Gangalee, became a decade-defining moment for the Bayamón-based singer-rapper, Farruko, authenticating his ’09 MySpace première slaps. And a billion “Calma” views on YouTube served as the prelude to a global Gangalee phenomenon—a collaborative hit neither Farruko nor Pedro Capó anticipated. From the music video’s beach close-ups of the dashiki-clad artist’s dreadlocks to the women dancing on the sand, “Calma” played past language barriers. The smash launched a 22-track ode to Isla Del Encanto, reggae, and the muses while enlisting some of the biggest names in musica urbana in the process.

A Peter Tosh “Legalize It” sample opens the Bad Bunny-assisted “La Cartera,” and its animated music video reiterating Jamaica’s influence throughout the Caribbean. The weed-loving riddim showcased the spectrum of the Latinx diaspora and enveloped the beauty of the “GangaXtrip” and “Borinquen Bella” audiovisuals. Bend-it-over bops like “Rompe el Suelo,” “Dale Dembow,” and the Don Omar-backed, “Coolant,” provide lyrical context to the debauchery necessary for anyone’s party habits. With the bombastic “Mucho Humo,” Bryant Myers and Jo Mersa Marley lay two of Gangalee’s most potent verses.

Traces of sex fuel his pursuits on wax, amplifying his anthems “Ponle” with J Balvin and Rvssian, and “Playa,” a Kafu Banton-meets-El Micha bolstered “Son Las 12” spinoff. Hints of dancehall and calypso music are interwoven with Spanish raps throughout the bulk Gangalee. Farruko’s recognition of these black artforms is supported by Afro-Latinx musicians, to include the legend Lennox on their song “Tensión,” alongside Zion.

Most profoundly, the album offers political sentiments with Anuel AA and Kendo Kaponi on, “Delincuente,” for listeners getting their life back on track. Withal, Farruko does not subscribe to today’s come-and-go formulas, but instead, Gangalee is a testament to tunefully doing the work, all in the name and love of reggaeton.

4 /25 ‘Africa Speaks’ – Santana

Nearly five decades after his Woodstock debut, Carlos Santana and his band, Santana, paid homage to the motherland on Africa Speaks by enlisting African musicians, and the Spanish siren, Buika. Sonically, the cross-cultural album champions against Afro-erasure in a period where Latinx music habitually exults white-passing artists.

This trilingual effort balances liner notes from Algerian singer Rachid Taha, buoyant Afrobeat from Jay U Experience, and the funk contributions of Easy Kabaka Brown.

With a mostly Spanish-language tracklist, Africa Speaks debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and simultaneously crowned the Top Latin Albums chart. Rick Rubin produced sessions of its live instrumentation in his renowned recording studio, Shangri-La, in Malibu, California.

Carlos Santana’s spoken word opening on the title track affirms a universal truth that shapes the record: “All and everything was conceived here in Africa. The cradle of civilization.”

And if his electric guitar breaks are the lifeline of the genre-bending record, the lush texture of Buika’s voice is its most freeing element. Intertwining intricate riffs by way of her mother’s tribe’s native tongue, Buika’s Bube hymns balance well throughout Africa Speaks on songs like “Los Invisibles” and “Oye Este Mi Canto.” With each compelling poetic leading into the next, arias such as “Batonga” and “Paraísos Quemados” echo the retro feels waxed on Santana’s ’70s hit, “Black Magic Woman.” The mellow Laura Mvula-assisted, “Blue Skies,” brings forth dazzling jazz harmonies and English sonnets.

To songs that, on average, exceed five minutes in length — the Mexican-American legend led his 25th LP with sophisticated indigenous musicality. Santana notably recorded 49 songs in 10 days. Selecting the tracks which encompassed the frontrunner’s life’s work was a task fitted for the gifted.

Its lyrical content punctuates remnants of betrayal, triumph, and the passion required to endure on tunes, “Bembele,” and “Candomble Cumbele.” Over the 11-track release and its Target exclusive extended play — Africa Speaks powerfully fuses rock, flamenco, Afro-Caribbean tradition, and garnered iconic co-signs.

“Luna Hechicera,” a love song-turned-nightmare, was notably propped by the Senegalese-Nigerian bandleader Ismaël Lô. The composition, in its entirety, was both co-written and vocalized by Buika, marking the Latin Grammy Award-winning songstress’ first time performing rock music.

This newfound energy was deemed as “magical from the beginning,” by Rubin on the album’s VEVO visual titled, “A Conversation with Rick Rubin – Africa Speaks.” The body of work’s depth is limitless, and its grooves were not shaped to be radio-friendly — but instead build-out to embody half a century of Santana’s musical prominence.

Read Bianca Alysse’s contributions to the full story on

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is a creatively driven Bronx-born writer and editor. Before becoming The Knockturnal‘s music editor she served as Latina‘s creative coordinator and was a contributor at Billboard. The Boricua scribe has a lengthy resume in the music industry and has penned for Universal Music Publishing Group, Epic Records, G.O.O.D. Music, Compound Entertainment, Artistry & Récords, and Arcade Creative Group. Her work has been seen on platforms like VIBE, mitú, TIDAL, Remezcla, and behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week. As an independent contractor, she has written for Sony Music Entertainment’s global business affairs department, Warner Music Group, and currently Roc Nation.

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