Following 2018’s post-incarceration project Real Hasta la Muerte and a string of huge new hits over the subsequent two years, there were high expectations for Anuel AA’s second album. Still, nobody could have expected that the familiar sounds of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry”—transmuted into the Spanish-language rock ballad “No Llores Mujer” with blink-182’s Travis Barker on the drums—would lead off the long-awaited Emmanuel. Nonetheless, fans surely knew that the Latin trap superstar had the pop chops to pull off such a bold move towards the mainstream, especially after all but reinventing himself with the smash Shaggy interpolation “China.”
Fittingly, those two songs bookend his sophomore set, a double album that announces Anuel as more than just an urbano maestro. Willfully broadening his sonic range, he sounds downright exuberant over the uptempo tropical dance groove of “El Manual” and amid the thumping island vibes of “Que Se Joda” with Farruko and Zion. He reaches across generations of Latin music on the hopeful “Fútbol y Rumba” with the legendary Enrique Iglesias and on the J Balvin-referencing “Bandido” with Miami-bred up-and-comer Mariah.
Those who come to Emmanuel seeking something more in the trap vein will find plenty to appreciate in cuts like “Narcos” and “Somos o No Somos.” Anuel secures no less than Lil Wayne himself for the bilingual team-up “Ferrari,” a braggadocious track that recalls his previous single “YES” with Fat Joe and Cardi B. Yet it’s the chilling “Rifles Rusos” with pioneer Tego Calderón that most recalls the grimness of Anuel’s well-respected early material. Calderón also appears on the throbbing reggaetón jam “Jangueo,” and the embrace of that vital genre’s past and present is where the album truly draws its power. Both of the Bad Bunny collaborations here tap into that rejuvenated spirit, with “Así Soy Yo” giving off that throwback perreo sound and the shinier duet “Hasta Que Dios Diga” showcasing their contemporary star power.