Oliver Medrano, 35, said his 9-year-old, Sofía, had asked for tickets. The two gave up their seats close to the stage and watched instead from the bleachers after the girl’s mother protested. “They say the songs are too war-driven,” Medrano said. Sofía said she had become hooked on “El Belicón” (“The Belligerent”), Peso Pluma’s song about a man who boasts of owning sports cars, bazookas and Kalashnikovs.
“I was a bit worried about security,” Medrano said. But mid-concert he felt confident enough to ask the couple next to him to watch his daughter while he made a quick bathroom run.
Leonardo Manuel, 12, attended the show in a blue velour tracksuit with rhinestones arranged in the Fendi logo with his aunt, Elizabeth Rubí Cruz, who works at a jewelry store; she said there was a high demand for Cuban-style chains, thanks to the influence of Peso Pluma. Clients “like how he dresses,” she said. The pair’s favorite song? “Lady Gaga,” about a dealer hanging out with influencers (“none of them post to Instagram”), with mentions of Cartier, pink cocaine and Louis Vuitton.
The excitement, and controversy, surrounding the lyrical content of corridos tumbados in Mexico in many ways mirrors decades of debate in the United States over the real-life implications of rap lyrics. From N.W.A to Jay-Z and Rick Ross, many of the most popular hip-hop artists have relied on the imagery of drug kingpins for both glitz and grit. Beginning with the gangster rap of the 1980s and ’90s and continuing through the 21st-century hip-hop subgenres of trap and drill, lyrics that document — and some say glorify — the drug trade, its attendant violence and its spoils have remained a cultural and political battleground. Currently in Atlanta, music by the rapper Young Thug is being used in court as evidence of his membership in a criminal street gang.
“You see these guys partying with these luxuries and suddenly it’s, ‘How can I get this?’ especially in this country, our country, which has some very strong social limitations,” said Graciela Flores, a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila.
Dr. Flores, who specializes in 19th-century crime and justice in the Mexican borderlands, organized a series of events this past fall at the university focused on corridos tumbados at the behest of one of her students. She was overwhelmed by the attendance. “People were eager to talk about what they had seen” in terms of daily violence in their communities, she explained. The songs had moved people to share their experiences, something that Dr. Flores found “valuable, but at the same time very disturbing.”