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Tune of the Day

Tune of the Day: ‘Guatemala’ ~ Swae Lee, Slim Jxmmi, Rae Sremmurd

6:10 PM PDT on June 22, 2018

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he opening sequence of the new video for single "Guatemala" by Swae Lee, Slim Jxmmi, Rae Sremmurd is a black screen: The video for "Guatemala" was shot a month before the country was hit by a devastating eruption, it reads. The message is a reminder of the eruption of the Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala that began on June 3. More than 100 were killed and hundreds were reported missing.

    The video was released only on Thursday, June 21. But the track had been circulating well before the eruption hit. I had it on repeat for days. Suddenly it became jarring to have such a wonderful image of a place — in the song's escapist manifesto to a far-off, romantic land — be interrupted by the destruction and stories of survival that emerged in the actual country of Guatemala.

    "Guatemala" as a track received solid reviews and it is generally suggested you play it while driving with your windows down. Seductive and sumptuous, the song is Swae Lee's first as Lead Artist, along with his brother Slim Jxmmi (part of an ambitious triple-disc album).

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he song also comes at a time that Spanish-language phrases and references have secured a hold in the hip-hop universe, with frequent use popping up in output by the Pulitzer Prize-winner Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, A$SAP Rocky, Kanye West, and many others. With or without the tragedy, the video for "Guatemala" is a rare depiction of contemporary Guatemala in U.S. culture that is honorable and vivid.

    Somehow now, while the draconian zero-tolerance policies of the Trump administration on the border keep terrorizing families, using the term "Guatemala" in public in a light or positive manner has practically become an act of protest.

    Swae Lee recently described to Apple's OnRepeat Live how the song emerged while hanging out with a neighbor in Encino, where a group of girls all began bouncing to a beat at once:

    Swae smiles. "Everybody was bouncing the same way. I ain't even have no words. I'm like man, this is fire. I ended up saying 'Guat-E-Mala' the syllables, it was just so perfect." After laying down some vocals on the spot, all the girls were eager to hear the creation again.

    There you go: your summer driving jam. Enjoy, and amor y cariño a Guatemalan L.A. always and foreva.

    Video: Ear Drummer Films.

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