Review Summary: Bruja siempre
Mala Rodriguez is quite the familiar name in the Spanish hip hop scene, winning a Latin Grammy in 2010 for best urban song with, "No Pidas Perdón" off her Dirty Bailarina album and topping the Spanish charts regularly. Working mainly with producer Focus, who had also worked with other contemporary American pop acts, her last album might have been unnecessarily tagged as a grasp for mainstream success. Bruja on the other hand, sees her working with a variety of producers combining tracks that feature meaningful expressions, personal reflections, along with some explicit, politically driven songs and a dash of positive pop numbers to smooth things over. Indeed, displaying and truly embracing both sides of the word--the knowledgeable sorceress and the nasty hag.
Several tracks play off La Mala's genuinely contemplative flows such as the first track "Esclavos" and "Cuando Tu Me Apagas". The former declaring in the hook that only slaves understand the value of one day in your life--maybe a scything indictment of the music industry" Or taken literally, the fact is that Rodriguez has learned much over her years as an artist and maybe more importantly as a woman. The latter track, uses an excellent piano line that sets an ominous mood as cymbals, drums and a looped vocal sample come softly into the mix. The beat is one of the better moments, production wise on the album, as the rhythm blends with the scratches and samples creating something that any American hip hop artist would be proud to rap over. "Lluvia" and "Dorothy" follow in a similar manner allowing La Mala to flow freely over the tracks as the beats don't take focus away from her delivery. Letting her weave her pensive musings deep into the fabric of the songs.
Perhaps what Bruja was most noted for upon its release are the certain numbers where Rodriguez delivers brutal, powerful and hard-hitting flows. "33" is often cited for this and for good reason. This track showcases all of La Mala's pent up rage--her delivery in terms of lyricism is furious and searing as well as the way she deploys her voice, at times even using a slight growl in her tone. Rodriguez isn't trying to hide her extremely critical tongue behind the beats, no, here she enunciates everything clearly, not trying to butcher the language just to make a rhyme. She wants you to hear what she has to say, "Sin premeditación te follo cuando quiero/Tu eres mi puta/No te la saco de la boca porque no me interesa/Hablas mucha mierda". Quite the statement. Of course, some might say the song sounds like some Calle 13 ripoff and while they might share some similar vocal deliveries especially on this track, La Mala manages to sound quite sure of herself and comes off sincere in her approach. "Caliente (Feat. Sefyu)" a story about her upbringing in Seville and "La Rata" whose unanswered socioeconomic questions both employ this style of harsh lyricism and although they might lack the vocal intensity of "33" their lyricism remains direct, intense and sharp.
What works on the album is that La Mala never stays in one camp for too long. Just when the listener has had enough contemplation or fierceness, she drops the more cheerful pop number to lighten up the mood. "Caja de Madera" with its tropical, Caribbean-flavored melodies, the pop synths and catchy chorus of "Hazme Eso" both come into play at the right time in the overall flow of the album. The pop numbers are littered throughout giving the listener some reprise from the intensity and meditativeness of the rest of the tracks. The diversity in themes and melodies found on the album is respectful and shows an artist growing and achieving higher plateaus with each release. Bruja demonstrates all of Rodriguez's wisdom garnered through the years but still allows her to be playful and severe when called for.