MEXICO CITY (AP) — Growing up on the border between Mexico and the United States, Becky G spoke English, but sang corridos, boleros and mariachi in Spanish. All her life, she dreamed of an album that would honor her family’s roots and delve into those genres that she enjoys so much.
“A lot of the times they would tell me that I am too Mexican to be American or too American to be Mexican and that you can’t be in the middle. Why would I have to give up a part of myself to be accepted here and the other way around?” said Becky G from New York in a recent video call interview conducted in English and Spanish.
Now, that album is finally here: “Esquinas” was released on Thursday night. Becky described it as “a love letter to my abuelitos, to my younger self and hopefully to the future generations.”
“It’s like the cross streets of two flags, two cultures, two languages,” said the singer, who was born in Inglewood, California, and thinks of her identity as 200%: 100% Mexican, 100% American.
The album was produced by the Latin Grammy nominee Édgar Barrera. Initially, Becky wanted to do something very traditional to show she was capable of dabbling in Mexican genres, so she incorporated elements such as trumpets, tololoche and acoustic guitar. She included covers of classics she listened to when she was younger, such as “Un puño de tierra” (“A handful of soil”) by Ramón Ayala — dubbed “the king of the accordion.”
But as the project evolved, it allowed for more alternative sounds and collaborations with the new generation of regional Mexican music artists: Iván Cornejo on “2ndo Chance,” DannyLux with “Cries in Spanish” and Peso Pluma with “Chanel.”
While this is her third Spanish-language album, she said the release of “Chanel” as a single was the first time fans heard her use “a tone of voice that was a little more different.”
“It’s because regional music is a little more organic, it has more acoustic elements and it’s a lower tone of voice for me, but I love it,” Becky said. “I think when we recorded that song it literally took us an hour to write it; a guitar and the two of us, me with the melodies and him with the story.”
In “Querido Abuelo” (“Dear Grandpa”), she talks about her roots, her family and the people she loves most. Since childhood, she had talked with her grandparents about a project “totally inspired by regional Mexican music.” She decided it was finally time to focus on that project after the death of her grandfather Miguel, to whom she dedicated the track.
“He was a great inspiration to me, very hardworking. He was a very humble man who was always available to help every person in his community,” she said. “He always had somewhere for them a place to sleep, food to give, he always had love to share.”
When writing the song, which she performs accompanied by guitar, Becky felt connected to her origins and the memories that inspired the lyrics in which she talks about the smell of the countryside and sleeping on the ground. Becky’s mother’s family is originally from Tepatitlán and her father’s, including her late grandfather, is from Tenamaxtlán, both in the Mexican state of Jalisco.
Becky co-directs the video for “Querido Abuelo” with the filmmaker Elías López, in which she features multiple home clips on a ranch and of her maternal and paternal grandparents.
“This project has a lot of content that is very personal,” she said of the visuals accompanying the album. “Even the album cover was inspired, it’s a photo my mom took for my birthday, when I was about two years old.”
For “2ndo Chance,” which she recorded in the studio physically with Cornejo, Becky’s voice sounds nostalgic. She said it was based on her memories of the old AM radio songs her grandmother listened to while cleaning her house. Another of her inspirations is the bolero trio Los Panchos for the song “Los Astros”.
“When I was a child, on my great-grandmother’s side, she always played Los Panchos and I wanted to do something like that in that style, and it is a song that is great. I love it, it has a slightly sexy flow, but also very sweet,” said Becky G.
Becky said she planned to have a party with her family for the album release. But she’s having the biggest party with her fans during the ongoing Mi Casa, Tu Casa Tour, her first headliner tour in the United States. It started in Boston and New York this month and continues with stops in the Southwest, including El Paso, Texas; San Diego and Los Angeles.
“I feel very lucky and honored to celebrate this milestone, with my third studio album,” she said. “We are going to be able to sing the music live with the fans and see in real time which songs they are most connected to, which songs are their favorites.”