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How Peso Pluma Took Regional Mexican to the Hot

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Growing up in East Los Angeles in the 1980s, George Prajin could see music in the making. His father was Antonino Z. Prajin, owner of Prajin One-Stop, a music retailer and distributor in Huntington Park, Calif., that sold to over 3,000 stores in the U.S. and Mexico and had 26 warehouses throughout Southern California. At that time, the music known as regional Mexican — comprising subgenres like banda, norteño and mariachi — dominated U.S. Latin music sales.

At the Prajin brick and mortar record shop that catered to mostly Mexican and Mexican-American buyers, “I always noticed that Mexican-American youth would buy hip-hop and regional. And I always tried to mix the two,” says Prajin today. “I tried to come up with a fusion of the two sounds.”

It took 25 years, a lot of money and a lot of heartbreak, but Prajin has finally found his sound with the artist known as Peso Pluma, the only act signed to his indie Prajin Records, and distributed via The Orchard. While Regional Mexican music is definitely having a moment — this week, 13 Regional Mexican tracks are on the Billboard Hot 100, a record for the genre — the current wave is led by the 23-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico.

Of those 13 tracks, an astounding eight are his, including “Ella Baila Sola,” his smash hit with California quartet Eslabón Armado, which reached No. 5 on the chart, marking the first time ever a Regional Mexican track, in Spanish, reached the top five — or the top 10, for that matter. The song also reached No. 1 the Billboard Global 200 chart (dated April 29). It’s the first leader on the list for each act, as well as the first for the regional Mexican genre. And it helps make Prajin Billboard‘s Executive of the Week.

The importance of the moment is not lost on Prajin, who grew up following the Billboard charts and who in the 1990s launched an independent record label for the first time. When the recording industry’s bubble burst at the onset of the digital download age in the early-mid-2000s, Prajin closed shop, studied law and established a practice — alongside veteran music entertainment lawyer Anthony Lopez — representing athletes and musicians. In 2019, when streaming numbers started to soar, he decided to give the music industry another shot as a record executive and launched Prajin Records. This time, the timing was right. Among the different projects that were shopped to him, one was Peso Pluma, a young Mexican singer and rapper who was living in New York and had been discovered through social media.

“Ella Baila Sola” is not only a Peso Pluma track; it was released on another California-based indie, DEL Records, whose founder Angel Del Villar was also an Executive of the Week when Eslabón became the first Regional Mexican act to enter the top 10 of the Billboard 200 last year. 

This week’s achievement, says Prajin, was not just the result of DEL and Prajin’s strategy with “Ella Baila Sola.” Instead, he says, “it’s been a strategy with the project overall.”

Peso Pluma

Peso Pluma arrives for the 8th annual Latin American Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 20, 2023.

ROBYN BECK/AFP via GI

What was it about Peso Pluma that you found interesting?

I saw how he flowed on the tracks. He could do it all: He could rap, he could do regional, he could do reggaeton. But he was very stubborn that he wanted to do everything independently of each other. He said, “I want to rap on a rap song, I want to sing reggaeton on a reggaeton song.” I realized there is a way to do it and it’s how Peso envisions it, by staying in each lane and killing it in each genre but giving people what they want. I always recognize his base audience is regional and that’s actually the music he loves the most. But because Peso can do all these genres, and when they [he and his cousin Tito] write songs, they [incorporate] all these influences.

You met Peso Pluma through your former artist, Jessie Morales (El Regional de la Sierra). Jessie wanted you to sign Peso, but you actually turned him down the first time, even though as an attorney you represented several prominent Regional Mexican artists and labels at that point. What happened?

At the time, I didn’t want to compete with my clients, even though I felt the kid had a lot of talent.  He ended up signing with Herminio Morales, Jessie’s brother. Fast forward 2021, Herminio got really sick and called me up and asked me if I could help with Peso. You don’t get two bites of the apple very often, and I was restless. I wanted to produce more music. And at that time nobody was really interested in Peso, because it wasn’t really a successful project.

Once you started with Peso, what would you say was your breakthrough track?

Because no other label was interested, I didn’t feel I was competing with anybody [so I would experiment]. He had an album already recorded and one song attracted my attention: “El Belicón.” He gave me permission to work on the track and we ended up taking the guy that was there off the track and putting in [singer] Raul Vega. We mixed the song — I have an amazing engineer — and we put it out on TikTok. We saw that there was a spark and we put in promotion and made an inferno. We made sure the video was like Call of Duty because we really wanted to target the kids. We threw all our efforts into making the song as big as we could. And we got to the level where we got people’s attention.

You did tracks with more urban acts like Nicki Nicole from Argentina and Ovy on the Drums from Colombia. Were you aiming for a more international sound?

I feel we started in regional but at the same time we were expanding regional. It’s like when rock n’ roll got into grunge. Peso’s saying, “We’re not regional; we’re Mexican.” When we saw the fusion going to the top of the charts, that’s when we invited others. The goal was to expand the international Latin scene. And what’s really, really cool is they all want to jump on Peso’s sound.

I feel that has really expanded the Mexican market. He wanted to do reggaeton and rap, we’d be in talks with major artists in other countries and we’d usually say, “Lets do a reggaeton song,” but they’d say, “Let’s do a regional song.” When we saw these artists wanted to do something regional, we started to double down.

When did you realize there was another audience interested in this guy?

I pay a lot of attention to the analytics. I’m always looking at the numbers and looking at what countries we get engagement. I saw we were getting a lot of engagement in the countries we were targeting but also in places like Japan and Germany. And then, obviously, the global charts. When we broke into the Billboard Global 200 and then we became the No. 1 song, and then we get interest from Jimmy Fallon, that’s when you see something that is global. As an executive I take everything and say, “How do we double down?”

Peso Pluma & Blessd

Peso Pluma & Blessd

Cristhian Álvarez Suarez

And, how do you double down?

We’re Latin and we’re keeping our base. We’re opening offices, we’re doing a global tour, but like when we first started at the top of the charts in Mexico we doubled down on our infrastructure, and now that we’re global we’re going to make sure we can double down and have boots on the ground and make sure we’re touring individual countries.

“Ella Baila Sola” is originally an Eslabón Armado track. What is it about that song?  

It’s a combo of a good sound, and Eslabón has a really good U.S. base which is something we were on the verge of entering. At one point our streams were 80% in Mexico and 20% in the U.S. Now I think we’re 50-50. But I feel this momentum was coming and we had been focused on international development. The audiences were looking for another regional track from Peso Pluma and it just so happened we were releasing with Eslabón. [Lead writer and singer] Pedro Tovar is an amazing talent. And the song was produced to be in line with Peso’s sound.

You hit a historic top five on the Hot 100. Were you aiming for that?

Nobody knows what’s going to be a hit. But the way it came out with the numbers it did overnight and on a weekly and monthly basis, I knew this song was going to be massive. I’d never seen those numbers with a regional song before. DEL released that track and they’ve done a lot to support the success of the track.

What’s next for you and for Peso Pluma?

Peso just launched Double P Records. He’s the CEO and he’ll be producing a lot of the tracks. The first single came out 4/20. We’ll finally be releasing a Peso Pluma album before summer and that will be the focus in the next two to three weeks. I give all the credit to my artist. I’m an executive. I’m involved in every single aspect. But I give leeway to my artist and I trust him so much that we created a label.

Previous Executive of the Week: Cindy James of Virgin Music



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