Words by: Andrea Susarrey
Shadow Squad are breaking the mould of Mexico with their DIY approach and Emo Trap sound.
In the midst of central Mexico City, there’s a music studio, full of sceney goth kids and an excitingly explosive ambiance. It’s the studio/haven of Shadow Squad, an underground trap crew made up of young producers and rappers in Mexico City that make really hard and sad music. Shadow Squad shares en eclectic musical inspiration of hardcore Heavy Metal/ Punk, Reggaeton, US Southern Rap like 36Mafia, Memphis Rap, Suicideboys, Ghostmane, Drill, and internet emo trap culture like that of GothboiClique.
Started back in 2017 by now 20 year old producer/rapper/DJ, Doble Tempo, the majority of Shadow is also in their early 20s and most started making music in their early teen years. They were mainly into the Punk and Heavy Metal scenes in Mexico City which were huge in the 2010s. What brings them together is an attraction to a dark and depressive aesthetic and a need to express it.
¨I mean yeah we like party music, but it’s not like everyone here makes it. In fact, I think we all make sad music and that’s why we´re friends.¨- Doble Tempo
In the past, Mexico has always been a bit behind in keeping up with subcultures. They definitely weren’t as embraced or understood as part of society as much as they have been in other countries, for a number of reasons.
Regardless, the internet brought Trap to Mexico. And although Mexico doesn’t share the same eruptive cultural ingredients that were needed to make American Rap, it has its fair share of similarities: cultural violence, aggression, and suppression as well as a revolutionary spirit that birthed the generationally relatable genre. ¨Mexico, is violent as is, and it unavoidably moulds you, being here you have to defend yourself no matter who you are and that moulds you. This anger, and joy that we create when we are partying it’s all mixed in the music, but it’s never pop, it’s always just an expression of how we are¨, says another member of the Shadow.
It’s true that music is an expression of culture, and internet culture is what you get when a new generation can digitally make music and collaborate worldwide. In this case, it’s the fusion of American/ Euro Rap, SoundCloud, and the Mexican experience. The way I would describe it is Emo Trap, but in Spanish, mixed with Reggaeton.
Due to the explosion of internet culture, subcultures in Mexico boomed in real life as well. The unique scene was just about to explode when the pandemic put all live shows and events to a stop.
Fortunately, internet friends are real. And that’s how Deer, rapper/producer entered the crew. Recently returned to Mexico City after living in Paris for a few years and working internationally in the UK and Egypt, she brings managerial-type guidance to the squad from her career experience. She is guiding Shadow Squad towards the light, aka independent exposure. Deer came along and opened the DIY window, and it hasn’t shut since. They make their own videos, content, and merch as well as a clothing line and a creative agency – Loser. Shadow is making themselves, they aren’t being directed by a label, they are truly a group of musical artists that aren’t looking to their sides nor searching to produce something sellable.
This emo family takes in the ever evolving internet culture and adds to it the Mexican experience. Shadow are making music in direct lineage from that of an angsty subculture that comes from Metal Punk and Rap – El Trap Mexicano, Cumbia/Trap, whatever you want to call it. It’s a good and necessary response musically to the cultural climate for the current generation. Shadow Squad is diligently at work, constantly producing and collaborating not only with Mexican artists but internationally. Their strength as a crew, and as individual artists, lies in their confidence and explorative tenacity to making music, not dimmed by or limited to genres or approval.