“It’s my best fucking album ever,” boasts Antón Álvarez Alfaro, the 30-year-old Spanish singer, songwriter, and producer known as C. Tangana—or Pucho, to his inner circle—about his latest record, El Madrileño. His highly anticipated third album is a compilation of songs and collaborations that Tangana explored over two years during his travels throughout Cuba, Mexico, and Brazil, without ever forgetting Madrid, the city that built him. The result is an album that blurs the lines of musical genre, creating a world where Latin beats are mixed with Spanish guitar and futuristic R&B. Tangana chose collaborators in different generations of music, from the Latino icon José Feliciano to the young forbearer of Mexican folkloric-music Adriel Favela. Tangana is familiar with the idea of meshing folkloric sounds rooted in Spanish culture with modern beats and influences, as he co-wrote songs on Rosalía’s 2018 album El Mal Querer. That same magic is what placed his self-described pièce de résistance on the Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart at #8, marking his first top 10 placement and entry on any Billboard chart. But, as he tells his collaborator and new friend, the 23-year-old Mexican-American alt-R&B darling Omar Apollo, making transcendent music can be kind of exhausting. Below, Tangana and Apollo talk about making what they consider the best music of their careers, partying with Disclosure, and their shared passion for corridos—Mexican folklore songs about romance, heartbreak, and debauchery.
C. TANGANA: You’re in L.A.?
OMAR APOLLO: Yes, I’m in L.A. It’s getting hot here already.
TANGANA: But can you go out to dinner? Or are there strict restrictions?
APOLLO: I think you can only eat outside.
TANGANA: Here in Spain, it’s fucked up. Madrid is the only city that you can have a regular dinner at a restaurant. The rest of the country is closed, you have to be home by 8 p.m. This is like Black Mirror.
APOLLO: Yeah, it feels like a Black Mirror episode. How are you, man? What’s up?
TANGANA: I’m in Madrid at this hotel inside a classic building, let me show you. I’m doing all the press here for the album, since it comes out Friday. I have been here all day.
APOLLO: What time is it over there?
TANGANA: It’s 7:30 pm here. Have you been going to the studio?
APOLLO: Yes, I was in the studio yesterday, just making music—a lot of music.
TANGANA: Have you been making more songs like that perreo you sent me?
APOLLO: Yes, I have four or five like that. But I’ve also been making a lot of corridos.
TANGANA: And what are you planning to do with that? A Spanish EP or something like that?
APOLLO: Maybe, there’s like five or six songs I have. But first I need to make my album. I gotta get you on it.
TANGANA: Let me send you some ideas because I had an album that never came out that had a few perreo songs. Maybe I have some ideas in there you can fuck with.
APOLLO: For sure, send it through. Are you excited about your album? You said it took two years.
APOLLO: Damn, my voice sounds that high? My speaking voice sounds weird, I thought it was deeper. [Laughs] I feel like a little kid.
TANGANA: So, I was telling you about the album. It’s been crazy two years doing this shit, I’m exhausted. I love all the songs and am so proud, but ya no puedo mas. But, I gotta love it because it’s my best fucking album ever.
APOLLO: That’s how it is when you make music. When people listen to a song for the first time, they have no idea how long you’ve been listening to the music for. You listen to it so much you’re like, “Is it even good anymore?” That’s how I feel, pero like, I promise you it’s great. I’ve only heard the songs that are out and our song.
TANGANA: So you haven’t listened to my corrido with Carin Leon and Adriel Favela.
APOLLO: I didn’t know you made a corrido, then I gotta get you on my corrido album.
TANGANA: Listen to it first, then you can decide. So, what’s next for you, an album? I saw you uploaded a demo to Instagram.
APOLLO: That’s part of my new album. I want to make 30 songs then chose 12 or 13. I’m still missing, like, seven, then I can start choosing the songs.
TANGANA: I think your music sounds like the summer.
APOLLO: How did you find my music?
TANGANA: The first time was because of my manager. He’s always looking for new music and he already followed you. One day he said, “This kid Omar I been telling you about, he made a corrido song. You’re going to love it.” So he played it. After that, I went into a deep dive. Had you heard any of my music before I hit you up?
APOLLO: Yes, on the radio and some of my friends had shown me your songs. I knew the songs but didn’t know the artist, you know what I mean? When my manager told me you wanted to make a song with me, I realized I already knew you. It was funny.
TANGANA: What do you use to produce?
APOLLO: I use Logic, what about you?
TANGANA: [Laughs] I used to use reason. Do you know this?
APOLLO: Oh, reason. When I first started I was using reason.
TANGANA: It’s been six or seven years that I cannot make even one beat. But I work with Alizzz. I need to send you his music too.
APOLLO: So you did a song with Adriel Favela? He just DM’d me the other day. Probably because of you.
TANGANA: We have been talking. I talk about music with him. He was born in the U.S. and loves Mexican music. He makes more regional Mexican music, but he’s so open-minded. He made that song “La Escuela No Me Gusto,” do you know it?
APOLLO: Yes, I’ve known that song for like three years. That was the first song of his I ever listened to.
TANGANA: I started listening to corridos because of him.
APOLLO: I grew up listing to [corridos]—Chalino Sanchez, Vicente Fernandez. When I hear corridos, it’s nostalgic. It’s something you put on at 3 a.m. when you’re drinking, like “Tragos de Amargo Liquor.” [Sings a verse of the song]
TANGANA: For me, it’s the music that’s most worried about lyrics. I didn’t learn about it the traditional way, but I’ve done my research and now know Chalino Sanchez. I found it through the young people, like Adriel, because they are making something new with traditional sounds and folk sounds. They are talking to young people using their own slang, and that is very interesting to me, and it has to do a lot with what I’m doing in my album.
APOLLO: When I was younger, I used to dance Folklorico with the hat and costumes, everything. I even got to miss school to participate in concerts when I was in elementary school. So all that music, I just know it. It’s part of me.
TANGANA: What do you think people are going to say once they listen to your new music? Is it something so different from what you’ve done before?
APOLLO: Luckily, I’ve always made projects that have four or five songs in them. When I make music, I don’t make the same music. Yes, I do have some aspects from past projects—things I know people want to hear from me—but at the same time, I like to switch it up. I want it to be very good, to the best of my abilities. I think this new music, is my best music ever. It’s like, en este momento es lo que te puedo dar. I just know it’s great, and I’ve never felt that about my music. I’m proud of it.
TANGANA: Sitting with music for two years, that is so new to me. When you have music that lasts the test of time, it’s something different—timeless. I think a song with you and Disclosure could be really good.
APOLLO: We have a song. It’s fire. It’s not out yet.
TANGANA: Woo! I love their album, the one with the faces—I fucking love it. Settle, from 2013. That album oof. I saw them live in México at a festival—it was a savage trip. I was all the way up. I loved it.
APOLLO: My trainer just got here. Imma text you that Disclosure song.
TANGANA: Yes, please.