Lester Rey
Gig Seeker Pro

Lester Rey

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2016
Solo R&B Neo Soul




"In The Music Video For Lester Rey’s Reggaeton Banger ‘Ni Santa,’ A Trans Latina Video Vixen Owns Her Sexuality"

Women are multifaceted beings, but most of the time our favorite Latinx jams — like mainstream culture in general — will have us believing that we only function as saints you wife up or putas you pipe down. In Lester Rey’s music video for the remix of his reggaeton banger “Ni Santa,” the Chicago-based artist reminds men that only women are the owners and definers of their sexuality.

“I’m saying que la mujer that I’m interested in joining on the dance floor ni es santa, ni puta. Like why there gotta be judgment? Es perreo,” the Puerto Rican neo soul singer told FIERCE. “Get down and be respectful or leave her alone if you’re approaching a woman with prejudgment.”

For the 29-year-old crooner, it was time to show that reggaeton can have a fire beat and lyrics that uplift women and the queer community, and to do this he enlisted fellow Chi-town Bori Lila Star.

(Photo Credit: “Ni Santa” / Gerardo Duran)
In the seductive video, directed by Gerardo Duran, the trans rapper-actress-pageant competitor, who is featured on the track, plays Lester’s video vixen. The first openly trans leading lady in a reggaeton music visual, Lila sensually grinds on the singer as he calls her to “baila mami,” even asserting herself as “la bruja de tu fantasía” before the two softly lock lips under red light leaks.

“A lot of times we are shamed for being too much of one thing, whether it being too sexy or too timid, and this song actually celebrates a woman for being herself, even if that comes off as good or bad, or simultaneously both,” the Puerto Rican-African American artist tells us. “And I can relate because as a person, and a performer, there are many sides to me, and I enjoy exploring no matter what people might think.”

The collaboration transpired after the two met at last year’s Puerto Rican People’s Day Parade in Chicago, where Lila was crowned Miss Cacica 2017-18. The pair began to discuss music, sexuality and gender when Lila mentioned it was her dream to be a video vixen, and Lester proposed an opportunity to make it happen.

“She is an openly trans Latina rapper, and her presence and energy on the song propels the idea that a trans woman can be a video vixen and a damn sexy one, too. The interactions between her and I are sensual, enticing and fits the message of the song,” Lester noted. “Plainly said, trans women are women, too, and this reggaeton song was a perfect place to declare that this Afro-Boricua trans woman is a star, and the star of a reggaeton song, a genre that often sheds no light on the trans community.”

(Photo Credit: “Ni Santa” / Gerardo Duran)
Lila, who called the project “bigger than I am,” hopes the music video will show viewers that trans women are beautiful, sexy and feminine and spark conversations that will continue to push the community forward.

The triple threat, who is working on her EP, has two short films set to be released this year, “A History of Wise Men” and “Tranheist,” while the always-movin’ Lester Rey joined forces with Los Marafackas as Dolor Folktrónico and released the angsty Tropical Bass-Neo-Perreo EP Sectio Divina last month.

Watch the tantalizing and history-making video for “Ni Santa” above. - Fierce by mitu

"9 New Songs You Need to Hear This Week"

Chicago-based artist Lester Rey teams up with producer SuveMusic for this woozy, winding piece of neo-perreo that urges men to see women as ““ni santa, ni puta, solo mujer” on the dance floor. The message is reminiscent of Ivy Queen’s masterful “Yo Quiero Bailar,” and it’s refreshing to see dudes embracing the sentiment—in a press release, they explain it’s because “we shouldn’t feel some type of way when the dembow drops.” –Julyssa Lopez - Remezcla


Over the summer, amid financial and humanitarian crises in Puerto Rico, Congress passed PROMESA, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, which established a control board made up of seven unelected members from the U.S. to run the island’s governmental finances and restructure its $70 billion debt for the next five years.

The act, despite its promising name, has the people of Puerto Rico concerned, as the board will essentially be the island's governor, banker and pawnbroker, issuing debt and spending money while la isla del encanto pays the bill.

Protestors have taken to the street en masse since the bill was passed, fighting the latest effect of U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico. Chicago-based artist Lester Rey joins the opposition en la isla and in the diaspora with “Promesa,” a mixtape revealing unsettling facts about the U.S.’ treatment of the territory and providing healing through the songs’ eclectic rhythms.

Ahead, the puertorriqueño talks with Latina about the mixtape, his own criticisms of PROMESA, Donald Drumpf’s election win and music as resistance and healing.

Why did you name this mixtape "Promesa?"

It’s twofold: first, it’s a slam to the PROMESA act, which has many on the island and in the diaspora upset. I felt the need to do something more political. I’ve had politically charged music in the past, but I wanted to address the PROMESA act, the treatment of the diaspora and the increase in migration because of the BS happening on the island. The second reason: I could have called it Se Acabaron Las Promesas, like the movement, or anti-PROMESA, which is what it is, but this was also my promise as a musician to always keep Puerto Rico and la gente de Puerto Rico en la música.

How does this act fail the Puerto Rican people?

It has no Puerto Rican voices on the board. It’s a complete insult on what America believes the Puerto Rican people can do for themselves. It rejects the notion that Puerto Ricans can take care of their own problems. That’s one of the main issues. Also, they meet in secret; there’s no transparency. Even the debt itself is a problem. Before the PROMESA act was initiated, we had to look at where that debt came from. Why is Wall Street allowed to close down hospitals and schools and, basically, get paid over the services that humans need?

You actually have a song called "Promesa" on this mixtape. What are some false promises the U.S. has made to Puerto Ricans?

The song “Promesa” itself alludes to some of them. My verse talks about an epidemic in Chicago. People in Puerto Rico come here and are told there are rehab centers to help for addiction. Some were doing well in programs in Puerto Rico, but they were halted and sent to rehab centers in Chicago, which often didn’t know they were coming, don’t have the proper staff and don’t know the cases. As a result, many are rejected and pushed into the streets, where they are homeless and fall back into addiction. So it shows while the U.S. made many false promises to Puerto Ricans in history, from birth control to Vieques, this is still happening today.

"Coquí " is a really powerful track that imagines a dystopia where Puerto Ricans are extinct from the island and all that's left is the sound of the coquí. Why make this track?

I feel like it’s my weirdest track, message wise and lyrically. When I first heard the beat, the title didn’t come to me, but the beat sounded sad, and I just started thinking about what to write to it. I came to this idea of what humans are doing to the world, in general, with islands disappearing because water levels are rising. I thought about all of the experimentation in Puerto Rico and even the rumors about the Zika virus (when it comes to Puerto Ricans and conspiracy theories, they are usually proven correct 20 years later), so I started to think of the worst possible situation. I used to be a storywriter and really enjoyed comic books, and so this dystopian fairytale came to me where coquís turn into radioactive badasses to protect the island. I just felt the need to go to that exaggeration, the need to use a story that is exaggerated to capture attention and show that this is possible if we don’t stand up – not necessarily extinction but to be forgotten and pushed to the side further.

While the mixtape is primarily about the Puerto Rican people, there's a message for Latinxs and people of color in general. Why is this solidarity essential for you?

I feel as a Latino, there are several struggles in the U.S. that bring us together, and those struggles sometimes pertain to people’s homelands, not just the cities they occupy but where their ancestors are from. Beyond being Puerto Rican, there’s a Latinx struggle, and we support each other. G1 from Rebel Diaz is from Chile. Deuce Eclipse is Nicaraguan. These individuals see the need for humanitarian rights, for Puerto Ricans being treated as humans and for spreading kindness. Solidarity work is hard enough just to get the people impacted to come together and rise up, but solidarity work is important. We have a common struggle.

The mixtape dropped after Donald Trump was named the president-elect, a moment you allude to in "Depre." Can you discuss that fear and how you turned it into song?

“Depre,” shortened for depresión, was written the morning after the results of the election. I had the beat for a while, but I didn’t know if I would use it for this mixtape. I really liked the beat and I played it in the morning, when I was receiving Facebook messages, phone calls and texts from people and groups wanting to get together. They were emergency alerts in all capital letters, urging us to meet, organize and come up with a plan. That made me anxious. I didn’t want to get out of my bed. I didn’t want to go outside into this racist America. It was an America I always knew existed but one that really showed its ugly face. Depression sunk in hard. I didn’t answer my phone, and I got off Facebook. I put the music on and the words started flowing from the dome. I was supposed to go to the studio to finish the mixtape that night but I ended up recording that track. Right now, it’s really important for artists to step up. Resistance through art will be key for the next four years.

What role do you think music plays in political and social activism?

I think music doesn’t always have to be very clearly politically and socially active in its content; the music and movement and dance can be. A lot of the music I had before this was Boogaloo; it was more danceable. This mixtape is more hip-hop. It’s important to inspire Black and brown bodies to come together, to dance and share space and to heal. I don’t think the artist always has to educate.

How can music also be used as a source for healing during times like these?

This weekend, I performed at CumbiaSazo, which is a monthly tropical-based party led by people of color. It’s a moment to be among strangers that feel like friends because you are getting together through music and dancing. I feel like the healing happens in the dance, in the sharing of music, in learning a coro, singing along and yelling parts of a song, in being active in the music and interpreting it as you want at the moment, being lost in the song. It provides healing. There’s also space for the content. This mixtape has both. You can listen to the lyrics or you can dance to the rumba, electronica and reggaeton beats.

The mixtape was dropped on Black Friday. What was the significance of that?

Every Black Friday, corporate America is in everyone’s face. It’s a great day for anti-consumerism, to support local artists with the free download. Also, la bandera puertorriqueña was just made black, so I thought it was an interesting play on words, interesting symbolism to use Black Friday to drop the mixtape while the flag was just made black.

Where can folks cop the mixtape?

It can be downloaded for free on SoundCloud or through my website. - Latina Magazine

"Chicago’s Lester Rey Captures Latinx Political Despair With Soulful ‘Promesa’ Mixtape"

Puerto Rican singer Lester Rey has spent the last few years making the rounds in Chicago’s diverse Latinx music scenes. A Chicago native himself, Rey’s music focuses on uplifting communities and bringing awareness to the day-to-day challenges of the Boricua experience, ranging from political impotence to indigenous identity. Rey’s new hip-hop and R&B-infused mixtape Promesa toes the line between melancholy and protest, delivering his own brand of woke sabrosura.

Recording Promesa in a marathon 30 days, Rey sought to capture the extreme political turbulence the U.S. has experienced over the past year. On “Depre,” Rey is joined by Michael Reyes and Deuce Eclipse for a song that articulates the dismay, anger, and fear we all felt the day after Donald Trump became the president-elect. The title track serves as a commentary on the bittersweet PROMESA Act passed this summer, which keeps Puerto Rico from defaulting on its debt without protecting the island territory from future financial crisis. Along with “Coqui,” a romantic, angsty lullaby to la isla del encanto’s iconic mascot, Rey captures the island’s laid-back energy, fiercely juxtaposing it against the uncertainty of his people’s future.

Though Promesa displays much needed levity in songs like “Garandunga” and “Fellas,” Lester Rey finds his strongest footing in moments of defiance. On “Ponte Duro,” he enlists guest bars from The Color Brown and Atche Grey for a song that demands respect and acknowledgement of Puerto Rico’s rich cultural history. “Name one Boricua who’s famous from Chi-Town. Name one who’s made it off the fucking ground,” he sings, frustrated. “We African Tainos with Spanish names,” he quips, alluding to the complexities of Puerto Rican identity.

MC G1 of Rebel Diaz provides a few verses, and Boricua beatsmith El Bles also makes an appearance, providing deliciously chopped up salsa samples on “Navidad” and “Ya Me Cansé.”

As Latinxs continue to find their communities under attack, and as Trump’s presidency comes ever closer, Lester Rey sees the importance in speaking out and telling his story. He’s looking to educate and inspire his community, and his message will help guide us through the murky future ahead. - Remezcla

"Lester Rey finally has it — for now"

Lester Rey has been working toward this moment his entire life.
From learning to play the congas in his grandparents' church to embracing the hip-hop of his Humboldt Park neighborhood to producing beats for other artists, Rey has quietly and methodically built a reservoir of skills that make the creation of his own music innate and long overdue.
"I knew one day I would want to put them together," Rey says about his "bucket of skills."

Rey's earliest development took place in the church. His parents' church had a "kid-sized conga" that allowed Rey to become familiar with the instrument. "The church I went to was a predominantly Puerto Rican kind of church. The music was always very energetic and very exciting," Rey said. Rey often joined the church's in-house band on stage. Eventually, he picked up the timbales and drums.
Once his grandparents opened their own church, his self-taught musical education grew. "Whenever I would come over, I would sneak upstairs and just play with all of the instruments," Rey said. "I had that privilege as a child."

Rey's musical ambition was delayed between the ages of 19 and 22. He began attending community college, and worked multiple late-night shifts to make money. It was a tough period for Rey, but the aftermath taught him he was capable of working harder than he ever thought possible. He considers the time after this period — the education at NIU, the latin jazz bands and Afro-Cuban ensembles — as his second chance in life.

"I knew that it was going to take work, and if I could take third shifts and really hustle for what ended up being a lie, I could definitely do it for myself," Rey said. "That was really the push. The expectation just went up. I just expected more for myself on the second try."

Last January, Rey released his debut EP, "The Blue Lion," a boogaloo-inspired record with contemporary flourishes (he cites the salsa, meringue, hip-hop and R&B he grew up on as influential in his own music).

Later in the year he released "Promesa," a mixtape aimed at fighting Promesa, or the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, which utilized a board of seven non-elected members from the United States tasked with restructuring the island's debt and running its governmental finances. Rey believes music can be a catalyst for change as it was for him. Rather than shy away from the political, Rey has embraced a forward-thinking attitude and audiences have responded. Influential publications like Remezcla and Latina covered the release of "Promesa."

And this month, he'll release "The Blue Lion Reloaded," a remix compilation of his first EP, featuring some of his most eclectic peers like Gio Chamba, Principe Cu and AfroQbano.

Rey knows there is still a mountain of work ahead to continue connecting with audiences near and far. And he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I think a lot of people get caught up in that mentality of success overnight. But that's not the case at all," Rey says. "It's effort and work and skill sets that sometimes have nothing to do with talent in music." - Chicago Tribune

"A New Boogaloo Sound Erupts in Chicago"

There’s a new conscious Boricua mixing-it-up in Chicago’s underground music scene fusing Boogaloo, Salsa, Funk, Cha Cha Cha, and Rumba.

Lester Rey rocked the house on January 9 with the release of his new EP “The Blue Lion”, performing to a packed house of music lovers and artists at the Citlalin Gallery on the city’s South side.

Raised in gentrifying Bucktown and inspired by his father’s love for Funk and Rock, Lester devotes his musical gifts to developing “Boogaloo-Urbano” and a message that tells the story of a young man finding his way within the Puerto Rican Diaspora.

And his rhythmic voice accompanied by thundering congas forces you to pay attention.

Lester and I conversamos un poquito, y el muchacho es buena gente. He demonstrated that this generation is offering a rebirth of our culture and encouraging the importance of belonging and keeping alive our origins as we walk among cultural diversity.

MR: Lester, where did you grow up?

LR: I grew up in Chicago, the Bucktown area during gentrification and me and my family were eventually pushed out.

MR: Describe your genre of music.

LR: I call it Boogaloo-Urbano. Its influence comes from my background as a Puerto Rican living in Chicago and from the Boogaloo that was created in New York in the ‘60s; and combining Funk, Cha Cha Cha and Rumba. It’s a very Black and Brown mix that keeps those genres alive today. I found a home for my genre in the underground scene in Chicago. To read about it is one thing, but to listen to it, to me really puts it in perspective.

MR: As a Puerto Rican artist, what’s your lyrical goal?

LR: First, there’s the part where I make music for my own sanity, where I express personal experiences. It’s a coping mechanism, and a celebration, if you will. The duality of it all is not separate from the Puerto Rican Diaspora and Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. I also convey identity crisis, and that is something that goes deeper into what Puerto Ricans have struggled with. My main accomplishment with my lyrics is identity; to solidify our existence.

MR: What’s your opinion on the current economic crisis in Puerto Rico?

LR: It’s a sad situation. Conversations between Puerto Rico and the U.S. are not respected nor are they proving to solve any of the existing problems. I believe independence is the only way Puerto Rico could gain the respect we deserve. The U.S. silenced our voice in the ‘50s with the Commonwealth status, but that just proved the island is dispensable. We are like a hat the U.S. decides to put on and put off at their own will. Practically speaking I hope Puerto Rico can gain the bankruptcy relief its seeking, but realistically we need our independence because we are a colony and while the U.S. deters from using such terminology they are sucking the life out of Puerto Rico. Something needs to happen soon. Puerto Ricans are leaving the island at really high numbers and at the end its not about the wellbeing of our people, it’s all about money. It’s all about the money.

MR: So you are not for Puerto Rico being a State.

LR: No. I am not. We are already getting treated like second-class citizens. I think independence is the way to go. Think about it in terms of your own life. You grow up and you leave your parents home for independence and while there is a struggle walking into adulthood, there is no better feeling than turning the key to your own home. It’s the best feeling in the world.

MR: Do you think Oscar López Rivera will be released from prison?

LR: He’s been in prison far too long without proof of any wrongdoing. We need our brothers and sisters back home from their fight for independence. He’s the symbol for freedom for Puerto Rico. He’s very important to our spirit and our ambition.

MR: How has your culture influenced your music?

LR: Personally it’s made me very proud of my Puerto Rican culture. My family and I love La Bandera. We don’t consciously think about doing Puerto Rican things, it’s who we are. There is also so much commonality in different areas of Latin culture. I find excitement in finding the ancestral roots that connect us and our music. We all share very similar roots. Salsa was always playing in my house. I had to figure out what was stereotypical in Puerto Rican culture and making those costumbres for myself.

MR: What are some of your upcoming projects?

LR: I am working with a few directors on the release of my first music video for the “The Blue Lion.” The release party was a success and I am very excited about completing the project.

I am also working on five music videos for the five songs on the EP. That’s going to take some time but I am sure it’ll be a lot of fun. The video for the song “Andar” will be the first one released and one each month thereafter. During the Summer I’ll be working on some mixed versions of the songs. - La Respuesta Media

"¡Se formaron los combos! at Lester Rey’s One Love Release Party"

Following the successful release of his first EP, The Blue Lion, Lester Rey is set to debut a new single titled, “One Love.” He performs with the Blue Lion Sound System and featured guests NuBambu and Calixta on Saturday, May 21 at Martyrs’.

It’s tough to be an artist in a metropolis like Chicago where talent overflows from almost every corner of the city. On the other hand, it’s fantastic to be an art enthusiast because you can indulge in and enjoy a vast array of events, in numerous art froms, almost on a daily basis. Although audiences exist, it takes more than just putting yourself out there once in awhile. Success is achieved through hard work, dedication and a lot of hustle (with a little sprinkle of luck or karma) for up and coming artists to get their passion(s) to as many eyes, ears and souls as possible.

With that in mind, we spoke briefly with Chicago artist Lester Rey who vocalizes an affinity for poetic lyrics and has beautifully extended his love of Latin music by fusing Caribbean and Latin rhythms with elements of soul, R&B and hip-hop which result in mini-hybrids of sounds apt for alternative music lovers and those that like to sway on the dancefloor.

Why did you decide to release One Love and what is it about?
I’ve had this song for quite some time. I wrote it when I was in love many years but packed it away. I knew I wanted the music to convey excitement especially since I had recently gotten divorced and a lot of the music I was writing at the time was darker. I knew I wanted a merengue feel to push that vibe further. Growing up on tropical music and playing it in church back in the days, I knew that I wanted to return to those feels eventually. I was going to release it on the Boogaloo EP I released in January but it didn’t fit the mood yet. I’ve been waiting for this summer to release it.

Who is involved in its production?
I came across DJ Maahez before he was signed and I loved his jams on Soundcloud. He is predominately a Moombahton DJ. I was part of a Reggaeton Duo called RtumbA for a good year and we were gonna record to a DJ Maahez beat, but school got in the way of my music career at that time and the song was put on hold again. Eventually last year I got back into the track that DJ Maahez made and finished it. The producer mixed merengue with moombahton and is based in Miami. He is currently signed to Universal and is supported by DJ Snake.

The vocals were engineered by Ben Antunez (Chicago/Mexico); it was produced by Maahez (Miami/Cuba) and I myself am of Puerto Rican descent. That’s why near the end of the song I give a shout out to Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Miami, y Chicago.

You mention this darker place you were in because of your divorce. Mind telling me more?
I was married when I was 19 because the girl was pregnant. Being religious at the time and having religious parents, we were easily convinced into a marriage in order to be “right” before God. At about 22 years old I found out the child wasn’t mine because of a hunch my dad had. Eventually I got divorced, which was a long process. I was officially divorced by 25. I learned a lot from the process, the economic struggle, the deceit, and about my strengths.

That story is reflected in the story line of One Love because it came after a divorce during a period when I didn’t believe in romance or love. When I got out there again I regained that faith in love and wanted to write a positive song that conveyed excitement, emotion and was also fun to dance to.

On a personal note from this writer, it was refreshing (and super impressive) to meet Lester Rey for the first time as he introduced himself at a random event and explained his music, his goals and his search for more like-minded musicians. No one has ever done that, ever! I was like, woah. And, well, he’s been on a roll ever since.

Do yourself a favor and head out to Martyrs’ this Saturday, May 21st and enjoy a full night of Latin gems from some of Chicago’s most talented players including Lester Rey and the Blue Lion Sound System, Nu Bambu and Calixta. Tickets available here. (Plus, they mentioned #dembow and y’all knooooow how much I love dembow. “Si tu quiere dem-bow-o-o-o-ooo” Ah! Happy happy joy joy!)

# # #

More about the event:

“Noche de Boogaloo, Salsa, Reggae, Tropical Bass, Global Bass, Dembow, Safe Spaces, Dance Floors, Sound Systems, Bands, and DJ sets! YA TU SA! Se formaron los combos!

Lester Rey

Picking up where Boogaloo left off, Boogaloo Urbano is a genre that continues to fuse American R&B and Soul with Latin Rhythms such as Cha Cha Cha, Son, and Rumba, but also adds elements of Hip Hop, Reggaeton, and Neo-Soul. The pioneer of the genre is Chicago raised Boricua Lester Rey and joining him on stage are the Leones, a blend of Funk, Latin, and Electronic musicians. Together they blend classic Chicago sounds like Blues with traditional Puerto Rican music, such as Bomba to bring an exciting never before heard presentation of Boogaloo Urbano. While Urbano provides the Hip Hop voice of the community Lester Rey grew up in, the Boogaloo sets the stage for the dance and rhythms of Caribbean Diasporas. Inspired by his father’s funk and rock records along with his mother’s love of salsa music, Lester Rey is fusing black and brown sounds to put Chicago music on the map and unite communities on the dance floor.


The members of NuBambu are all seasoned musicians from the Chicago Salsa and Reggae scene. Dissatisfied with the constraints of their respective musical genres, these eight musicians have combined elements of Reggae and Salsa to create an original sound. The instrumentation consists of piano, congas and horns essential to Latin sounds as well as the drums & bass that are essential to the sound of Reggae. The band also includes two vocalists who strongly represent both musical traditions.Aside from being seasoned musicians, NuBambu is enriched by their cultural and ethnic DNA. While all band members reside in the United States, they come from various cultural backgrounds spanning all corners of the globe. The end result is a seamless blend of Reggae and Latin rhythms that create a unique musical experience.With their multilingual conscious lyrics and stage presence, NuBambu easily engage audiences from all walks of life and creates a fascinating sound combining two traditional styles. Every song showcases the best of both world with distinctive beats and rhythms that electrify audiences eager for original music. NuBambu’s musicianship and wide range of cultural influences fuse together into an original Chi-town sound. Listeners can hear the influences of Reggae, Salsa, Cumbia and Merengue in songs that they have created.At a time when there is a growing interest in contemporary and traditional musical fusions, NuBambu creates music in a style that is forward thinking without losing sight of where the music has come from.Primo Cruz: Vocals -Jason Matula: Bass -Pete Zubinski: Piano, Keyboards -Carlos Aquino: Trumpet -Rob Almaraz: Drums -Ana Santos: Vocals -Pete Maestro Vale: Congas -Carol Macpherson: Trombone


caliXta DJs and VJs as an independent freelancer and as part of Chicago’s CumbiaSazo crew. Since 2012, caliXta has been working on learning and honing her craft and continuing with her vision of creating dancefloors that are respectful and healing. Although originally from Chicago, a lot of her formation and scheming around liberation and revolutionary partying started in DC from kickbacks with friends and Maracuyeah and Anthology of Booty queer femme parties. When she moved back to Chicago in 2011, she felt like similar soul-elevating spaces weren’t common in Chicago, and was having a hard time finding spaces to hear some kinds of music she thought were so beautiful and enriching. She helped co-found dále shine with several friends to spin and create a scene for a wide variety of digital Latinx music in Chicago. In 2013, she joined the CumbiaSazo crew and found kindred spirits with which she could continue working toward the goal of creating new and communal spaces through art and music. She has been fortunate to be able to work with many talented artists, collectives, parties and organizations along her journey as an artist, who continue to shape her visions and dreams.

Join us for a night of good vibes, high energy, and great music that pushes the envelope beyond traditional. A night of Tropical Bass, Reggae, Global Bass, Salsa, and Boogaloo Urbano. Expect the Dembow!

#PuroPinchePari #PPP #BlueLion” - Gozamos

"Lester Rey Invokes Ponce and Chicago in His New Album"

Artist, musician and producer Rey Lester Irizarry, known artistically as Lester Rey, was born in Humboldt Park “before it was gentrified” he said. The neighborhood’s changing demographics eventually pushed his family out of the area and they soon found themselves traversing Chicago’s suburban communities. Unable to set root in any particular location, Rey soon began to creatively use the chaos of constant change to fuel his artistic endeavors.

Inspired by his parent’s collection of rock and funk albums, as well as his passion for salsa, the 27-year-old has created a genre of music that exposes the beauty of his people, explores the impact of new struggles faced by his peers, and examines the new identity forged by his generation. He calls these new sounds “Boogaloo Urbano” and describes it as a merging of Caribbean diaspora dance rhythms with the community’s voice expressed through hip-hop.

Where did you grow up and how did that influence your current life?
Life was crazy. I never stayed anywhere long enough to rep a neighborhood so I began to live by the motto that it’s not where you’re from but where you’re going. Gentrification pushed me into the burbs. There, I lived in Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates, Itasca, Hanover Park, and Carol Stream. It was a time of instability which led me to Greek Town then Aurora and finally I decided to pursue a degree and ended up at NIU in DeKalb. During those years, I traveled [a lot] between DeKalb and Pilsen. The traveling gave me perspective and demonstrated the importance of relationships.

How does living in the Pilsen/Little Village affect your artistic efforts?
I’m not too sure of where the border starts and ends with Pilsen but I have heard people debate the hell out of Western and California as lines. LOL. I love the area very much because of how open-minded and supportive the art scene is there as opposed to other parts of Chicago. I see it as the hub of the alternative Latino scene and the hub of a lot of movement-based activities.

How do you put together your experiences when writing music?
I truly enjoy the art of songwriting and approach it from a couple different angles. I have many notebooks filled with lyrics and for some odd reason I can remember the music and chords I envision with those songs better than I can remember where I left my phone. I also have a concept book, where instead of writing a full song, I write a rhyme, metaphor or concept that I truly want to write a song about. Also, as a producer, I play music and create music to relieve stress and sometimes the lyrics will happen as I’m playing or after the music is played and recorded. So, it really depends on the song.

What is the worst and best thing about being a musician in such a musically diverse city as Chicago?
The worst thing about being a musician in such a musically diverse city is the desire to be heard on multiple platforms that are not necessarily bridged or connected. Chicago segregation is very real in multiple levels, whether you’re talking talking about race, class, or even music.

The best thing about Chicago’s diverse music scene is that people are intentionally breaking down walls and building bridges. From homegrown open mics to Cumbiasazo and underground hip-hop scenes, these spaces are closing gaps. It is my hopes that Boogaloo Urbano can play a central role in bringing our communities together on the dance floor.

Tell me more about these supportive music communities.
There is a growing community of people who are looking for alternative music in Chicago. They are open-minded, non-judgmental and ready to love. They are looking for safe spaces to dance and get away from racism, misogyny, sexism and general discrimination. I am truly happy for the love that has been shown to me by my community and can only hope to return it twofold.

Speaking of love, what is your definition?
I’m still figuring that out. To me love is definitively a journey that requires patience, passion, and a willingness to learn from pain. Just like there is beauty in every struggle, there is also beauty in the struggle for love. That being said, I don’t shy away from loving nor am I scared to love because to me love exists in a spectrum and there are many ways to love. The shapes and manifestations of my love can vary drastically towards any one of my passions, be it the people in my life, music, or knowledge. I’m looking forward to the journey.

Tell me more about the new EP, The Blue Lion.
The EP was titled Blue Lion for a couple of reasons. It is a name or moniker that I feel describes my identity and musical style. Chicago is known as the home of the blues and while many may think the “Blue” in the “Blue Lion” is referring to a color, it is actually referring to my city, musical influence, and my bluesy vocal stylings.

The Lion part of the name is a reference to Ponce, Puerto Rico. I use the name to identify as both from Chicago and Ponce, two cities that have greatly influenced my life and music. I titled my debut EP after my identity in a metaphorical way because I wanted Boogaloo Urbano to also represent a fusion of two cities. That is why I open with the track Ponce Blues in the EP… it fuses Puerto Rico and Chicago distinctively by combining bomba, plena, and blues. I included Andar and Never Been Alone as defining sounds of Boogaloo Urbano and Bougie Bella to demonstrate the musical diversity that can exist even within Boogaloo Urbano. The last track was included to pay homage to Pete Rodriguez, the Boogaloo King himself, but still offer a twist.


Although Rey has been busy promoting his new album, creating new music with his band Súbele and collaborating with other local artists, he always finds time to reset. “If I need to unwind, it usually means that I have to get my mind on something else which Walking Dead and Bob’s Burgers does pretty well. Sometimes I dance alone to reggaeton in my apartment or sing salsa songs in a hot shower. Playing the piano always helps so I try to learn covers from John Legend and Kanye West,” he says.

As far as 2016, Rey is looking forward to reaching more communities with his music. He’ll continue to collaborate with local DJs and artists to work on remixes of his songs and hopes to create five music videos for the five tracks featured on The Blue Lion. It seems, despite the struggles any musician like Rey faces in a city like Chicago, it’s the ability to make the best out of the worst that keeps these artists growing.

Follow LesterRey.com to learn more.

Article by: Sandra Trevino - Chicago Voz

"Meet Lester Rey & Los Leones"

This Friday, local music artist, Lester Rey, will be premiering a new music video for “Andar,” a track off his latest EP. Along with a talented and exciting group of musicians, he will be headlining the event after performances by other well-known local acts, Kinky P and Logan Lu—the latter of whom you may have seen at the first event in our Gózalo event series, last Friday. The premiere party will take place at Citalin Gallery in Pilsen at 7pm.

Meet ‘Los Leones’

The group of musicians Lester Rey will be performing with is known collectively as “Los Leones,” perhaps a nod to his EP Blue Lion. They came together organically, meeting Lester Rey at local concerts and venues and through other music collaborations. Together, they create a unique, bass-driven sound that gets extra depth from multiple vocalists who, as Lester Rey put it, “bring a lot more presence to the songs” in the choruses.

Lester Rey – congas, vocals. He is a singer, songwriter and producer who performs as a solo act across Chicago’s underground music scene, and is an engineer at Olin Studio.
Rosa Claudio – bass; also plays congas.
Miguel Gama – keyboards; also plays bass. Other projects include the band Rai, who is releasing their debut EP this Saturday.
Julian Harris – trumpet. Also a member of ¡Esso! Afrojam Funkbeat.
Jose Natal – bomba drummer. Also is in the band Nuestro Tambor and met Lester when they worked toegether on a concert for Jorge Emmanuelli Nater, the Bomba Master and Elder from Puerto Rico.
Ricky ‘Starrace’ Juarez – backing vocals, guitar and FX. Other projects include the band, Brother StarRace.
Khori Wilson – drums. Other work includes a Motown project coming out soon.
Diana Mosquera – backing vocals and percussion
‘Conga Vale’ – congas. Also a conguero for Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquestra, and met Lester Rey when he was practicing with a Latin Jazz band called Son Bayú.
Filming the music video for "Andar" at La Catrina Cafe in Pilsen - via Instagram
Screenshot from the music video for “Andar”, filmed in part at La Catrina Cafe in Pilsen – via Instagram

Q&A: Musical origins and favorites, filming a music video in Pilsen and why Chicago is a great place for music

Gozamos: What artists or other influences got you into making music?

Lester Rey: I got into music because of church. As a kid I wanted to be part of the band. The church I went to was predominantly Puerto Rican so the music was usually Jíbaro music or, as time went by and they got less strict, merengue y salsa. I got into making music because one of my friends was a hip-hop artist that made his own beats, and I would go to his crib and learn the craft and make my own hip-hop and Reggaetón beats. I was heavily influenced by the Bbogaloo giants of the ’60s, along with the salsa kings of the ’70s, but growing up Hip Hop had a hold on me.

G: Who are your favorite artists out there right now? Current favorite song or album?

LR: Favorite artists include Frank Ocean, Pharrell, Kid Cudi, Kanye West, and Outkast, to name a few Hip Hop and Soul artists. Ray Barreto, Mongo Santamaria, Héctor Lavoe, and Celia Cruz to name a few old school Latin artists. James Brown, Isley Brothers, Al Green, Earth Wind and Fire, to name a few Funk and Rock groups I listen to a lot. I also love Jowell y Randy, Plan B, De La Ghetto, Zion y Lennox. Calle 13, Ana Tijoux, Mala Rodriguez are some of my favorite Spanish rappers. I gotta say one of my favorite albums that I’m bumpin a lot these days is To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar.

G: What was it like producing the new music video for “Andar”?

LR: It was very fun to work with the cast and the directors, Gerardo Romero and Dequita Tate. We shot at a couple of different spots in the Southwest side of Chicago. The first day of shooting we shot at La Catrina Cafe and one of the actors, Venus Carangi, dressed as La Catrina, It was super dope! The bulk of the cast came through, and we took a bunch of great shots to start of the storyline. Then we shot at NiteCap Coffee Bar a couple weeks later with a full band on their stage. The owners of the cafs were so kind to have let us use the space to record. We also got some shots with Enid Munoz and Austin Lim at this creepy looking factory off Western Blvd to add more elements to the story line. All together the shooting was fun, and planning and scheduling so many actors and locations was not as hard as I thought it was gonna be. All the actors were great to work with and were amazing at their performances. Besides the few mentioned, the actors also included Alejandro Cruz, Gio Padilla, Jessica Sanders, Malenis Holloway Nazario, Angelique Nelson, Gahl Liberzon, Jon Athan, Rik Vale, Reginald Johnson, Luis Angel Guzman, and Janette Bustamante.

G: What do you love most about the Chicago music scene?

LR: What I love most of the Chicago music scene is that you got a little bit of everything here. Even within the Latin scene, you got Salsa, Banda, and Latin Alternative, to name a few. Within the Hip Hop scene and Rock scenes, there is so much variety. Its like the food scene in Chicago; you can try almost anything here and be inspired almost anywhere in Chicago.

G: If you got stranded on a desert island with just one piece of music, what would it be?

LR: Tough question because I love variety so much, that it would have to be something I could never get tired of listening to and something very intricate that would leave me discovering new things about it every time I heard it…I think Michael Jackson’s Thriller because it would get my mind off the fact that I’m on a deserted island.

You can listen to and download “Andar” and other songs for free or purchase the Blue Lion EP on the music tab of Lester Rey’s website. - Gozamos

"Lester Rey"

So...what's up with the lion?

Oh, the lion. (pleasantly surprised) So, the reason the EP is called The Blue Lion— it's really an identity piece. It's an identity that I'm claiming; I'm calling myself the Blue Lion. The reason why is because I feel my identity represents two cities — not just Chicago — Puerto Rico is part of that identity. But more specifically, if I'm going to use cities, instead of saying the United States and Puerto Rico — because my experience isn't the whole United States — it's really focused in the city of Chicago. And when I used to live in Puerto Rico, or visit Puerto Rico, my experience wasn't the entire island; it was the city of Ponce. Hence, one of the tracks: Ponce Blues. The first track is, you could say, why the EP is called The Blue Lion. Because it's: Ponce - blues. Ponce & Chicago. The blues, I feel, is synonymous with Chicago.
So, though you might think of the color blue when thinking of The Blue Lion, I'm kinda playing with
the word. It comes from the bluesy voice that I have; the blues from Chicago that has influenced me
as a city. So, that's the blue part. The lion part is Ponce. So, originally, the lion is on the Ponce flag; it's symbolized everywhere in the city of Ponce; Ponce de León. So, it's just a name, at first, but then
the city incorporated his name, de León, to the symbolism of a lion. That's why the lion symbol. It's a shout out to Puerto Rico, Ponce, and then a connection with Chicago.

Is that where you where born?

I was born in Chicago. My Mom and Dad where born in Ponce.

Did you start with music early on? Or was there a defining moment where you realized:
"This is it. This is me."

So, I feel that music has always been a journey. My parents would tell me how when I was able to grab sticks, I would always bang on stuff. I would grab the pots and pans and just start smacking them. I don't remember that...they also told me that when I was a kid, they bought me a Toys R Us drum set...I don't remember that, either. I must of been really young. When I used to go to church when I was younger, the band was, to me, the main event. I always wanted to jump on stage with them. So at the age of five, they had this little conga and they would let me play on stage with them — with this little conga — but I was always off to the side, out of site, on stage. So I kinda just learned how to play instruments on my own by watching the band. The band at church was predominantly Puerto Rican, so they played a lot of son, salsa, Jíbaro music — music very much from the countryside of Puerto Rico. So I grew up on that; I always saw that. It was a lot of fun. As those youth started to slowly leave the church, there were vacancies for musicians. At about the age of 20, I stepped up to be a church musician. I started with congas because that was my strong suit, but eventually I moved on to drums, timbales...my friends and I would literally rotate each song and take turns playing different instruments. But it wasn't until production...I started doing my own production around 16, 17, 18 (years old). I started doing a lot more hip-hop beats. But a lot of my musicality came from my church beginnings. So getting to do production made it much easier. Around 18 is when I started recording music more on the professional side and then I started doing ciphers and shows left and right all over: Cicero, Berwyn, Chicago, the suburbs...I was doing rap and reggaeton when I first started off in the public realm. Before that I was singing in church; I was playing music and producing for rappers; but eventually, when I wanted to become the artist around 18, I went by the stage name R-Life. I was a rapper and I was doing reggaeton. Somewhere down the line, I felt like music wasn't actually going to put food on the table so I kinda backed out of music and there was always this pull, this tugging between education and music — which was fine — I feel like my experiences in education have helped build my lyricism in music. It wasn't until I was at NIU in 2013, I put together a duo, a hip-hop duo, a conscious hip-hop duo called Cosmic Casa. It was at that point where, though I was still in school and I was getting close to the ending of my schooling, it was at that point I figured there was a niche for socially conscious commentary in music; I was mostly the singer. This other friend of mine — his name is Pepe Carmona — he was the rapper of the group. Ben Antunez was the engineer. We put together a mixtape which includes the song Forward in it as my solo song. It was at that point we started opening up for Bocafloja, Michael Reyes, La Tere...so, some of the names were veterans in the City of Chicago's hip-hop scene were in control, and for them to have given us the opportunity to open for them was a blessing. We started doing shows at Northwestern, NIU, Northeastern...we started doing a lot more university shows. It was at that point where I was like — yo, there's some money to be made in this; there's actually a market for it; there's actually people that want this. Not only do I want to stay close to the realm of social justice commentary in my music, I just wanna do music. And so, around last year, Pepe and I split up the group Cosmic Casa so we could pursue our own solo careers. Also, projects that we've wanted to pursue, but never felt confident enough to pursue...I think it was October of 2014, when Cosmic Casa dropped their mix tape and also split, that I started Lester Rey. I came up with the moniker Lester Rey, and all of 2015 was about producing this genre: boogaloo urbano. So I still feel like I'm new to the music scene. I've been doing music for a really long time which is probably the reason why I can do it so well. But as far as the product — Lester Rey — boogaloo urbano is an idea that's always been brewing in my mind; and now I'm ready to launch it. Which I did, last Saturday. (Laughs) You were there...

Yeah! (Laughs) Tell us about...

Lester Rey
I gave you the long answer, my bad. (Laughs)

(Laughing) Yeah, you see me going down my notes...

Lester Rey
Yeah...you were going down checking off, "He answered that question; and he answered this question..."

That's good, let's expand that a little more and look at a defining moment.

Lester Rey
Yeah. I was 17 and I met a rapper by the name of Half Star, I don't think he's rapping anymore. But, he
was producing and studying out of Columbia College. I was only 17 and he was in college. He took an
interest in my musicality; my ability to play so many instruments. As a producer, I think he was attracted to that. He helped me produce my very first reggaeton song. So it was an experience I'll never forget. He took me to his crib. He showed me his keyboard, his monitors, his programs...I was so new to that world and it blew my mind. I was just like, "Woa. This sounds badass. I didn't know you could do all this on just one computer. All the instruments I could play I could imitate on a MIDI keyboard. That's what caused me to gravitate more towards production, and just music in general. I felt like, in order to be successful in the music business, you do have to know how to do a lot of things on your own. Adding production under my belt rather than just being a musician or singer definitely made me feel much more confident. Just before I was 18 and I started becoming this hip hop artist, at about 17 I realized, "I can really do this." This is not something that's just a hobby anymore. This is not something that I just do for fun. I can actually do it and do it really well.

Let's talk about this new genre that you are creating — What is it called?

Lester Rey
Yeah...it's called boogaloo urbano. When I was in college, I was far from church, so I really couldn't play. The hip-hop scenes on college campuses are very very, very small. You have to be willing to drive two hours to the city, or three hours to other campuses; or something like that. When you're a student, you are poor and can't really do that. So, there was a jazz ensemble at Harper Community College — I was doing hip-hop and I was doing ciphers at the time — but it wasn't a Latin jazz ensemble. So, I asked the instructor if it would be cool for me to just bring the congas and jam with them. He said, "Yeah", and he was down with it. So, it was at about 18-19 that I was playing congas with the jazz ensemble. I was the only Latino, (chuckles) in the jazz ensemble, as well. When I went to NIU, they actually had a Latin jazz ensemble, and an Afro-Cuban ensemble. So, I learned a lot of songs from the Orishas, and some songs from Lukume culture — old, ancient languages — stuff like that. And then, with the Latin jazz ensemble, I wasn't just playing the congas, I was the lead singer for some of the songs. But many of the songs didn't even have a singer, they were just instrumentals. It was an experience that definitely help build my resume toward singing with the Latin jazz group here in Chicago called Son Bayu, they were a Puerto Rican Latin Jazz group. Pete "Conga" Vale was the congero; from Dos Santos.


Lester Rey
He used to play congas with Son Bayú, that's how I met Pete. Ponch was the leader of the group. He was the keyboard player. But, I was still in college and it was kinda difficult to be very committed to a Latin Jazz group in Chicago while I was still in college. But, once I graduated from college I was able to...well, that Latin jazz group didn't exist anymore...but there was this other group called Contra Banda — they're still active; I'm still their singer. I'm like their second or third tier singer, so whenever they need a singer they hit me up, but I haven't gigged with them for a couple months. So, Latin jazz has been a part of me and is very much alive. I feel like, the Latin jazz kept me close to the salsa that I used to listen to when I was younger; that my mom used to play in the house; that my dad used to listen to. My dad was born in Ponce, but moved to New York at a really young age. So his musical influence was funk, rock, James Brown, to the Beetles. My mom's musical influence, living in Puerto Rico all her life, was Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe, Celia Cruz...here in Chicago, Chicago has influenced me in a very different way. When I came across boogaloo, it was because of my dad. My dad showed me I Like it Like That, by Pete Rodrigues, that's an old song and everybody kinda knew it in the Latin community; it had been around for a while. Tito Nieves brought it back in the 90's. So boogaloo was something that always was in the back of my mind but never something I truly understood. So I looked it up a little more and when I found out that it was a Black & Brown style of music that combined funk and cha-cha-cha, I was like "Yo! This is so Chicago. This is so me, just so...what I want to do. This definitely defines the music my father grew up with, with the music that my mom grew up with. This 1960's boogaloo is bad-ass. I love it." I started listening to it all the time in the car — from Ray Barreto, Mongo Santamaria — I became a huge fanatic of this genre and I was surprised that it didn't have more of a presence in Latin music. Then I read into that and found out the record labels hid it and just kinda destroyed the music as it was coming about. Also, it was an English genre that had proceeded salsa. So it was really funny to me that Puerto Ricans were doing English based music before they did Spanish based music — in New York. So I thought that was just tripped out. They kinda forced Puerto Ricans to become this Spanish based community, which
in turn, separated the Black & Brown community in New York. I have nothing against Spanish based
music. My music's in Spanish. I love the Spanish language. If anything, I feel that in America, we should know more than just one language just like every other country. But, I just found it interesting that Puerto Ricans were making music in both English and Spanish with the Black community in New York. Now, I have no problem with boogaloo from the 1960's. It's just we're not living in the 1960's anymore, and I love vintage music a lot, but the urbano comes from the experience — the current urban experience we are living today. You see, the word urban is more of a current, working class experience. you can't say urban and talk about the 60's. The urban is current. Urban is what's happening in the streets today. So, I threw urbano for a couple of reasons: In the 1960's Black & Brown music came together and it was funk & soul with cha-cha-ha & rumba; genres that were extremely popular in the 40's and 50's leading up to the 60's. Today, in 2016, I feel that Black & Brown genres are still influenced by those genres; and we have reggaeton as a modern, predominantly Brown genre. I feel reggaeton is a genre you find labeled under urbano or hip hop, urban rap, or something like that. Hip Hop is definitely labeled under urban. So, the influences of Black & Brown music today have been urban music. That's where the urbano part comes from. It's still boogaloo because it takes its chops from the 1960's cha-cha-cha. The rumba, the cha-cha-cha, the Afro-Latin music is very much alive in boogaloo urbano, but it expands into a more modern generation of...a more modern funk...a neo-soul. A lot of people don't know what Boogaloo is, so when I'm trying to explain what kind of artist I am, and I'm saying it in a one word or two word thing, I just tell them I'm a neo-soul Latin artist. That kinda helps them, it gets them to: "it's like modern soul with Latin stuff — cool." That's like a fast way to explain it. Or, I say Latin alternative; tropical bass because it has that bass that keeps pumpin' throughout. Also, urbano music usually has a lot of drum and bass influences. So, boogaloo urbano has drum and bass more in the forefront than boogaloo used to. boogaloo used to be way more on the clave and the trumpets and stuff. This genre is more on the bass and drums to allow the lyricist to flow; so that he can actually rap. So it's a genre that hasn't really been in existence for too long. I just am trying to create it; coin the term. Since it's new, I have to use other words such as neo-soul, Latin, tropical bass, Latin alternative...but I have the hopes that maybe this is a genre that people can seek and that it moves beyond the Latino community and actually be seen as a Black & Brown music because that's where the roots come from.

Well said. You saw me quietly clapping, there.


You hit some important points; and the way you laid it out, it seems pretty straight forward. But, when you're creating something new like this, there are always challenges...

Um-hmm (nodding)

What were the challenges in creating the boogaloo urbano concept? Was it something you struggled with? How did that play out?

One of the concepts is: This is Chicago right now; it's not New York. Boogaloo itself is from New York, but I wanted boogaloo urbano to come from Chicago. So where, in New York you have more of funk & Soul mixed with Latin, I felt that in Chicago — what's going on right now — you have Bomba from the Puerto Rican community making noise in Humboldt Park and El Paseo. You have blues defining Chicago music; though blues isn't always mixed into boogaloo. There are old school boogaloo tracks that actually have some blues in it like Mongo Santamaria and others...there's a song actually called Boogaloo Blues. So, one of the concepts is Chicago but I couldn't get too far away from the boogaloo concept because then I've created something else. If it's too bass and drum heavy, then it's salsa, hip-hop, or Latin hip-hop. If it's too rhythmic, then it's just boogaloo — why am I trying to rename it? You know — especially when it's that English-Spanish language switch. That's really what kept boogaloo — boogaloo. Some tracks sound like salsa; other boogaloo songs sound like boleros. So within boogaloo, there are different styles & tempos — but what makes it boogaloo was switching of the Spanish & English — those chords that were more funky, those brass lines weren't Latin — they were more American thrown onto Latin. So, that's what kept the genre alive and kept people calling it boogaloo. The concept — see, I've always been doing fusion; even when I was 18. I was making beats combining bachata with hip-hop, or reggaeton with cumbia before it was super popular to do those types of things; I was already messing around with it. I had told my friend that I had come up with the tribal rhythm — before tribal became famous. I actually still have the track. I made it in 2007 — and I'm sure the tribal guys had put it together way before '07 — I'm not trying to say I coined or created the genre — but, by fusing different genres I created so many different rhythms that sounded really cool. But, with boogaloo, I felt the message was really important. I didn't want to get stuck where I was just doing social commentary because I love to make people dance. Boogaloo in itself was social justice; in itself was a healing experience of dancing. Where the lyrics don't always have to be political. It could be shake your body, move and dance. So, one of the things I wanted to do was create a genre where I could switch from a love song to a dance song to a political song. Kinda like some of the current hip-hop artist like Kendrick (Lamar) where they can create their love songs — they can create their political songs. So, those are some of the concepts I needed to keep alive. At the end of the day, I wasn't creating a new genre for Chicago. I was creating something that I could fit into — that felt comfortable for me — that was healing for me. I was thinking about me first because music has always been an outlet for me to express any pain — to express any hardship in life. It's always been geared toward my healing and my sanity before the masses. But, I'm not the only one going through the things I go through so it has that power to heal other communities. Another thing is I definitely wanted it to be a Black & Brown sound. But I also know that today's communities aren't as segregated like they used to be — like they were in the 60's — so I wanted it to also be inclusive of electronic sounds and sounds that are more modern that you actually hear in hip-hop — that you can hear in reggaeton. Even though you have this Black & Brown genre, you have collaborations with so many people in so many countries. So, a genre that could be accepted by so many people of various backgrounds: these were some of the crucial things that I wanted to begin with before I even started to write lyrics. The terminology wasn't even boogaloo urbano to start. It was like blue boogaloo; or, I was just gonna stick with boogaloo and just make it modern. Electo-boogaloo! (laughs) Another term I shot out. The guy whose helping me, Ben Antunez the engineer, we talked about how urbano was a perfect word to describe the situation of Black & Brown communities and their current story. So we thought, "Urbano...that's a perfect term to use." That's how we came up with boogaloo urbano. But the music had to stick around cha-cha-cha & funk; somewhere in the genre we had to stick around those realms and if we did move past it, it still needed to combine Black & Brown sounds. So the EP I just released, Ponce Blues, is bomba & blues. That's never been done before. The guy that plays the bomba — he's a bomba master, an elder; his name is Jorge Emmanuelli Náter — we combined an African-Puerto Rican genre with blues. The 2nd track, Andar, is definitely more of an homage to boogaloo. The bass and drums are much heavier plus that cha-cha-cha, but slower; bolero style. Then you have the jazz trumpet toward the end. But it keeps that bass and drum alive like you see in hip-hop. One of the last tracks, Bougie Bella, definitely sounds more salsa, more reggaeton — much more lively. I think one sounds much more like old school boogaloo — except for the reggaeton drum playing on top of the track the whole way. So, I thought it was important for me to define boogaloo with these five tracks and show how varied it can be and also show the common consistencies within these five tracks. And I think the common thing is to keep that hip-hop bass & drum alive; but it must maintain that Latin root to it. Then you can always add something else like a funky riff or some kind of genre that's American, African, or Caribbean. So, originally it was Afro-Caribbean people and African-American people trying to bridge a gap. They've always been trying to bridge a gap: The Harlem Renaissance, boogaloo, and hip-hop have brought together different communities that I feel were heavily influenced by African culture. So, I always say boogaloo was the attempt by two African diasporas coming together. Then the record labels killed it in the 60's and then it was successful with hip-hop. Hip-hop actually brought together Dominicans & Haitians with the African-Americans in New York. So, I see a need for boogaloo urbano today with Not1More — the deportations that are going on; and the Black Lives Matter movement with the insane amount of police brutality injustices. I feel that, although this can definitely be addressed in hip-hop, there needs to be a genre that combines both groups in a place of healing — I think the dance floor is a perfect place to connect.

With these powerful concepts in place, it seems like doing benefit performances are critical. Have you done any benefits?

Lester Rey
Yeah! I did one in December. It was to raise scholarship funds for undocumented students. I did one for Enlace; Sabor Latino. Harper College — they invite me every year. I've kept that connection with them and told them that no matter how big I get, I will always do that show for free because it raises money — it's a really good cause. Wow, let's see — too much to list. (We laugh) I did a benefit to raise lawyer fees for families that were facing deportations. Most of the stuff I do is for undocumented communities. I'm always around and I'm really passionate about immigration reform and the rights of undocumented students. It's something I've been working on since 2007 with The Dream Act. Even though it didn't pass, I was really active in organizing with students at Harper College; also at NIU. I feel like I've been around more Mexican & Central American friends than my own Puerto Rican people, that's just how gentrification works in Chicago — though I'm very passionate about Oscar Lopez Rivera being freed from prison and many of the issues in the Puerto Rican community, and I myself am 100% Puerto Rican — I usually find myself organizing and working more toward undocumented students rights. People have told me that doesn't benefit Puerto Ricans, specifically...but I feel that if we're all Latinos — all brothers & sisters going through the same struggle — then we should struggle together. We should all support each other because it's not just a Mexican issue — it's a bigger Latino issue. And really...it's not just a Latino issue, either. So, that's why I work more toward undocumented student rights.

What can we look for in the next two years?

The next two years? Wow. Nobody has ever asked me that, at all. That's a good question. Everybody usually asks just about the next year. (We laugh) I do have a two-year plan. I actually have a three-year plan! But everyone always asks about the first year, so...

Well, then...tell us about the three-year. (Excited)

Okay...the first year is all about promoting the brand: Lester Rey. It's just to get my name out there nationwide — to build more of a presence — also here in the city. Before I can build a name for myself nationwide, I have to get the love and support from my friends here in the city, first. So I dropped an EP at the beginning of the year...this whole next year will be collaborations, projects, and shows. But more importantly, I'm releasing five music videos — a music video for each song on the EP. I don't want it to become a forgotten product. I definitely want to continuously push the EP. I think it's a very good product. I think it's very much a description of what boogaloo urbano is, and so, before I can really push boogaloo urbano, I feel the best way to do that is with the EP; and to promote myself though the EP. I finally have more music out there now. It used to be just the one single — Andar. Now, there's four more songs so when people want to know more about my style, the type of music that I do, there's five songs that help you get an idea of what that is. People are very visual. People love music videos. The chances of them listening to your music goes way up when there's a video to it. Toward the end of the year, maybe the buzz from January will die down; even though there will be five music videos in circulation. So, I'm not dropping them at the same time. At this point I want to start reaching out to DJs that I've met over the past year from Puerto Rico, California, Canada...I want to reach out to these DJs to see if they will do some remixes to these songs — to breath new life and have multiple versions of these songs. All of this and I'll also probably drop a single — a new single — this year. But all of this will be in the two-year plan — effort, for the actual album which will be 2017. Some people will think I'm dropping an album in the Spring or Summer after the EP...but I think that's too soon. I don't think I will have maximized the potential of the EP. So I think a full year of doing shows all over the nation, making connections, really building that brand and solidifying it so when the album comes out it's actually 100% guaranteed to be a success; not something I have to continuously push. It will be something people will waiting for. So, that's kinda the two-year plan. Three-year plan is to try and create a collective around boogaloo urbano. I don't want to be the only boogaloo urbano artist, so I will definitely be looking into more production. I work out of Olín Studios and I want to create a team of Chicago musicians in the Latin Alternative scene who are very attracted to boogaloo urbano. So, after the album, that's where I'm headed towards — (quickly tosses in with a coy smile) while I'm working on the 2nd album.

Lester Rey debuts his new band, Los Leones, and unveils the first of five music videos — Andar — this Friday, March 4th at Citlalin Gallery, in Pilsen.

Lester Rey

Personal Quote:
"Aiiight, let's do this"

Favorite artist of the
instrument you play:
Ray Barretto

If you were to take
on a new instrument:
The Cuatro,
Puerto Rican Guitar

Favorite genre other than the
one you play:
Tropical Bass

Favorite dish from
another country:

A country you've
not visited but
would like to:

Favorite Chicago
La Plena

Favorite Chicago Band:
Bomba con Buya

Favorite benefit

Favorite thing to

Favorite Quote:
"A wise man can learn more from a
foolish question than a fool
can learn from a wise answer."
~Bruce Lee - Nuestro Ruido

"9 New Songs You Need to Hear This Week"

Chicago-based artist Lester Rey teams up with producer SuveMusic for this woozy, winding piece of neo-perreo that urges men to see women as ““ni santa, ni puta, solo mujer” on the dance floor. The message is reminiscent of Ivy Queen’s masterful “Yo Quiero Bailar,” and it’s refreshing to see dudes embracing the sentiment—in a press release, they explain it’s because “we shouldn’t feel some type of way when the dembow drops.” –Julyssa Lopez - Remezcla

"Pachanga Black Wednesday Takeover at East Room with PUM PUM & Lester Rey"

Hot off their set and collaboration with Red Bull for Red Bull Music Festival Chicago, Pachanga is back with a takeover of East Room for Black Wednesday, Nov. 21st 2018 — a classic party night out the day before Thanksgiving. The Pachanga team is doubling down, partnering up with underground party PUM PUM and rapper Lester Rey to bring everything up a notch. Rey will be celebrating the release of his new single “FEEL”, which we have the pleasure of previewing exclusively below.

RSVP for the takeover via Do312 for $10 entry (or bring a canned food item) and stay tuned on Facebook. - These Days News


Ni Santa
Ponce Blues
Never Been Alone
Bougie Bella
I Like It Like That
Ponte Duro
Ya Me Canse
One Love



“Lester Rey makes music he calls the ‘Reinvention of Latin Soul.’ His music, lyrics, and general aesthetic draw on everything from Reggaeton to Rumba, Chillout to Hip Hop, anime to fashion”

-WBEZ 91.5

"Lester Rey vocalizes an affinity for poetic lyrics and has beautifully extended his love of Latin music by fusing Caribbean and Latin rhythms with elements of Soul, R&B and Hip-Hop which result in mini-hybrids of sounds apt for alternative music lovers and those that like to sway on the dancefloor"


Lestery Rey is a versatile soul crooner for a contemporary audience, a fearless wordsmith, and musical innovator. His use of percussion, poetic lyricism, and hypnotizing vocal range has made him a standout solo artist since the release of his debut EP "Blue Lion.” His subsequent EP “Blue Lion Reimagined” was a forward-thinking collaborative project bringing together Djs and Producers worldwide to remix his already contemporary approach on Boogaloo and Latin Soul. While the “Blue Lion” collection was a sonic, cultural journey into his upbringing as a Puerto Rican in Chicago, his soulful “Promesa” mixtape, captured Latinx political despair and exhibited his ability to effortlessly travel between musical soundscapes. Most recently, “Ni Santa,” Lester’s alternative Reggaeton approach dubbed Neo-Perreo features the first Latinx Trans rapper Lila Star and makes a bold statement about love, sex, and inclusivity in Reggaeton and the modern Urbanx phenomenon.

His much anticipated Sophomore EP “SANTUARIO” is Lester Rey “in the raw” reflecting on vulnerability and revealing his courage to be seen in his most personal project to date. "SANTUARIO" is sure to have you in your feels all the while encapsulating Lester’s ability to flirt with a variety of rhythms and create something unexpected in an R&B format.

Citing inspiration from Salsa hero Hector Lavoe, legendary crooner Curtis Mayfield and outspoken duo Calle 13, Lester Rey will invite you into his deepest sentiments while delivering a live show full of emotional energy. In a short time, Lester has performed at the some of the hottest, nationally renowned summer festivals in Chicago such as Mamby on the Beach and The Taste of Chicago, in addition to performances throughout Chicago's summer festival circuit and cities throughout the nation. He has opened up for Reggaeton pioneer DJ Playero, performed alongside Rene of Calle 13, and has been cited by Remezcla, Latina Mag, Fierce by mitu and the Chicago Tribune as an artist on the rise.

Band Members