Tegui Calderón Rosario (born February 1, 1972) is a Puerto Rican rapper, songwriter and actor. He began his musical career in 1996 (as Tego Tec) and was supported by the famous Puerto Rican rapper Eddie Dee, who invited him on his second studio album, El Terrorista De La Lírica, released in 2000. Calderón reached international success in 2003 with his first album, El Abayarde, which sold 300.000 copies worldwide and was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award. His importance in reggaeton music led him to participate in Eddie Dee's 12 Discípulos album in 2004. He released three more studio albums between 2006 and 2015, varying in styles, focusing more in hip hop and African music rather than reggaeton in The Underdog (2006) and El Abayarde Contra-ataca (2007). His fourth studio album, El Que Sabe, Sabe, released in 2015, won a Latin Grammy Award for Best Urban Music Album. In the same year, he announced that he is planning a studio album alongside the Puerto Rican reggaeton and pop singer Yandel titled El Blanco Y El Negro.
Tego is characterized by his social and political themes, with lyrics against Puerto Rican government, denouncing any corruption case. His themes also include dance, love, human-self reflection and personal experiences.
His film career started in 2007 with his supporting role in Illegal Tender. In 2009 he had a lead role in a short film called Los Bandoleros, which is part of The Fast and the Furious franchise, and in the same year he had a cameo appearance in the fourth installment of that franchise, Fast & Furious. In 2011 he had a supporting role in Fast Five alongside his colleague and friend Don Omar.
Calderón was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, the son of Pilar Rosario Parrilla, a schoolteacher, and Esteban Calderón Ilarraza, a government worker for Puerto Rico's Department of Health. Moving at a young age from his native Puerto Rico to Miami, Florida, Tego attended Miami Beach Senior High. Here he was exposed to several different cultures, eventually studying percussion and working as a drummer in a rock band. The band would cover songs produced by artists including Ozzy Osbourne and Led Zeppelin. He has noted that both of his parents were fans of Ismael Rivera, and that his father was also interested in jazz. He was influenced by both genres and incorporated them into his music, including songs such as Minnie the Moocher. He eventually developed a music style that combined elements of salsa, plena, dancehall, and hip-hop, focusing on aspects of urban life in his lyrics.
Early musical career
Calderón made several cameo appearances on other rapper's albums, eventually signing with label White Lion. In 2002, after three years of voice training, he published his first full-length album titled El Abayarde. Despite the fact that Reggaeton was considered an underground genre, the album sold 50,000 copies upon its release, setting a sales record for an urban music album. Three months after publishing El Abayarde, Calderón organized his first concert, which took place at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico and sold out the venue. The following day he became the first rap artist to perform at the annual Puerto Rican Día Naciónal de la Salsa (National Day of Salsa).
In August 2003, Calderón performed at the Madison Square Garden in New York City. Based on his show and performance, The New York Times noted that he "made the best case for Reggaetón as music with room to grow" being a "forward-looking performer." His second appearance at the venue was in October 2004, where he headlined an event titled Megatón 2004. The concert sold out, with 20,000 in attendance, a mixed crowd of Latino and non-Latino fans.
Calderón's travels subsequently led him to Miami, where he incorporated dancehall elements into his musical style. In 2004, his album titled El Enemy de los Guasíbiri was released. The album's production included a mix of several urban genres. Calderón claimed that he preferred the influence of these other genres due to his belief that Salsa had "become too corporate and too safe". Years after its release, Calderón stated that he had never approved the release of the Guasibiri album, which he claimed was rather a collection of old songs and that it should be left out of his discography as an unauthorized album. Following the release of this album, reggaeton gained more influence with several hip-hop producers in New York. Calderón continued working on several mixtapes, being featured in remixes of Usher's "Yeah", Fat Joe's "Lean Back", N.O.R.E.'s "Oye Mi Canto" and Akon's "I Wanna Love You" and also Tego featured Aventura's "We Got The Crown".
Calderón participated on the 2004 and 2005 editions of New York's Puerto Rican Day parade. During this timeframe he became the first Latin American artist to be included on New York's Power-105. Calderón's influence among Latin American youth was noted in a featured published by the Village Voice. The publication claimed that he had "almost single-handedly. .. steered his country’s dominant youth culture out of the island and Latino neighborhoods, and into the American stream of pop consciousness.”
In the summer of 2005, Calderón signed a deal between Atlantic Records and his own independent label, Jiggiri Records, making him the first reggaeton artist to have a deal with a major record company.
In 2006, Calderón and both companies published The Underdog/El Subestimado. He noted that the production includes influence from several Afro-Caribbean rhythms including Reggae, Salsa, Bomba and Rumba. This production featured the guests appearances of Buju Banton, Voltio, Bataklán, Eddie Dee, Luis Cabán, Yandel, Zion, Chyno Nyno, Don Omar and Oscar D'León. Several producers were involved in the album, including Cookee, Major League, Salaam Remi, Eric Figueroa, Luny Tunes, DJ Nelson, Danny Fornaris, DJ Nesty, Naldo, DJ Joe, DJ Fat and Echo & Diesel. At the presentation party for the album, Calderón explained that he no longer considers himself as a reggaeton artist because this genre of music has become too commercial. Noting that reggaeton is becoming too similar to pop music and that he does not let his children listen to it at home unless it is on the radio.
Musical styles and themes
Although Calderón is a reggaeton artist, he claims to like "all types of music". Evidence of this is seen both in his biography (he began his career in music in a metal band and attended a school for music as a drummer) as well as in his music, which incorporates "'several musical tendencies'", including sounds and rhythms from places like Africa, Colombia, and the Caribbean. He obtains the sound for his popular reggaeton music through "fusing an experimental reggaeton style strongly rooted in the working-class Caribbean aesthetics of classic salsa with a strong dose of hip-hop". On The Underdog/El Subestimado, he collaborated with rap duo Anónimo Consejo to create a song entitled "Son Dos Alas" which eventually was shortened to an interlude without Calderón.
Calderón has also been praised for his lyrics, which are much more substantive and uplifting than the misogynist materialistic words that have come to define reggaeton as well as the majority of hip-hop music. Calderón has been described as "the reggaeton champion of an Afro-Caribbean working-class aesthetic" and is known for lyrics that are equal parts poetry and politics. A consistent link between all of his albums "are the social themes and the untouchable bravado that he usually transmits through his artistic outlook." According to Tony Touch, "Tego is someone who represents struggle, an underdog... He's more of an MC, a product of late-'80s hip-hop."