Album Review: Monarca — Eladio Carrión

By: Elmer Vivas and David Hernández

Eladio Carrión’s sophomore album Monarca holds its own as an all-trap project with clever lyrics and creative sounds. In it, he makes a compelling case for why he should be considered a leading figure in the Latin trap genre.

Eladio Carrión has taken an unusual path to his current success in the music industry. With a father in the military, Eladio was born in Kansas and lived all over the United States before finally moving to Puerto Rico in middle school. At that point, he didn’t speak any Spanish but learned quickly with the help of reggaetón and novelas. Eladio swam professionally in Puerto Rico before his rise as a prominent comedian on Vine producing six-second videos. From making comedic music covers, he shifted to making his own music, finally debuting his first full-length project, Sauce Boyz, in early 2020.

Monarca reconnects Eladio with Sauce Boyz contributors like Yandel, Cazzu, Lunay, and J Balvin, but it also gives us new sounds in the form of Corina Smith, Natanael Cano, and Ovi. In an interview, Eladio explains that the title “Monarca” is a reference to the common belief that seeing a monarch butterfly is an indication that one is on the right path. Eladio had originally intended for Sauce Boyz to be released as an all-trap EP, but it evolved into the album we know today. For Monarca, Eladio was determined to release an all-trap project his own way — built from scratch. The lack of reggaetón tracks on Monarca may end up costing Eladio when it comes to chart performance, but we don’t think that this should be mistaken for the quality of the project.

  1. Intro

“Mirame ahora… diamantes en mi Rolex y no veo la hora”

David: Similar to “Vida Buena” in Eladio’s debut album Sauce Boyz, “Intro” is a nod to how quickly life has changed for this Puerto Rican artist. As usual, Eladio isn’t afraid to experiment with bright sounds — there’s even a piano in the beginning. About a minute in though, the familiar sounds of snare drums and hi-hats make it clear that this is a trap album through and through.

Elmer: This is the quintessential reflective introductory track where Eladio tells the story of his rise, from struggling beginnings to global success. This track foreshadows what lies ahead for the album: creative punchlines, hard-hitting rap verses, and infectious choruses.

2. Mariposas

“Y si yo te quiero con cojones, por que tu me trata así?”

E: Eladio simultaneously expresses disdain for an unnamed woman, but as the song title suggests, he also cannot help feeling mariposas when he sees her. With a dark instrumental, a more melodic Eladio sings and raps about the all-too-common inexplicable attraction for a woman that you know is bad for you.

D: Other than the “Sauce Boy Freestyle 3” video released back on Christmas eve, this is the first music video to drop for Monarca. In it, Eladio’s girl shoots him with a shotgun in the stomach, and he still feels butterflies — she’s toxic.

3. Nena Buena (Lunay)

“Nena buena pero conmigo se porta mal”

D: This arcade-style beat was one of the funkiest on the album, but also my favorite. The track might be fun, but Eladio still delivers on bar after bar.

E: Eladio enlists Lunay as they rap over a livelier beat featuring an electronic melody. This song is one of the lighter ones on the album that just makes you want to bounce your head and sing along.

4. Progreso

“Hay progreso, yo pasé el proceso. Trabajando to’ los días sin receso”

E: Este es un chanteo as Eladio acknowledges how his consistent work has allowed him to progress in his journey to success. Little to argue with there. With muffled horns and piano in the background, this song is almost a lite-version of Drake’s 2013 track, “Trophies.”

D: Come-up tracks are where Eladio feels at home. “Progreso” is a song you’ll want to play for hype at the gym, but not when you’re looking for his strongest lyrical performance.

5. Todo o Nada (Corina Smith)

“Si me vas a mentir, por lo menos hazlo bien…”

D: This is my absolute favorite song on Monarca. I’ve always liked Eladio as not just a rapper. but a singer too. On tracks like “Lluvia,” “Hielo,” “3 AM,” and most famously “Mi Error,” Eladio consistently proves that his vocals are just as good as his flow. This beat is smooth and sweet, but Eladio and Corina bring it to the next level.

E: When Corina Smith’s voice first came in the second verse, I had to double check that I was not listening to Jhené Aiko singing in Spanish. Corina’s soothing vocals compliment Eladio’s rougher voice as they exchange perspectives on a waning relationship. This track makes me want to seek out more of Eladio over R&B tracks — his versatility is impressive.

6. Tata (J Balvin)

“Pew pa’ lo’ pies, ello’ bailan bachata (Ah)”

E: This drill song is a complete 180 from the previous track. Here, Eladio and J. Balvin rap about street violence, designer clothes, and just generally flex their lifestyle. This song initially surprised me, and I felt that it was gimmicky, but additional listens and placed within the context of the trap album, I am now glad Eladio chose to expand his musical sound in this way. Let us also not forget the impressive rhyming pattern sustained throughout the entire song.

D: The intro to this song is nothing but iconic. “Tata” marks Eladio and J Balvin’s first dive into Latin drill, a genre currently led by Jon Z. If Eladio can secure a Drake feature here like he said he would, “Tata (Remix)” will be an instant hit.

7. Mami Me Pregunta Si Trapeo

“Reza por mí toa’ la’ noche’, ella me cuida de lo’ feo’, yeah, yeah”

D: Yet another song where the production quality is next-level. There’s also something about an artist collaborating with their mom that makes them feel that much more real. It worked for Residente in “René” and it works here.

E: This is one of the tracks that best embodies the trap qualities of this album. As Eladio continues to rap about his street lifestyle, he recognizes that his mother is not oblivious to this: “Mami me pregunta si trapeo/Yo le dije: “No, señora”, ella me dijo: “No te creo.” Notably, this track offers us one of the most intimate looks into Eladio’s life, as we hear what we are led to believe is his mother’s voice in the outro.

8. Toretto

“Me dicen ‘El Virus’, pero no salí de Wuhan”

E: With references to Fast & Furious, Wu-Tang Clan, COVID-19, FaZe Clan, and countless punchlines, Toretto is my lyrical peak for the album. Eladio flexes his wordsmith abilities, and the absolutely nasty beat takes this track to an even higher level. This is my personal favorite track and I predict it will be up on my list of top songs for 2021.

D: Don’t be confused by “Toretto’s” slow start — Eladio brings down the hammer about a minute into the track in a way that’s made me come back to this song again and again.

9. Ele Uve (Remix) [Natanael Cano, Ovi, Noriel]

“Antes no comía bien, ahora como rib-eye”

D: Released back in December, this remix with Natanael Cano, Ovi, and Noriel wasn’t new. The inclusion on “Ele Uve (Remix)” is another win for Natanael Cano, a 19-year-old rising Mexican artist who has already collaborated with Bad Bunny on “Soy El Diablo (Remix).” Noriel’s verse and performance was impeccable, outshining even Eladio on his own track.

E: With elements of corridos tumbados, yet another catchy chorus full of creative word play, and mostly memorable features, this track is a great remix when you just want to feel like flexin’. This is one of the more “commercial” tracks, but still fits well within the project.

10. Sauce Boy Freestyle 3

“Saben que tengo má’ palabreo que un crucigrama”

E: This freestyle series, dating back to 2019, is a showcase of Eladio’s greatest qualities: his palabreo. As he continues to rap about enemies disguised as friends, his career, and eventual death, “Sauce Boy Freestyle 3” reminds us why Eladio is in discussion as the new “Rey del Trap.”

D: “Sauce Boy Freestyle 3” is home to one of Eladio’s favorite sections, and I can’t say I disagree: “La verdad duele, baja como ron caña. La fe y el trabajo sí mueve montaña. Mis demonios me pelean pero Dios acompaña.”

11. Adiós

“Yo le cantaba ‘Te Boté’, me respondía con ‘Tusa’”

D: You can’t help but feel for Eladio after listening to this song. Apparently, even those at the top experience heartbreak. At least it makes for good music.

E: This mellow track features a melodic Eladio trying to get back a woman who does not reciprocate the same interest. One of the most interesting parts of the track comes in the seamless transition from the bridge to the verse, but beyond that, “Adiós” offers us the opportunity to once again witness Eladio’s comfort on a predominantly singing track.

12. Discoteca (Yandel, Cazzu)

“Cuando tú está’ ya ni te siento, como un holograma”

E: Due to its themes of love y la discoteca, I group this track with “Tusa” or “Soltera” (which is referenced in the chorus). “Discoteca” is my least favorite track on the album given that I think this track has already been done better by other artists, but both Yandel and Cazzu deliver strong vocal performances.

D: I was excited by the inclusion of Yandel here, but I honestly don’t think he delivered in the way that we’re used to. On the other hand, Eladio mentions in an interview that Cazzu’s verse was a late submission, but I can’t imagine this song without it.

13. 4 Am

“Guerreando por tu amor soy todo un sicario”

D: If the girl from “4 Am” is the same as the one from “Todo o Nada,” it seems that the tables have turned for Eladio who finds himself begging her to decide what she wants and not the other way around. It was also a nice touch to hear Ñengo’s laugh added to the track after he was mentioned.

E: Eladio continues along the more melodic path we find in the later half of the album. In Sauce Boyz, Eladio had the track “3 AM,” which was more centered around his own thoughts, versus “4 Am,” which gives us more insight into the woman’s current state of mind. This pair of tracks, and all the other sequel tracks we find throughout the album make it evident that Eladio’s first and second projects exist within the same musical universe.

14. Mala Mia 2

“Estoy llamándote sabiendo que no lo va’ a coger”

E: Monarca ends with a yet another follow-up to a track from Sauce Boyz. Here, we hear an introspective Eladio grappling with the consequences of his poor love decisions. It is notable that the last four tracks on the album center around el amor/desamor, and while they are less reliant on intricate word play, they allow Eladio to focus on giving his fans an intimate look into his life.

D: Missing from this “Mala Mia” sequel is the OG himself, Miky Woodz. Though he would have been a nice addition to the album and to this track, Eladio makes good use of the extra room on “Mala Mia 2” with more sensitive lyrics.

Musicólogos Score: 8.5

D: Monarca was exciting to listen to, from start to finish. All fourteen tracks are packed with double entendres, metaphors, and punchlines. Eladio’s signature melodic trap and dynamic flow kept me hooked. Going into this, Eladio knew that an all-trap album might not be as successful as one that included reggaetón, which tends to perform better commercially. But that’s not the point of this album. Numbers be damned, Eladio had a clear vision for what he wanted to put out into the world and he delivered.

Rating: 9/10

Favorite Tracks: Todo o Nada, Intro

Least Favorite Tracks: Progreso

E: Eladio has put together an excellent album. We have moved away from the singles-dominant period en la música urbana, yet many artists have not been able to put together what I consider to be enjoyable concise projects; many are filled with skippable tracks. Monarca sets an excellent bar as we enter 2021, with cohesive themes that run throughout, great lyricism, and beat selections that keep the album sonically interesting and enjoyable. I am not sick of Eladio over a trap beat, but I also want him to continue expanding his sound; he has continuously demonstrated that he has the skills to do so.

Rating: 8/10

Favorite Tracks: Toretto, Mami Me Pregunta Si Trapeo, Todo o Nada

Least Favorite Track: Discoteca

Los Musicólogos was started by David Hernandez and Elmer Vivas to celebrate and discuss the growing genres of latin trap and reggaeton through writing.