Skip to main content
  • Genre:


  • Label:

    Rusia IDK / Warner

  • Reviewed:

    September 19, 2023

The Spanish artist’s debut cuts and pastes from R&B, hip-hop, reggaeton, and flamenco. It’s bizarre and incongruous—but oddly satisfying.

On his debut album, Ralphie Choo, a former chemical engineering student, toys with genres with radical abandon, manipulating sounds like reagents and catalysts in a lab. Across 14 tracks, fluttering flutes, dembow riddims, and flamenco palmas bubble up in a frothy but precisely measured concoction. Ad-libs punctuate the beats like exclamation points. Vocals arrive through aggressive, jagged filters. Everything is glitchy and meandering, gesturing toward familiar genres but never fully surrendering to them. Choo’s music champions fragmented pop maximalism, illustrating what’s possible when you catapult centuries-old traditions into a globalized present. Within the landscape of Spanish-language pop, currently oversaturated with cookie-cutter reggaeton, this freaky confluence of past and present is a welcome respite.

His music may bring to mind other contemporary Spanish pop conceptualists, like fellow madrileño C. Tangana and Rosalía, who slide folk styles like copla and flamenco alongside synth stabs and 808 kicks. Choo’s approach is similarly exploratory and deranged, perhaps even more interested in shredding ancestral practices to pieces. His friends are influences too: Alongside rusowsky, mori, Tristán, and Drummie, Choo is part of the Madrid-based label and collective rusia idk. Their plush R&B and slanted club concoctions exemplify the experimental sounds coming out of the Spanish capital—and Choo is one of the crew’s most gifted international delegates.

Choo is first and foremost a producer, and a masterful worldbuilder. “Juan Salvador Gaviota” threads a bossa nova groove into “NHF,” an aspirated, shimmering R&B tune that stutters into a jungle breakdown. “Total90sNostalgia” radiates a wistful pink glow, like a climactic scene in a coming-of-age film. The piano interlude “Bò” is lissome and pure, even as a cartoonish, helium-infused voice mumbles unintelligibly in the background. These songs melt into a blissful and immersive fog, as if suspended between states of consciousness. It’s just one example of the border-soft magic that Choo conjures in his songs.

Supernova soars when it strips flamenco down to its percussive core, like on “Tangos de Una Moto Trucada,” which is grounded in a palo built out of wooden spoons, knives, and salt shakers and punctured by jarring piano notes. Revving engines and palmas, the hand claps of flamenco, form the foundation of “Bulerías de un Caballo Malo,” but Choo adds cherubic harp plucking, like a banger designed for the kingdom of heaven. The Mura Masa collaboration “Máquina Culona,” which collages brain-scrambling static punches, digital accordions, and clacking palmas, feels like a sudden bout of air turbulence, an exhilarating jolt on an otherwise smooth flight. In the video, a shirtless man cooks a slab of raw meat with a clothing iron, another lights a cigarette in a lobster’s claw, and a third slurps up a bowl of soup wearing a toilet seat around his neck like jewelry. This onslaught of bizarre, incongruous images is oddly satisfying—much like Supernova itself.

Maybe because he was a producer first, the 24-year-old Spanish artist’s strengths lie in texture over narrative; lyrics are secondary. Often, they’re simply onomatopoeic: Choo blows raspberries, coos like an infant, and emits guttural noises, as if he’s just been punched in the stomach. Sometimes, the lyrics aren’t even immediately comprehensible. In their idiosyncrasy, Choo’s personality emerges as cheeky and romantic, like a medieval jester with the impulses of a court poet.

At times, Supernova ventures too deeply into the creative directions developed by Frank Ocean on Blonde. Like that album, Supernova is capricious and loose, arranging instruments in ways that are sprawling and unpredictable. Yet in some instances, Choo’s R&B melodies hew too close to specific moments on Blonde; the end of “Total90sNostalgia” is nearly identical to Ocean’s high-pitched “woo” on “Solo.” “Whipcream,” featuring Los Angeles rap duo Paris Texas, feels mimetic too, although not of Ocean: Both Choo and his guests channel the reckless energy and slurred ad-libs of Playboi Carti and Travis Scott in a way that feels uninspired.

Supernova raises inevitable questions about the recontextualization of genre, especially regarding once-marginalized styles like flamenco and reggaeton. Choo doesn’t seem interested in that kind of intellectual battleground; in 2021, he told a Spanish magazine that claims of cultural appropriation “worry him a bit, but don’t condition him.” Instead, he presents a view of pop music at its most porous, freed from category, history, and geography. Like a mischievous cat shoving a glass off a table, Choo is invested in the thrill of infinite play.