This Breakout Singer Has a Problem: Drug Cartels

Mexico's Peso Pluma is getting death threats from one drug gang after he celebrated another in song
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2023 12:32 PM CDT
Updated Sep 17, 2023 12:10 PM CDT
Breakout Mexican Singer Has a Problem: Drug Cartels
Peso Pluma performs during the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.   (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The name Peso Pluma isn't exactly a household one in the US, but the 24-year-old Mexican singer has fast been making a name for himself in the music industry. Among other things, he just performed at the MTV awards show, he is one of the most-listened-to artists on Spotify with 50 million listeners a month, and he's played at both Coachella and on Jimmy Fallon's show, notes the Los Angeles Times. He is, in short, one of the most popular singers in the world at the moment. The problem? A drug cartel is threatening to kill him. Coverage:

  • Threats: Large banners appeared in Tijuana this week warning Pluma to cancel an upcoming show in the city next month. If not, "it will be your last show due to your disrespect and loose tongue," read one such banner signed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, reports USA Today.
  • His offense: Pluma frequently celebrates drug traffickers in his music, but he usually praises Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, founder of the Sinaloa cartel, or his henchmen, per the Los Angeles Times. The Jalisco cartel that up the banners is Sinaloa's main rival in Tijuana and elsewhere. In the hit song "Siempre Pendientes," or "Always Ready," for example, Pluma sings of a foot soldier for El Chapo.

  • Canceled shows: At least three shows in the US—in Milwaukee, Illinois, and Indianapolis—scheduled for this weekend were canceled because of "unforeseen circumstances," per KWTX. There was no mention of the death threats in the cancellation notices. The mayor of Tijuana may cancel next month's show as well. "We know that singers like ... Peso Pluma advocate for crime," Montserrat Caballero Ramirez told reporters. "Unfortunately those who suffer the consequences are the citizens."
  • Genre: Pluma, real name Hassan Emilio Kabande Laija, sometimes sings what are known as narcocorridos, or drug ballads, an offshoot of traditional Mexican music celebrating bandits of old, per the Times. Pitchfork has a broader look at what it terms the "imprecise catchall term 'regional Mexican'" music, in which Pluma "is just one face in a much larger movement." When he performed at the MTV awards, Pluma became the first such regional Mexican artist to do so. He has yet to comment on the threats against him.
(More Mexican drug gangs stories.)

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