The most overdue proclamation of love there ever was. Omar Banos, better known as Cuco, is a 20-year-old Mexican-American solo artist hailing from Hawthorne, CA. Often referred to as a “genre bender”, Cuco is not one to be restricted to any sort of box. Whether you classify his hits as “cosmic chicano love songs”, experimental synth, vape wave, or “alternative dream pop” (Cuco’s own description), there is something incredibly charming and fresh for all to hear.
I first stumbled upon Cuco in February of 2017, when his relatable love song “Lo Que Siento” landed itself in my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist. I immediately fell so deeply in love with the music and the man behind it, listening to his entire discography religiously for the remainder of the year.
While I believe listeners gravitate towards artists they can relate to, I connect with Cuco in a way I never knew I needed: culturally. As a Chicano artist, the majority of his tracks feature dreamy blends of English and Spanish lyrics inspired by Latino culture. With a Cuban mother, I grew up on Spanish music. However, it was rare that I found myself voluntarily belting Spanish lyrics anywhere aside from the annual Nochebuena party. Bilingual music was never something I was exposed to, aside from Reggaeton. I must also credit the legendary Kali Uchis for spreading the Latino love. If you are in the market to satisfy your Spanish sweet tooth, may I also recommend Jasper Bones and Empress Of.
This summer, Cuco teamed up with Clairo, 19-year-old electropop artist from Carlisle, Massachusetts. Born Claire Cottrill, Clairo has taken Youtube by storm in the past year with a similar “lo-fi bedroom” style. The pair have shared circles in the past, with Cuco appearing in Clairo’s “Flaming Hot Cheetos” music video earlier this year. When I heard that these two were joining forces, I knew it was a match made in heaven.
Their first collab, “Drown”, dropped on August 2. The contemporary breakup song features that classic, dreamy synth that fans of both artists cannot seem to get enough of. The relatable nature of the duo is as prominent as ever, with Cuco opening the track by saying, “Why’d you leave me on read? I don’t like that!”
Aside from the new collab, Cuco’s solo discography is one of the most consistent there is. His growth, both creatively and production wise, is extremely exciting as a fan. At the age of 17, he released his debut project, Heavy Trip, on Soundcloud. Since then, he has released multiple EPs and mixtapes on various platforms. Picking favorite tracks is a challenge for me, being that I am able to find a catchy, unique track to fit any and every mood.
A guide to the Cuco universe:
Roadtrippin’ with the crew: “CR-V”
After that nasty breakup: “We Had to End It”, “Lover Is a Day”
Post up waiting for your soul mate: “Lava Lamp”, “Sunnyside”
The honeymoon phase with your new boo thang: “Lo Que Siento”, “Summer Time High Time”
Oh, and that one Lil Yachty cover: “1Night”
“These are scary times to make art,” Cuco says of the current political climate. “But I use my fear as inspiration. I’m scared; I have family that doesn’t have papers yet…but I feel like it just means that there’s more of a reason to strive higher, to rise. They don’t want my people to rise? So I’m gonna rise. I don’t care that we have a loco in the Casa Blanca, I don’t care, I want to make sure that I shine and show people that they can do the same.” (Remezcla Magazine)
This live session helps put a face to the voice you are about to fall in love with. (And you’ll be able to see Cuco’s insane trumpet skills. That Mexican flare is alive and well people!)