In a small circle amid a crowd of teenagers, four freestylers aim for glory in the last rap battle of the year. It’s December 2016. Gonzalo is one of countless Argentine teenagers watching the grand finale. He realizes something special is happening within his generation. So, he decides to turn those freestyle battles into remixes.
Six years later, in January 2023, Gonzalo is wearing a cap, glasses and in the last 15 hours he’s had 28 million plays of his latest song, a collaboration with global megastar Shakira. Meet Bizarrap.
His story begins in the middle-class Buenos Aires suburb Ramos Mejía. He has loved music since he was a kid –he says he is a fan of Radiohead and PJ Harvey. As a teenager, he started to take piano lessons, more to understand music itself than because of a love of the instrument. Julia, his teacher, taught him music theory. Young Gonzalo’s goal was to write his own songs.
A fan of Skrillex and other producers like Flood, Gonzalo soon took his first steps in music. In his bedroom at his parents’ house in Ramos Mejía, he set up a small home studio where he began to explore his sound. He invited the freestylers he saw rapping at Quinto Escalón, the mythical event that was the first stage for all the rappers of the current Argentine scene such as Paulo Londra, Trueno, Duki, Ysy A or LIT killah. The challenge was to record everything in one day: freestyle, beat, video. The result was uploaded to his YouTube channel. Slowly, Gonzalo was transforming from the suburban kid into his artistic alter ego that would make it round the world: Bizarrap.
Among his collaborations, one in particular blew up, long holding the record for most views on his YouTube channel. It is session number 6, which he uploaded on June 27, 2019, and features Mateo, aka, Trueno. Two months later, on August 14, 2019, he recorded a collaboration with Nicki Nicole, a teenager from Rosario who was still a high school senior. This one exploded, too. A year and a half later, she would become the first Argentine woman to appear on Jimmy Fallon’s show in the US.
From that moment on, Bizarrap beat Gonzalo. His character includes a cap and glasses that cover most of his face, as if emulating Daft Punk’s game of anonymity. He selects those who get to know Gonzalo –for everyone else, it’s Bizarrap.
Despite his rising popularity and fame, Bizarrap clings to one idea: the stage for all collaborative music sessions will always be “his room”.
He told Argentine journalist Julio Leiva: “I don’t care about the location, what’s important is the message I give. If I do it in an overly flashy studio, a 15-year-old kid –like the one I once was– won’t identify with it. I see myself reflected in that, and I want them to see themselves reflected in me. Nowadays, I am trying to set up the path so that 15-year-old producers have the kind of reference I did not get to have as a producer back then. So they can see that you can make several 100 million songs from your own room, without any kind of guidelines or anyone else’s support”.
Biza is part of a generation of Argentine musicians from working- and middle-class neighborhoods who used to get together and rap in public parks, and then upload it to YouTube. Boys and girls who were able to break through the local scene thanks to the Internet. Teenagers who collaborated with each other to push themselves forward.
The most beautiful thing about his story –and that of other Argentine musicians of his generation– is the notion that dreams are never too far to reach.