Los Tigres del Norte

Jefe de Jefes

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When norteño fans are attempting to explain the polka-influenced style to those who know little or nothing about regional Mexican music, they compare it to everything from country to gangsta rap. The country comparison is made because of all the songs about heartache, loneliness, infidelity, and romantic disillusionment; the gangsta rap comparison is inspired by all the narco-corridos (corridos about drug trafficking) that los Tigres del Norte, Grupo Exterminador, the late Chalino Sanchez, and others are known for. And narco-corridos are a high priority on Jefe de Jefes (Boss of Bosses), which went down in history as one of the most essential Tigres albums of the '90s. This 1997 release (a two-CD set that sold over one million copies in the United States alone) was controversial; some Mexicans have accused narco-corridos of glorying the drug trade. But there is nothing on this album that paints drug trafficking in a favorable light -- quite the contrary. "Las Novias del Traficante," "El Dolor de un Padre," and other gems make it clear that los Tigres see drug trafficking for exactly what it is: a plague and a cancer. However, they aren't preachy or whiny about it; humor, in fact, is a prime ingredient on Jefe de Jefes, but the fact that los Tigres use humor to their artistic advantage doesn't mean that they're making light of a very serious and tragic problem. Not everything on Jefe de Jefes is about drug trafficking, and los Tigres are equally compelling when they write about other subjects -- for example, the Mexican immigrant who, on "El Mojado Acaudalado," misses Mexico despite his financial success in los Estados Unidos. Making this release a two-CD set was a questionable move on Fonovisa's part; the 65 minutes' worth of material would have easily fit on a single disc. Regardless, Jefe de Jefes is an excellent, consistently rewarding effort from this norteño powerhouse.

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