Goyo Found Herself While Rapping About Her Ancestors

Photo: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images.
Goyo’s objective in music was clear from the start: “Chocquibtown was born out of love and a sense of responsibility to our people and where we come from,” the Colombian hip-hop trio’s frontwoman tells Refinery29 Somos over Zoom. “We are telling a story that our ancestors began a long time ago. I am here because they were here.” 
Born Gloria Martinez, Goyo released Somos Pacifico in the company of her husband, Carlos “Tostao” Valencia, and her brother, Miguel “Slow” Martinez, in 2006. ChocQuibTown's music debut and Goyo’s first studio brainchild was an independently backed album inspired by their native Condoto-Chocó. It let the world know about a tiny place beating with the pulse of Black Colombia. More than 15 years later, Goyo continues to speak to the spirit of Colombia’s Chocó Department via music. She recently premiered her En Letra De Otro special, which doubles as her debut solo album and the first female-focused episode from the HBO concert series. The visual project follows Goyo’s upbringing around Condoto and shines a light on the people and places that helped produce her and shape her artistry. 
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Both a powerful display of Afro-Indigeneity in all its splendour and a tender ode to her roots, Goyo’s En Letra De Otro is soundtracked by the songs of her youth. She reworks all-time favourites from Shakira, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tego Calderón with a style all her own. “This process let me spread my wings. It helped me reintroduce myself as an artist and taught me I could share the many layers of the woman I am now,” she says. Celebrating her womanhood, Goyo worked on “Na Na Na” with her brother Slow, rapper Fuego, and producer Mr. Naisgai; she released the women’s anthem as the lead cut from En Letra De Otro. Fusing dembow rhythms, the record promotes female autonomy and independence. 
Goyo doesn’t just use her creative gifts to make music that uplifts Black women and Afro-Caribbean culture and traditions; she’s also vocal about the lack of diversity and discrimination in the Latin music industry. To counter the industry’s silence around 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests, Goyo became one of the leading ambassadors of the Conciencia Collective, an organisation of more than 100 artists and industry heads who joined forces to champion racial justice and equity in music. “It’s hard not to look at the current trend of Afro-Latinidad as performative,” she admits, “but I think no matter what it’s an opportunity we can leverage to create bigger changes in the spaces we occupy.”
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Photo: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images.
In addition to shining a light on the impact of the women in her community, including her mother and tías, Goyo’s En Letra De Otro also sings her daughter Saba’s praises. “She is my greatest teacher. Motherhood has made me stronger, more focused. Other little girls from El Choco will grow up to know they are capable of more because they saw me do it first,” Goyo gushes. “That my daughter gets to watch me evolve as I set an example is super important to me.”  
Flying solo doesn’t mean Goyo and the rest of ChocQuibTown are calling it quits. La reina del combo assures us she and the crew have new music coming later this year. En Letra De Otro, instead, represents a career milestone. Goyo gets to honor her personal agency and cement her solo footprint while affording fans a moment to acknowledge her kinetic presence and contributions to Spanish-language hip-hop and afrobeats.     
She caps her 10-track audiovisual with a throwback to her opening verse in ChocQuibTown's 2010 single “Somos Pacifico,” where she illustrates the vibrancy and customs of the place she calls home. Here, she bolsters an enduring message with renewed conviction. “¿Cuál fue la falla, construir América Latina y sin cobrar nada? Nos pasamos de buena, papa. Este es nuestro momento, empezó la trama,” she waxes poetics, calling out the colonial and genocidal legacy of Latin America before the curtains close. “What was the fault, building Latin America and without charging anything? You had a good run. This is our time; let the story begin.”

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