Mexico's popular narcocorridos, or drug ballads, recount the stories of the mythic figures of the criminal underworld, and few individuals have given composers more material than Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
On July 11, Guzman escaped from the Altiplano prison in central Mexico. The breakout from the maximum security facility appears to have been an elaborate affair that required months of preparations and involved a mile-long tunnel connected to his prison shower, a specialized motorcycle and quite possibly even a little bird nicknamed Chapito used to test the quality of the air in the escape route.
Mere hours after the news of El Chapo's escape broke, the fascinating details of the daring escapade had already made it into the lyrics of new narcocorridos.
"You won't believe how he did it / like a jailhouse gopher, he slipped through a tunnel," the group Rejegos sings in "La Segunda Fuga Del Chapo."
Singer Mario "El Cachorro" Delgado, too, was quick to cover Guzman's escape, posting a video of himself on July 12 singing as he reads the lyrics off his phone. Like Rejegos' ballad, Delgado's performance already has hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.
While these two songs lack high-end production features due to their rapid response time to Guzman's escape, there is an immense back catalog of songs about El Chapo featuring properly mixed recordings or professionally shot music videos.
In the up-tempo, accordion-filled style of narcocorridos, the songs often portray Guzman as something of a folk-hero outlaw, an image that has surrounded the kingpin for decades and may have been bolstered by this month's escape.
Especially in the state of Sinaloa, he is revered by many, despite playing a key role in the brutal drug wars that have led to an estimated 100,000 deaths since 2006. Guzman's cartel is thought to be responsible for over half of the heroin entering the United States, as well as enormous amounts of cocaine and marijuana.
Guzman was captured in 2014, following years of being Mexico's most wanted man since breaking out of another prison in 2001. His arrest last year led to a wave of these narcocorridos including "La Captura Del Chapo (Sera Verdad?)" from singer Ariel Nuno, which has racked up almost 2 million views:
Songs about villains and outlaws, from Stack O' Lee to John Wesley Harding, are often staples of modern folk music. In that sense, it's perhaps unsurprising Guzman is such a prominent subject in narcocorridos, a folk genre specifically dedicated to cataloging the drug trade.
But the glorifying nature of many of the songs also reflects how Guzman is perceived in the parts of Mexico where he has popular support. In February of last year, for instance, after Guzman was arrested, protesters in Sinaloa called for his release.
As the leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, Guzman garnered a Robin Hood-like reputation. The New York Times notes that the Sinaloa cartel provides assistance to citizens where the state does not, or is seen as protecting people from other violent drug gangs.
Another appeal, as sung about in the narcocorridos, is the outsize character and myth of Guzman himself. Among his supporters, he is likened to a Hollywood gangster like Scarface or Don Corleone, as well as admired for his rise to power.
During last year's protests, some fans wore shirts with "701" printed on them in reference to Guzman's place on Forbes' list of billionaires, according to Fusion.
Songs about Guzman have also gone beyond the world of narcocorridos, with numerous name drops in hip-hop recordings. Rapper Gucci Mane dedicated an entire song to the drug lord on his 2012 mixtape "Trap God."
In "El Chapo," he raps:
All I wanna be is El Chapo/three billion dollars in pesos.
All I Wanna be is El Chapo/and when I meet him I'mma tell him bravo.
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