"I really didn’t know what to expect going into this," the Puerto Rican rapper tells EW. "When I walked out and saw all the Latinos in the audience, I knew that it was going to be a special night.

By Rosy Cordero
March 12, 2020 at 04:35 PM EDT
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Credit: Los Angeles Philharmonic

It had been nearly 24 hours since Rene Perez, known as the rapper Residente, took the stage with the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. He was still processing his feelings. Initially, he wasn't even sure if fans would show up to such a highbrow venue.

But show up they did — and in droves, armed with flags representing Latin American countries like Venezuela and Perez's native Puerto Rico. They rapped loudly and proudly, dancing in their seats to reimagined orchestral versions of his biggest hits.

"I really didn’t know what to expect going into this," Perez tells EW about the experience. "When I walked out and saw all the Latinos in the audience, I knew that it was going to be a special night. I'm not sure if they frequent venues like that or if they came out for me, but I hope they know I really felt their energy — and it was different, like nothing I ever felt before."

Perez is beloved by his fans for telling things as they are and his expletive-laden lyrics. But for the LA Phil gig, which took place Saturday night in Los Angeles, his usual approach gave him pause. This wasn't one of his regular shows; he'd be performing with a legendary orchestra and its wunderkind conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

"I was a visitor in their home, so I had my trepidations," he says. "Thinking back on the experience, I think we worked perfectly together.

Credit: Los Angeles Philharmonic

In an interview with EW the day after the show, Perez spoke about the experience and gave hints about his upcoming studio album. The project, which was set to drop last year and is now slated for a May release, will include "Bellacoso" and "El Pecador," along with his latest single, "Rene," which has racked up more than 65 million views on YouTube since its debut. The song is about a performance Perez had in Mexico City where he was feeling depressed, stressed, and defeated on stage. Though he didn't set out to make a track about mental health, he says writing it helped him work through his issues. He's also been overjoyed that his fans have been able to connect to the lyrics.

"I understand that there are people out there afraid to talk about [depression] because they feel there are others who have it worse," he says. "So these feelings accumulate, and people need to find a way to unburden themselves. Writing this song was not difficult for me. In fact, I wrote it rather quickly. What was difficult was the challenging moments that inspired the song. I didn't share my feelings with many people."

"Rene" was one of 11 tracks Perez performed at the LA Phil show. After the set, he was bombarded by a squad of supporters — who happen to be some of the biggest Latino actors in Hollywood. Pedro Pascal, Edgar Ramirez, Ana de la Reguera, and Manuel Garcia Rulfo were all in attendance. With such a solid group of Hollywood stars in your core group of friends, could this mean there's a future for him in La La Land?

"I've directed a lot of my music videos but I want to get into movies," he says. "Right now, I'm talking with some very interesting people and you can bank on this happening. Soon you'll find out about this cool project I'm working on with my label. I'm sitting down with a bunch of writers from a good anime series and others. I really want to direct movies, so stay tuned on that front. There are a lot of really cool things coming down the pipeline."

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