BEST PLACE TO BUY NARCOCORRIDOS - 2005
El Idolo de Oro
It seems that if it's Mexican and it even remotely involves music on tape or CD, El Idolo de Oro has it. This tuneful stop stocks just about every regional group living, breathing and harmonizing in Mexico, including oompah bands from Michoacán; norteño/Tex-Mex groups from Sonora, Chihuahua and Sinaloa; the exitos (hits) of wailing mariachi ensembles from Jalisco -- even reggaeton, a salsita of hip-hop, rap and Jamaican reggae from Puerto Rico, and Mexican rap by Control Machete. El Idolo's strong suit, however, is an incredible selection of narcocorrido music, a recent twist on the romantic Mexican folk ballads, or corridos, blaring in every Mexican restaurant and cantina from here to Culiacán. Think of the narcocorrido as the Mexican equivalent of American folk tunes about Western gunslingers, desperadoes and bank robbers (or maybe the theme song from The Sopranos) -- except that these ballads chronicle the joys and derring-do involved in drug trafficking (narcocorrido expert Elijah Wald says, "They're an anachronistic link between the earliest European poetic traditions and the world of crack cocaine and gangsta rap"). Ain't nothing new here, since more than a century ago, the corridos were about crafty Robin Hood types, revolutionary guerrillas like Pancho Villa and campesinos who pulled fast ones on evil Texas Rangers. Wildly popular both south and north of the border, narcocorridos are set to polka or waltz rhythms and usually backed by accordions and often brass sections. El Idolo carries the latest by groups famous for these drug ditties, like Los Tigres del Norte, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Grupo Exterminador (you gotta love a group that's titled one of its albums Contrabando en los Huevos), Los Pajaritos del Sur, and the notorious Sinaloan legend Chalino Sanchez. With titles like Los Tigres' Pacto de Sangre (Blood Covenant), it makes you wanna run to the nearest Berlitz for a crash course in Spanish so you can figure out all the lyrics.