Similarly to the criminals of the United States and elsewhere, music has always played a central role in Narco subculture.
Much of the music crafted for Mexican Mafioso's are created as ballads of their exploits. An attempt to immortalize those who know they do not often lead very lengthy lives, and who will rarely die peacefully. In traditional style these ballads were originally sung as corridos. A style of music which is characterized by string instruments, tubas and accordions.
These beautiful, melodic works of art often tell stories of how a criminal came to be a boss, such as in a personal favourite of mine created for Comandante F-1 of the Zacatecas CDG. In which the story tells of how he refused to kill the children of a target for his boss, and that in return his boss ordered his own family to be killed. F-1 then goes on to build his own clandestine power base before turning on his employer and taking the plaza of Zacatecas for his own. Which he has ruled ever since despite a few stints in prison.
The validity of these stories is always up for debate, given there is little if any means of substantiating them. However, they can still offer us insights into the lives and goings on of the Mexican criminal underworld.
After all, even if the music embellishes the exploits of those they are intended for - and they most certainly do. There must still be some shreds of truth to what is being sung, otherwise the recipient would quickly lose respect among colleagues.
As a result, we can see that the criminals themselves sometimes use these songs as a means of communication, similarly to their Narcomantas. Songs will be published expressing a certain commanders desire to take over a certain city, or what rival they may be declaring war upon. Others are intended as propaganda, in which old guard Narcos put out music portraying them as kind hearted philanthropists. The types of people who spend their time building schools for children or hosting festivities for all to attend.
More typically - and especially within the last eight years we have seen the rise of 'Narco Rap' as opposed to traditional corridos. Corridos are still prevalent - and still being produced en masse. But the younger, newer generation of Narcos seem to prefer gangster rap. Fitting, given their professions.
These songs often take a far different, more violent role. And no longer do they only just represent powerful bosses. On the contrary, the majority of hip hop currently leaving Cártel strongholds is intended to appeal to the lower ranking Mafioso's and would-be associates. They portray the exploits of Sicarios and Halcones who are eager to make a name for themselves and boast of their accomplishments in the criminal world.
Common themes of these songs being the troops or individual in question patrolling their sector, manning the radios, or 'tumbando contras' - killing rivals.
However, songs are not always all 'fun and games' so to speak. Many, many songs coming out during these current times of conflict are directed at remembering fallen comrades. One sees songs coming out almost weekly that are paying homage to another fallen Mafioso. Many times these songs come with pictures attached - sometimes even full faced since there's no need for anonymity any longer.
One can see just how young the fallen are - sometimes as young as seventeen or eighteen.
In other cases, songs take a much darker turn. Lyrics are one thing, but it is not unheard of for songs to come paired with very real audio of people being shot, tortured or beheaded. The latter two can be particularly disturbing - such as in the instance of 'Black 7 DEP (Grupo Black de Madero) CDG' and 'El J15 (Grupo J) -Mensaje Anti-Mugrozazzz-' respectively.
The latter of which includes particularly horrifying audio from an equally horrifying and notorious video in which Comandante Diablo interrogates, cuts the tongue from - and beheads a fifteen year old Honduran Zeta in retaliation for Los Zetas butchering his entire family on camera via chainsaw.
At any rate, one sees how versatile Narco music can be as a form of communication between criminal enterprises. Whether it is in the form of traditional corridos or more modern Narco rap, each song can be specifically tailored to meet its intended objective.
Below you will find an incomplete and ever growing list of Narco music channels. All of these can be found on YouTube. Listen at your own risk, some of these songs and their attached videos or photos contain scenes of violence and other criminal behaviour.