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Growing up in Hawthorne, CA, a locale eminently known for producing more than its share of musical notables, it was perhaps destined that Cuco would come to represent for his city, emerging as one of the most visionary artists of his generation. His cognizance of that hallowed tradition, one inclusive of hardcore punk and Mexican acts he admires as well as some even bigger stars, helped set the artist born as Omar Banos on a creative path, with the nurturing support of his immigrant parents. “They've always pushed me to do music,” he says. “But when it came to thinking like, oh, I can make it with the music, it was pretty hard for them.” To that end, he cites his maternal grandfather as particularly encouraging of his musical pursuits, not just to him but to his family as Cuco sought to turn that passion into a vocation.
From a fairly early stage, his songs seemed to connect with audiences online, his earnest bedroom pop aesthetic and evident talent resonating for obvious reasons. Home-recorded and shared via services like Bandcamp and SoundCloud, self-released projects like 2016’s Wannabewithu and 2018’s Chiquito EP mixed relatable and catchy works in English and Spanish, endearing Cuco to other first-generation Latin Americans and young fans of indie singer-songwriters. Untethered to genre constraints, he experimented with styles and sounds, incorporating mariachi and R&B, psychedelia and rap, as well as other forms into his diverse palette as he sought fit. Much to his delight, the play counts on his tracks went from the thousands into the hundreds of thousands, prompting him to bring his music into the live setting more and more often, playing to growing crowds on tour and in festival settings. “It'll always be surreal to me,” he says. “I never take it for granted if I see so many people at one show, you know, I don't know the next day that I'm gonna see that again; it's always appreciated.”
With the release of 2019’s formidable and unique Para Mí, his full-length debut since signing with Interscope, Cuco’s exponential growth and development as an artist became undeniable. Aided by producer Jonathan Rado (Foxygen, The Killers), he seized upon the opportunity to develop and release a work that reflects his ambitiousness, his innate wit, and a genuine need to express himself via this medium. From the woozy psych pop of “Hydrocodone” and “Keeping Tabs,” to the luminescent trap vibes of “Bossa No Sé,” the boundlessness of his songcraft is on full display. “I'm a pretty fluent artist when it comes to working on different things,” he says. “A lot of my fans receive that pretty well, because they’re already into the energy.” Indeed, he can emote with the best of balladeers, as evidenced by “Far Away From Home,” yet still credibly convey a kind of charmingly clumsy love on the playful “Best Friend.”
Emboldened by the Para Míexperience and fan reception, Cuco continues to push himself while challenging people’s notions of what he sounds like. A tireless creator, with new material dropping throughout 2021, he stays proving himself as a youthful maestro of indie, seemingly leveling up with each release. Take the single “Paradise,” for instance, its heady and heartfelt yet infectiously radio-ready hip-hop cozying up to the zeitgeist while optimized for repeat listens. Sonically contrasting with that, though undeniably integral to his distinctly uncommon musical style, the blossoming “Forevermore” elevates his already well-demonstrated commitment to the gentle art of psychedelic folk with its lyrical musings and shuffling pace.
And though his sound may diverge or mutate from song to song, Cuco remains an intriguing artist in a world too often marked by conformity. Self-aware on top of it all, he deeply appreciates that his fans seem eager to join him on this journey. “It's kind of dope seeing people actually care about me as an individual,” he says.