How Elliott Muscat and Gian Rivera’s Upbringings Influence Their Visual Narratives in Reggaeton
In PART I, you learned how artists Elliott Muscat and Gian Rivera are creating a visual and aesthetic shift in reggaeton with their music videos. Now it’s time to understand what influenced them as people and artists to generate this visual shift unconsciously.
You might be wondering why both Muscat and Rivera have such clear intentions with their art as visual narratives that explore the human condition and empower others. It all comes down to their upbringing and the values instilled in them at a young age.
Muscat was born and raised in Canada. Rivera was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Both visionaries come from families whose parents constantly encouraged them to follow their dreams and always pursue what they love. Both come from families where their parents divorced at a young age, and because of that, they spent more time with their mothers, women who play an essential role in who they are as integral people.
Women’s Influence In Their Lives
“My mom has a massive impact on my own life, specifically on my art. She’s always taught me to leave the world a better place than how I found it,” Muscat said. “I think a lot about my mom when I’m creating work. I always imagine how she would feel if I showed it to her. If I feel if she wouldn’t get it or if she would feel it wouldn’t have a positive impact on anyone, then I just don’t even bother making it.”
Elliott Muscat as a child and his mother, Sandra Muscat. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat; Baby Elliott Muscat with his father, Joseph Muscat. Courtesy of Elliott Muscat.
Given this very close relationship with his mother, Muscat always considers her opinion for whatever project he’s working on. For Rivera, it’s a very similar experience. After his parents divorced when he was 14, he moved in with his mother and older sister until he moved out for college at 20. He says his mother and sister strongly impacted his childhood.
“Everything comes from there. It comes from just seeing what they [women] go through. It comes from seeing what my girlfriend has gone through with other people,” Rivera said. “The way in which they’re treated simply for being women because there’s no other explanation. It’s simply for being a women. Seeing what they’ve lived through changes the way in which you decide to live [life] as a man. Seeing the machismo firsthand, in general, makes you change and unlearn certain behaviors you’re instilled with since childhood.”
What Does It Mean To Be A Man?
Reflecting on machismo, defined as “a strong sense of masculine pride and exaggerated masculinity,” is something Rivera introspectively ponders. Reggaeton is a music genre that historically has relied on perpetuating machismo because it is a normalized behavior in Latin America, but Rivera strays away from artistically reproducing toxic masculinity.
“As bad as it sounds, machismo in Latin American culture is the norm. That is why I say that it’s very necessary to unlearn [behaviors] because you grow up thinking that it is the norm. The way in which you speak to women. The way in which you think about a woman. The way in which you simply share time with your friends,” Rivera said. “I feel that the Latin American man is born with a certain systemic machismo in their brains.”
Rivera contemplates what it means to be a man, which he claims he doesn't know how to define or what it means. His meditations upon defining identity are very present in how he tells visual stories and why he relies heavily on his girlfriend's opinions when creating his art. She's a significant woman in his life and a strong creative force that lends him a different perspective.
“I take the opinion of a woman very seriously. In this case, it’s the opinion of my girlfriend. It’s an opinion from a third person. It’s an opinion from another gender, which comes from a totally different culture,” Rivera said. “Whenever she gave me the green light, I felt good. I felt cool because I’m not making visuals only for men. A woman’s opinion on a creative level is very, very important.”
The Yin and Yang: Women and Men
The importance of a woman’s opinion in the creative space for both Rivera and Muscat boils down to how they perceive women and their impact on their art. For Rivera, it comes from a place where, five years ago, he adopted a life philosophy of seeing everyone as people and human beings. It’s about a healthy mentality of understanding that everyone has feelings, suffers, and cries. For Muscat, it’s about understanding men and women as energy, as a yin and yang.
“We’re just stronger together. When we’re in unison, harmony, and we’re [there] for each other, connecting, working together, listening to each other, and creating together, that’s when the yin and yang come together,” Muscat said. “That’s where beauty is. There’s no difference between men and women except just our energy. All people are equal and powerful, but if we’re talking about women, they do have a completely different energy than men. It’s all about connecting together. We all need each other."
Connecting With Their Feelings And Emotions
Their visions of what it means to be a man and what a woman means to them tie closely to their personal experiences on how they feel their emotions and how those feelings end up portrayed in their art. It’s all about feelings and sensibility.
“My mom raised me and encouraged me to be sensitive. She encouraged me to be in touch with my feelings. She always asked me how I was feeling. I was raised to be this way. My art is just a reflection of my own personality,” Muscat said. “I am always trying to work on myself and have conversations about this. I do a lot of therapy and a lot of personal work to get more of an understanding of myself and the world. That, in turn, just comes through my art.”
For Rivera, it’s also about connecting with himself and his feelings. He describes himself as sensitive, someone who cries and experiences anxiety and depression.
“I’m a very anxious person, and I’m also a person who goes through depressive moments. I consider myself as a person that’s very aware of my emotions. When I’m sad, I know why I’m feeling sad. When I’m going through a very strong moment of depression or anxiety, I know what things provoke that,” Rivera said. “I’m very aware of what I feel and how I feel it. I’m a very, very sentimental person. So, I think that helps. It’s very important to know or experience those emotions for you to know how to project them [in your art].”
The shift in reggaeton’s visuals and aesthetics through new sensibilities is all about feelings, authenticity, and creating new narratives for Muscat and Rivera. It’s also about the strong women who play a vital role in their development as integral human beings.
“So much time with my family, gave me this sensibility of placing everyone in an even plain field. We’re all humans. We’re all people. I believe [our] upbringing has a lot to do with where we’re at now,” Rivera said. “Our mothers, the divorce, unlearning masculine things you grew up believing from your childhood. All of that plays a huge role in why in 2023 we’re making visuals that are a bit different from what was done before.”
©ArtRKL™️ LLC 2021-2023. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. ArtRKL™️ and its underscore design indicate trademarks of ArtRKL™️ LLC and its subsidiaries.