Lao's Debut Honors Mexico City's Underground Queer Scene

Lao's Debut Honors Mexico City's Underground Queer Scene

Feb 28, 2024

For over 600 years, Chapultepec has served as Mexico City’s "lungs." As one of the largest parks in the entire country, it has a storied history going back all the way to the Aztecs. Regarded as a sacred site throughout centuries, the lush landmark has gone through many iterations, serving as a battleground, spiritual space and a retreat for royal rulers.

“I’ve been going to that park since I have memory,” says DJ-producer Lao. The park also inspired his glimmering debut album, aptly titled Chapultepec, released earlier this month. As part of electronic music label N.A.A.F.I, the artist has played a crucial part in shaping the queer underground scene in Mexico City for the past decade-and-a-half. The collective’s influence is not to be taken lightly — since starting fifteen years ago by throwing warehouse raves and parties in cantinas, the label has come to represent Mexico City’s booming underground music scene for a global audience.

At 19 tracks, Chapultepec is another piece of the puzzle that Lao and N.A.A.F.I are trying to complete with their work. The project is a mystical mosaic of thumping beats pulling from jungle, techno, reggaeton and ballroom influences, all centered around telling a fictional story surrounding the 1,700-acre park. Lao says he was inspired by stories like The Chronicles ofNarnia and Harry Potter and how older European nations are able to create fictional stories that touch on folklore and ancient mythology.

“Here in Mexico, since it’s a new country and we just got independence not that long ago, whenever you try to tell a fiction based on something that touches history, you’re immediately in a history lesson,” he tells PAPER. “For example, whenever you see a piece at the anthropology museum in Mexico, they just tell you, oh this is from this period, this and that. It’s not presented in a way that can open your mind.”

It’s fitting, then, that the N.A.A.F.I headquarters are just minutes away from Chapultepec. It seems that Lao formed a symbiotic relationship with the park, producing a sprawling sonic world to ultimately breathe new life into the vast network of trees and people. Just as N.A.A.F.I has been pushing the Mexico City music scene into the future for more than fifteen years now, Chapultepec brought a new kind of noise to the nature, one that will push the scene forward for the next fifteen years and counting.

Photography: Mexican Jihad