Heat Check: Atlanta Spanglish singer Chicocurlyhead is in his own lane

The Panamanian artist’s new EP drops on Friday.
Afro-Latin singer-songwriter Chicocurlyhead, originally from Panama and raised in Atlanta, poses for a photograph at Centennial Olympic Park on Thursday, June 13, 2024. He is set to release his new EP on June 21.
(Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Afro-Latin singer-songwriter Chicocurlyhead, originally from Panama and raised in Atlanta, poses for a photograph at Centennial Olympic Park on Thursday, June 13, 2024. He is set to release his new EP on June 21. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Welcome to Heat Check, a biweekly music column where AJC culture reporter DeAsia Paige explores the temperature of Georgia’s buzzing, expansive music scene. The column includes music news, trends and any Georgia-related music that DeAsia is listening to. If you’re a Georgia artist and have music you want to be considered for this column — or if you just want to talk music — feel free to send an email to deasia.paige@ajc.com.

By the time I met Chicocurlyhead, he’d just returned from a trip to Miami and was enjoying some much-needed time off with his partner and 4-year-old son at Centennial Olympic Park. It’s roughly a week before the release of his sophomore project, “Neverending Road Trip.” But the Afro-Latin singer and songwriter is mainly filled with gratitude about the journey it took to get here.

In fact, Centennial Olympic Park is the place he visited frequently when he started making music in high school. The artist, now 21, found the park and its diversity to be a source of inspiration because, he said, “Atlanta has so many different cultures.” Now, he wants to be just as introspective about his rise on his new project.

“I was very honest in my music this time around,” he said.

Born John Farrish in Panama, Chicocurlyhead moved to Atlanta with his mom when he was 9. He initially had dreams of being a soccer star, but while attending Forest Park High School, he stumbled upon singing after an impromptu studio session with friends. That’s when he knew he could make a career out of it.

Afro-Latin singer-songwriter Chicocurlyhead, originally from Panama and raised in Atlanta, poses for a photograph in downtown Atlanta on Thursday, June 13, 2024. He is set to release his new EP on June 21.
(Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

icon to expand image

Credit: Miguel Martinez

He dropped his first EP, “Diadreamer,” in 2022. Since then, he’s signed with Hybe Latin America and has plans to secure features with other artists, along with touring. The soul of Chicocurlyhead’s music is rooted in his affinity for blending R&B and pop in Spanish and English to create soundscapes that feel effortless. For example, “Copa de Vino,” a standout track from his forthcoming EP, is a sultry song that could easily soundtrack a first date.

In this Q&A, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke to Chicocurlyhead about his upbringing, new music and the future of his Latin sound.

Q: What head space were you in while creating this new project?

A: I had a lot of reminiscing about my whole life. … This EP was very honest about how I was feeling about things and that I’m always going to need to remember to keep going. I come from a background of playing soccer. That was my main thing. I was going to go play soccer. I wasn’t supposed to be doing music. I had scholarships and everything in school. I just chose to drop off my scholarship and just focus on music. Something was telling me that I should give this a try.

Q: What have you learned about yourself since then?

A: Music wise, I realized that I didn’t want to go for the traditional sound, especially being from Atlanta, they expect you to sound a certain way, most of the time. I didn’t want to sound like that, like a regular rap song and a regular rapper. I realized I didn’t want to do that, and that’s also truly not me because I was born somewhere else. I lived in Panama for nine years. Me just being a rapper wasn’t completely authentic to me and my sound and where I come from. That’s also not how I grew up.

Q: I think a lot of Black artists are pigeonholed into making one sound. I think that’s especially true for artists like you who come from two different cultures. Now that you’re with a label, is it hard for people to understand the direction you’re trying to go in?

A: It can be hard because you have people telling you what you should try to do. It’s a balance between what you should do and what’s also right to do for your project. Making music is a 50/50. It’s about what sounds good on you but also what looks good on you. Images matter in music and in the industry. If you keep that balance, you’ll feel really good, especially when your team is supporting you.

Q: I think it’s important that an artist like Bad Bunny can stay true to his Latin roots while being one of the biggest stars on the planet. With his success, I think things are starting to change.

 Afro-Latin singer-songwriter Chicocurlyhead, originally from Panama and raised in Atlanta, poses for a photograph at Centennial Olympic Park on Thursday, June 13, 2024. He is set to release his new EP on June 21.
(Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

icon to expand image

Credit: Miguel Martinez

A: He’s definitely changed the culture in a way, but there are a lot of Hispanic people in America. I feel like it’s still a huge gap, though. On the Latin side, we listen to English music very normally and it’s a regular thing for us, but it’s not the same the other way around. That’s a big a goal of mine — to try to make it as normal as I can.

Q: Is there a song on the EP that speaks to you more than others?

A: I think “Wasted Weekend” because it has that global pop feel. I’m a big Post Malone fan, so I’ve got to shout him out for the inspiration behind that song. He’s a very honest person in his music overall, so he inspired to me to be that honest as well.

Q: How often are you making music?

A: I’ve realized what works best is not being in the studio so often. I think the most excited I am to make music is not when I’m in the studio. I think it’s a myth in music when people say you constantly need to be in the studio to work really hard. You can be working every day in the studio, but to make quality music, you have to live your life. I made a promise to myself that I was going to go after making meaningful music that can last a generation. I’m not so much interested in the hype.

Q: I imagine being a father also helps with that. How has fatherhood influenced who you are as an artist? How challenging is that, given how young you are?

A: You start to look at life way different because it’s not just about you. When I put out music, I have to remember that there’s someone looking up to me as an example, and that matters. I’m his biggest example. … My example is honest and about more than looking cool for the media. I was 17 when I had him. It was pretty challenging, but I feel like it was great in a way. It was challenging trying to chase a dream and provide for your family, but I felt like that was even bigger motivation for me to chase my dream. I was like I’m going to finish school and go after music, and that’s what I did.

That’s why this project is also fun for me because it’s about the journey. “Keep It Pushing” [a song from the project] is his favorite song. That song is about him. It’s a reminder to myself for me to keep going.

 Afro-Latin singer-songwriter Chicocurlyhead, originally from Panama and raised in Atlanta, poses for a photograph in downtown Atlanta on Thursday, June 13, 2024. He is set to release his new EP on June 21.
(Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

icon to expand image

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Q: What else inspires you to keep going?

A: I think where I come from. In my family, no one has ever done anything close to being an artist, so this is a first-generation type of thing. You have to remember where you come from. It doesn’t matter how far I get, I’m always going to remember. That’s what my mom taught me. I remember when we were in Panama and all we had to eat one time was bread and cheese. I’ll never forget that.