Kevin Fret, the first openly gay Latin trap artist, was shot and killed while riding a motorcycle in the early morning hours on Thursday in San Juan, according to the New York Times. Police say Fret was shot in the hip and the head around 5:30 am, and was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Fret’s manager confirmed his death in a statement to Billboard:
“Kevin was an artistic soul, a big-hearted dreamer. His passion was music, and still had a lot to do. This violence must stop. There are no words that describe the feeling we have and the pain that causes us to know that a person with so many dreams has to go. We must all unite in these difficult times, and ask for much peace for our beloved Puerto Rico.”
Fret was openly gay and dropped his debut single “Soy Asi” (roughly translated: “That’s the Way I Am”) in April 2018. Around that time, he told reggaeton blog Rapetón in an interview that he believed being gay was a choice he made at a young age. Later, Paper reported that Fret clarified his statement, saying it reflects “how he feels specifically, and acknowledges that most LGBTQIA people disagree.” Fret also spoke to Paper about his place a role model within the Latin trap genre:
“I’m a person that doesn’t care what anybody has to say,” he stresses. “[Now I see] young gay guys or young lesbians that are looking at me now like a role model, like wow, if he did it, and he don’t care what anybody else has to say, I can do it.”
It is still unknown if Fret’s death will be considered a hate crime, but the homophobia and machismo that pervades Latin trap undeniably affected his career—as it has to other young artists who buck gender norms, including Bad Bunny, who has received homophobic threats and raised eyebrows in Puerto Rico for doing things like painting his nails and wearing shorts above the knee. Fret had spoken out about reportedly having been the subject of homophobic lyrics written by another Puerto Rican trapero, Anuel AA. The Times also reports that Fret, who moved to Miami, had been charged with battery after getting into a fight; Fret said he was attacked while laying out in his bathing suit, and that the man who attacked him first said he did it because his son was nearby.
This sort of violence is just another example of what queer people face every day despite the outward progress made in many Latinx communities, and speaks to the challenges of being openly gay in an openly homophobic environment.