"In 2016 I was working in a supermarket". Today, at 26 years old, he breaks records in the music industry of the era of reproductions and networks. He emerged as a figure in the trap and is now a global pop idol. He cannot play instruments. Nor read sheet music. But the world dances at his feet.
An old and out of tune piano sleeps in a corner of the large warehouse converted into a photographic studio. Bad Bunny arrives just 10 minutes late for the appointment in East Los Angeles, courtesy of a city without traffic, the work, and the grace of the pandemic. He says hello in the distance, he stares at the thing and I caress the keys to see if it fits into the cloth.
Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio (Puerto Rico, 1994), alias Bad Bunny, that is, Bad Bunny, worked in 2016 bagging the purchase of customers from a supermarket in Vega Baja, a city half an hour from San Juan. In 2017 he had already jumped onto the international scene and today, at the age of 26, he has broken several records of the music industry of this century. He is the # 1 global artist of 2020 on Spotify, with over 8.3 billion views. He has won the Latin album of the year award for YHLQMDLG (an acronym for I do what I want) at the American Music Awards, and the album he just took out of the oven, El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo, has made history as the first work entirely in Spanish that debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart.
Bad Bunny dances tap on the musical frontiers: he came to the market singing trap, a subgenre of rap, but in his cocktail shaker he mixes reggaeton rhythms from his land with hints of pop ballads, bachata, and rock. He has defied the laws of the industry, launching a brilliant career without the protection of any great music label behind and singing only in his native language.
And he confronts the prejudices against urban latin music without giving an inch to lewdness or profanity, vehicles he uses to tell neighborhood stories, sometimes melancholic, suddenly filled with messages that vindicate women or that protest corruption of Puerto Rico.
He is a fine sensor of his time, he takes the reggaeton he has sucked since he was a child, shakes it together with the sensibilities of his generation, and obtains a new concoction. All with staging reminiscent of the extravagance of the Lady Gaga of yesteryear or the provocative ambiguity of Prince. The same is wearing a skirt that paints her nails or appears with impossible glasses. When the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers awarded him the 2020 Latin Composer Award this year, criticism raged. But the Bad Bunny phenomenon is a steamroller. He has 29 million followers on Instagram and 30.5 million subscribers on his YouTube channel. One of his latest video clips, Dákiti, surpassed 350 million views in a month and a half.
He doesn't play any instrument, he can't read the notes, and he doesn't need to. Everything has been so fast that sometimes you forget that you are rich and find yourself thinking that you should go to the supermarket. Others want to shut themselves up in their world and not hear from anyone. Most of the time he enjoys it.
"Some days it is difficult," he replies smiling, "but I haven't had time to go crazy." “I have recently been 100% clear in my head what I have achieved, perhaps a year or six months ago; But until then, many times I forgot, I felt like I was the kid from the supermarket. Something happened and he said: "Hell!" And then: "Ah, no, wait, if I have here ...", he says, pointing to his pocket, the place of the wallet.
He grew up in a middle-class home, with a mother, an English teacher, who made punctuality a matter of State, and with a father, a truck driver, who grabbed for his unused sneakers and, to his despair, gave them to other boys in the neighborhood. He studied Communication for a couple of years at the University of Puerto Rico and dropped out. In the Vega Baja store, he entertained himself by analyzing the clientele. Poor families and wealthy families, ladies, kids passed through the business. There an idea was formed of how different people could be, also how similar. Then he would run to sketch his first songs on the computer. At neighborhood garage parties, she put them to the test with her childish, nasal voice.
The snowball started rolling on Instagram, on SoundCloud, on YouTube. DJ Luian listened to him and asked him to launch outside of Puerto Rico under the independent label Hear This Music. At the end of 2016, I am worse was released, a slow trap song and madness broke out. The new Latin rap star had just been born.
Today the world presents him as a pop artist. Has pop already swallowed reggaeton and trap? Have you swallowed him? "Yes, definitely. Pop is popular, mainstream, so trap now ... And I'm not just talking about Latin trap, I'm talking about trap-hip hop from here in the United States. Song number one is from a ragman. And as for the urban reggaeton genre, you have to be from Puerto Rico or a fan of the genre to distinguish a reggaeton from Thalía. Everyone already includes reggaeton rhythm in their songs ”.