Bad Bunny Is Latin Pop’s Freaky King

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Late on the night time of December 23rd, whereas most households in Puerto Rico have been wrapping presents, cleansing home and getting ready for the following day’s Christmas Eve feast — recognized throughout Spanish-speaking international locations as Nochebuena — entice lord was plotting the shock midnight launch of his long-awaited full-length debut, X100PRE. Had it been simply at some point later, he would possibly’ve upstaged Jesus, upset his mom and been eternally generally known as the Bunny Who Stole Christmas.

But that wouldn’t have been like him: Bad Bunny is aware of simply when and how you can make an entrance. A month earlier, when he exhibits up at Las Vegas’ Palms Casino for Rolling Stone’s pre-party in November, he’s sporting a daring outfit of rainbow-flecked board shorts, flip-flops and lime-green sun shades. The Puerto Rican star, 24, towers over everybody else within the room — and proceeds to steal the dancefloor with Nineties raver strikes. “I can dance to absolutely anything,” he tells Rolling Stone in Spanish. “In Puerto Rico we dance to all the things.”

Smiling, he provides: “And a Latino who doesn’t dance? Is not a Latino!”

The subsequent night time, he steals the entire awards present with performances starting from the nü-metal fury of “Soy Peor” to the electro-psych bliss of “Estamos Bien.” This time, he graces the pink carpet carrying a full go well with and a necktie with Stone Cold Steve Austin’s face on it. One factor he doesn’t do on the Latin Grammys is win the only class he’s nominated for, which is Best Urban Song. But regardless of the Latin Recording Academy’s obvious reluctance to reward city artists with its highest accolades, Bad Bunny has achieved loads of profitable this 12 months: According to Youtube, the singer scored 7 billion views in 2018 alone. Just two days earlier than the Latin Grammys, he flew direct from Las Vegas to Miami so he might be a part of Drake for a efficiency of their hit duet “Mia” on the American Airlines Arena. (He says he’s been serving to the Canadian rapper follow his Spanish: “He is aware of sufficient to get by.”)

Since his hit 2017 mixtape, El Conejo Malo, Bad Bunny has launched many different singles to nice acclaim; this 12 months he achieved his first Number One hit with Spanglish entice single “I Like It,” co-starring “New Latino Gang”-sters Cardi B and J Balvin. He spent the latter half of 2018 been racing towards the clock to wrap up X100PRE — quick for “por siempre,” which interprets to “eternally” in Spanish.

Evoking genre-busting firebrands like Lil Uzi Vert, and fellow ‘Rican Residente, Bad Bunny’s formidable new document displays his personal visions of urbana music’s potential, veering into roads much less traveled for any Latin artist. Take the pop-punk guitar chug of “Tenemos Que Hablar”; the gothic entice of “¿Quien Tu Eres?”; or the Eighties synthwave wash of “Otra Noche en Miami.” Reggaeton’s main producer, Tainy, makes some wiggle room for American producer Diplo on “200 MPH”; Dominican dembow singer El Alfa lights up the skittish bachata-hop music “La Romana.” Then, final however not least, Puerto Rican pop royalty Ricky Martin bleeds into the boastful “Caro” with a gospel croon. (The most spectacular feat of all is how lengthy they have been capable of hold all of it below wraps.) If it wasn’t clear already, X100PRE spells it out: With songwriting that ranges from shamelessly crude to completely susceptible, Bad Bunny and his slow-burning baritone have opened the ground for a extra twisted, freakish Latin pop.

Born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio in San Juan, Bad Bunny grew up in Vega Baja, a rural city west of the capital metropolis, listening to traditional salseros like Héctor Lavoe and singing in his native church’s choir. As a teen he labored shifts on the grocery retailer, skateboarded with mates and studied audiovisual communications on the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. While he reveled in music by Daddy Yankee, Calle 13 and Linkin Park, Bad Bunny was quickly making Latin entice historical past on Soundcloud; self-produced below the enigmatic identify La Paciencia, he garnered thousands and thousands of listens together with his 2016 launch “Diles.” (“Tell them that I do know all of your favourite poses,” he harmonizes alongside fellow famous person Ozuna within the 2017 remix.)

Bad Bunny’s eclectic style is likely one of the greatest components that has powered his rise — to not point out his vogue sense, via which he’s pushed the boundaries of masculine expression within the Latin city world by pairing wrestling tees and shorts with floral patterns, hoop earrings, cat’s eye glasses and colourful manicures. Yet each infrequently, masculinity bites: This summer season, whereas on tour in Spain, Bad Bunny mentioned he was refused service at a nail salon for being a person. “What year is it? Fucking 1960?” he wrote on social media, the place he additionally posted a photograph of the offending storefront. Then, after buying and selling barbs with homophobic web trolls — together with threats to impregnate their wives — he apologized for these macho antics and deleted his Twitter. “The world can criticize me,” he tells me, “however l can at all times criticize it again. I don’t need to be faux. I’m simply being me. And I’ve the facility to interrupt stereotypes and no matter ineffective guidelines that society places on us.”

By the tip of the 12 months, he was again on social media. Don’t you ever say child to me once more, he tweeted cryptically in December. it turned out to be a line from “Solo de Mí,” his newest single off X100PRE. “Solo de Mí” is a ballad written from the attitude of somebody reclaiming their sense of self within the aftermath an abusive relationship. “I’m not yours, or anybody’s,” he sings somberly, “I’m mine alone.” (It’s exhausting to not discover the distinction with the possessive streak that runs via “Mia.”) The music video casts a highlight on a younger girl, amassing bruises and bloody gashes on her face as she lip-syncs to Bad Bunny’s vocals, then closes with Bad Bunny whisking the girl away to a membership, the place they fortunately dance the night time away.

The video arrived nearly a month after feminist activists occupied Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s mansion in San Juan, urgent the governor to declare a state of emergency relating to the 41 girls murdered this 12 months in Puerto Rico — greater than half of whom have been killed by intimate companions. On the third day of the occupation, protesters were reportedly beaten and pepper-sprayed by the police. “I’m undecided if cockfighting is abuse,” Bad Bunny wrote on Instagram. “But gender violence towards girls and the absurd quantity of ladies who’re murdered a month IS. When are we going to prioritize what actually issues?” He adopted up with a slogan nicely value a banner drop from the balcony of Capitol Hill: “Menos violencia, más perreo!” (“Less violence, extra soiled dancing!” He additionally included a stipulation: “Only if she desires to. If not, depart her the fuck alone!”)

Bad Bunny Is Latin Pop’s Freaky King

Bad Bunny performs on the Latin Grammy Awards on the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

When requested what compels him to handle such points, he describes songwriting as an train in venturing past the island of his personal feelings. (He additionally says he first devised “Solo de Mí” whereas within the bathe.) “When I write, it’s like selecting which sneakers I’m going to placed on,” he says. “More typically than not, my lyrics are private — however I generally should put myself in different folks’s sneakers. How does this individual really feel? What would they need to say? At the tip of the day, music is for the folks. I at all times consider different folks after I write my songs.”

Bad Bunny comes throughout as honest when he describes his music as, partially, a automobile for public service. This previous September, when he made his U.S. television debut on The Tonight Show, he pulled a powerful stunt by opening his music “Estamos Bien” with a sobering plea for assistance on behalf of Puerto Rico. “After one 12 months of [Hurricane Maria], there are nonetheless folks with out electrical energy of their houses,” he mentioned, uncharacteristically talking in English. “More than three,000 folks died and Trump’s nonetheless in denial.”

Although he’s spent the higher a part of the previous 12 months jet-setting on his La Nueva Religión tour, Bad Bunny tells me that his personal mother and father went with out energy for months after the storm — which is why he made private journeys between tour dates to ship water, meals, and large sums of cash via jet ski to his coastal hometown. “Praise god, they’re all high-quality and blissful now,” he says of his household. “But many individuals nonetheless don’t have primary requirements. I believe it’s essential as an artist to always remember the place you’re from. If I’ve a platform and a voice, I ought to use it for my folks.”