Reggaeton Artist of the Month for April 2022
Bad Bunny is a chart-topping Puerto Rican singer, rapper, and producer based in San Juan who has become a dominant voice in Latin trap and a general trendsetter for música urbana since arriving on the scene in 2016. What’s most remarkable is that he achieved this popular status before he ever released an album. In 2018 alone, he appeared on or released four Top 100 singles (of over a dozen released), including Cardi B’s number one “I Like It” (also featuring J Balvin). Since issuing his own debut single in 2016, dozens of his singles and videos have appeared on an array of charts, ranging from Latin pop and reggaeton to dance and hip-hop lists. His 2018 debut album, x100pre, hit the top spot on the Latin albums chart within a week of release. Bad Bunny’s sweeping commercial appeal lies in his chameleon-like approach: he melds Latin soul, pop, and R&B, hard-hitting trap beats, and reggaeton with a slippery delivery that revels in allowing emotions to color his songs; they range from humor and pathos to heartbreak and anger (sometimes in the same song). He is one of the top collaborators in the música urbana movement. Because of his association with DJ Luian, Bad Bunny guested with a slew of top-name LatinX artists.
Born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio in 1994, he began singing at five and always took it seriously. His biggest influences were Héctor Lavoe, Vico C, Daddy Yankee, and Marc Anthony. He studied audiovisual communication at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo and worked as a bagger at a grocery store while making his own music by night and posting it to SoundCloud. In particular, Bad Bunny’s song “Diles” caught the ear of DJ Luian, who signed him to his Hear This Music label in 2016. His breakthrough single, “Soy Peor,” issued in December of 2016, peaked at 22 on the Hot Latin Songs chart, and established his trap-heavy sound with the masses. Its video rang up more than 650 million views. Appearances with Ñengo Flow, Arcangel, and Ozuna soon followed, and in early 2017 he kicked off an especially prolific run with the singles “Pa Ti,” “Loco Pero Millonario,” and “Dime Si Vas a Volver,” amid numerous collaborative tracks with Poeta Callejero, Farruko, Brytiago, Almighty, and others. In late 2017, Bunny, J Balvin, and Prince Royce scored a hit with the collaboration “Sensualidad.” The singles kept coming in 2018 as he notched another Latin hit with the solo track “Amorfoda” and collaborated again with J Balvin and American rapper Cardi B on her single “I Like It,” which topped Billboard’s Hot 100 in the summer of that year. On Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) of 2018, the most important day in the LatinX year, Bad Bunny issued his debut long-player, x100pre, to universal acclaim. The set was co-produced by reggaeton legend Tainy and La Paciencia (Roberto Rosado), with the exception of the club jam “200 MPH,” which was helmed by Diplo. Its songs ranged from the pop-punk of “Tenemos Que Hablar” to reggaeton ballads including “Solo de Mí” and “Si Estuviésemos Juntos” to tense hip-hop on “Caro.” It entered the Top Latin Albums chart at number one in early 2019, and in January peaked at number 12 on the Top 200.
In June, Oasis, the long-teased full-length collaboration between Bad Bunny and J Balvin, arrived. Utilizing a cast of producers who included Sky, Tainy, Legendury Beatz, Marciano Cantero, and Nicael Arroyo, the album peaked at number nine on the Top 200. At that year’s Latin Grammys, Bad Bunny took home the award for x100pre as Best Urban Album. He surprised fans once more with the unexpected release of his sophomore full-length YHLQMDLG (“Yo hago lo que me da la gana”: “I do whatever I want”) at the end of February in 2020. Alternately produced by Subelo NEO and Tainy, the set featured collaborations with Daddy Yankee, Yaviah, Ñengo Flow, Anuel AA, and Jowell y Randy. It entered the Top 200 at number two, becoming the debut appearance of an album by a Latin artist. It also hit the top spot at Top Latin Albums. Issued on cassette and digitally, the first pressing of the former sold out in two days. Later that year Bunny issued his first compilation, Las Que No Iban a Salir. Comprised of unreleased tracks from the x100pre and YHLQMDLG sessions, as well as new cuts including the single “En Casita,” the collection included appearances by Zion & Lennox, Yandel, Don Omar, Nicky Jam, and Jhay Cortez.
On Black Friday, Bad Bunny continued his habit of issuing albums without prior announcement. El Último Tour del Mundo, with its garish, semi-truck cover photo, offered a side of the urbano we hadn’t seen before. In addition to trap and reggaeton, Bunny’s songs acknowledged his love of indie rock with production and musical nods to the Cure, Radiohead, and the Police. The Tainy-produced “La Noche de Anoche,” featuring Rosalía, was, uncharacteristically, one of only three collaborations on the album. The others included “Sorry Papi” (featuring Abra, it was also produced by Tainy) and “Dákiti,” featuring Jhay Cortez. Two weeks after release, the Grammy-nominated set peaked in the number one spot on the Top 200.