Bad Bunny’s Recent Attention to Puerto Rican Politics


“Bad Bunny’s recent attention to Puerto Rican politics is the sign of an artistic evolution,” writes Frances Solá-Santiago (Remezcla) about the Puerto Rican rapper. Here are excerpts:

By the time Bad Bunny became the poster boy of the Latin trap scene, it was clear he was no ordinary rapper. Consider the above-the-knee shorts he wore in the “Tu No Vive Así” video; in 2017, he told Remezcla that he fought his team over the stylistic choice because they were sure he’d raise eyebrows in the entire urbano community. It was a minute detail at a time when he was just a budding SoundCloud trapero, but it set the stage for the kinds of statements we’d see the 24-year-old rapper make in 2018.

For some time now, this has been Bad Bunny’s modus operandi – to make a statement. In 2018, the Puerto Rican trapero doubled down on that approach, taking a deeper dive into the role that identity, culture, and gender politics can have in Latin trap.

[. . .] But challenging gender norms in a world that upholds stereotypes about male sexuality is a little more complicated. As Noisey’s Mariana Viera wrote in October, “El Conejo Malo’s success is a signal that the politics of Latinx culture are changing and becoming more inclusive. Still, he occupies a delicate space. His embrace of femininity is conditionally accepted by the mainstream — the condition being that he emphatically prove his straightness, and that he do so as often as possible.” While Bad Bunny isn’t afraid to dabble in feminine aesthetics, he still must conform to certain expectations about his heterosexuality, whether it’s on social media or in his lyrics. And the fact that he paints his nails doesn’t change the reality that queer urbano artists still face prejudice and significant barriers to entry in the music industry.

[. . .] In October, Bad Bunny saw himself in the spotlight on this divided island, when a teacher penned an open letter on Facebook, writing off the rapper as a bad influence. “It’s frustrating to not be able to sleep because when I try to build up minds, you destroy them,” read the post.

Benito, in turn, responded with a risky move – a three-page open letter on Instagram, which has since been deleted, that criticized the Rosselló administration for school closures and proclaimed that he’s just a young chamaco from the barrio, not a government official responsible for educating Puerto Rico’s youth. It’s hard to know if El Conejo won over the half of Puerto Ricans who think of him more as a threat than a success story, but Bad Bunny seems not to care; instead, he turned to music to address social issues back home.

He tackles these problems once again on the track “Ser Bichote” from X100PRE.  The song is a raw portrait of life as a young Puerto Rican, vulnerable to the temptations of money and drugs on an island where the Rosselló administration has closed more than 100 schools. “Chorro ‘e hijo ‘e putas, resuelvan sus asuntos/Se cierran escuelas mientras se abren puntos,” spits El Conejo, asking Puerto Rican politicians to address the island’s drug problem as schools continue to close. Benito is familiar with these issues because he confronted them in Vega Baja, but Rosselló – the son of a former governor and a private school graduate – might never understand.

[. . .] We may have seen this side of Bad Bunny for the first time back in 2017, when, after struggling to communicate with his family in the aftermath of Hurricane María, he posted a freestyle rap to honor Puerto Rico. He did so again when he took the stage at the Somos Una Voz concert the same year, wearing a T-shirt denouncing Trump’s tweets against the Puerto Rican government and the President’s disdain for Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. He continued shedding light on the devastation of María in his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, highlighting the year-long blackout in Puerto Rico, the death of more than 3,000 people, and the infuriating negligence on the part of both local and federal governments. As his profile grew, El Conejo continued to pen lyrics with niche, Puerto Rican references, even naming X100PRE‘s “RLNDT” after Rolandito Salas Jusino, an infamous 1999 missing person that shaped the lives of Boricua millennials, who grew up with the constant threat of getting lost or kidnapped. And he ended 2018 with the launch of the Good Bunny Foundation, donating Christmas toys to over 30,000 kids in Puerto Rico. [. . .]

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