Bad Bunny Is Remaking Pop in His Own Wild Image

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] As Gary Suarez (Vulture) explains, “Bad Bunny is remaking pop in his own wild image; language barriers, gender norms, the boringness of quarantine—none of it stands a chance against him.”

New musicians hustled harder in these dire COVID times than Bad Bunny: The Puerto Rican artist released three albums last year, including the first-ever Spanish-language album to top “The Billboard 200,” El Último Tour del Mundo. His rise is only surprising if you haven’t been watching closely. Since breaking into the American mainstream as a guest on Cardi B’s 2018 bilingual boogaloo, “I Like It,” Bad Bunny’s prolific energy and fashion sense have transformed him into an unconventional and unpredictable icon with an upcoming big-screen debut opposite Brad Pitt.

His Early Years

Born March 10, 1994, Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio grew up in Vega Baja, a town on Puerto Rico’s North Coast. The son of a teacher and a truck driver, he shared his parents’ love for merengue and salsa as well as for the homegrown sounds of reggaeton. He went from singing in a church choir to posting his own beats and rhymes on a SoundCloud page, drawing interest from would-be collaborators and producers hoping to connect with the then–supermarket bagger. They included Noah Assad, who became his manager and — after persuading Benito to quit his day job — made him the marquee artist of his Rimas Entertainment imprint. [. . .]

He Flouts Gender Norms

Whether sporting acrylic nails on Instagram or performing “Yo Perreo Sola” in drag, Bad Bunny stands in contrast with the machismo of reggaeton and Latin trap. He has cited wrestlers as an influence: “They have long hair, they can paint their face, but they’re strong and powerful beings.”

He Loves Wrestling

Bad Bunny is an unabashed pro-wrestling fan. In 2017, he secured “the Nature Boy” Ric Flair to hype him up (and dance) in the music video for “Chambea,” then showed up backstage at WWE’s Monday Night Raw. He shouted out Eddie Guerrero on Cardi’s “I Like It” and recently got none other than Booker T to appear in the music video for the Último Tour del Mundo song named after the wrestling icon.

He’s Political

Bad Bunny became one of the most visible celebrities to join protests demanding then–Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation in 2019. He has also used his performances to raise awareness for special causes — such as when he performed on The Tonight Show last year wearing a T-shirt decrying the murder of a transgender woman.

He’s Proud of His Heritage

Many Latin artists make songs in English in an attempt to reach bigger audiences, but Bad Bunny’s position is clear: “[It’s not that] I’m not interested in recording in English,” he has said. “It’s just that I don’t feel it.” Singing and rapping in Spanish certainly hasn’t hurt him. After appearing in Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s Super Bowl Halftime Show last year, he quipped, “I don’t know who won; Latinos won the game.” [. . .]

He Loves to Collaborate, Including With …

• Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott on the remix of “Krippy Kush,” the first Latin trap song to reach “The Hot 100.”

• Enrique Iglesias on the salacious single “El Baño” and Ricky Martin on “Cántalo.”

• Nigerian singer Mr. Eazi on “Como Un Bebé,” bridging the distant rhythmic cousins of Afrobeat and reggaeton.

• Corridos Tumbados singer Natanael Cano on a new version of “Soy El Diablo.”

• Ivy Queen, “the First Lady of Reggaeton,” whom he featured on the remix of his “Yo Perreo Sola.”

[*This article appears in the January 18, 2021, issue of New York Magazine.]

[Illustration above by Braulio Amado.]


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