Carina Chocano (GQ) writes about Bad Bunny’s trajectory and mindset. She says, “In the six years since he quit his job bagging groceries, Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio has become one of the most streamed artists alive, a professional wrestling champion, a whole new kind of cliché-shattering sex symbol–and next, a Marvel leading man.” The singer-songwriter also graces the cover of the June/July 2022 issue of GQ. Here are excerpts; for full article, photo gallery and video, go to GQ.
Bad Bunny is in a good place. Fresh off a long-delayed 25-city tour for his third solo album, the most streamed artist of 2021 on Spotify is comfortably ensconced in a waterfront house in North Miami, just across Biscayne Bay from flashier Miami Beach, finishing his latest record. Built out of shipping containers arranged around a patio that looks onto a pool and a dock, this temporary residence is teeming with friends who are also collaborators—his creative director, his photographer, his producer, his jack-of-all-trades. The sliding glass doors are open, but the breeze barely cuts through the humidity and the heat. A chef is at work in the open kitchen, filling the room with the aroma of pork and onions, and a spring break vibe hangs in the air. Someone has set a beautiful table for a crowd.
The mood is so mellow that you could almost forget that the person who shows up a few minutes after everyone else, fresh from the gym, is a global phenomenon whose genre-bending songs, convention-flouting lyrics, and gender-fluid looks have, over the past six years, changed the face of pop music. An urbano Latin trap singer who has defied every expectation about what a rapper and trap artist should look like, and what a reggaeton singer should sing about—upsetting some people but inspiring many more.
“I think he’s the biggest star in the whole world right now,” Diplo, who appeared on Bad Bunny’s 2018 debut album and will join him on his stadium tour this summer, tells me over the phone. “Bigger than any English-speaking star, bigger than, of course, the biggest Latin star. He’s the most massive, most progressive, most important pop star in the world.” Bad Bunny’s frequent collaborator J Balvin concurs. “He’s a creative genius,” he says, someone who “takes us out of the stereotypes and shows the real, new way that we see the world as Latinos.”
Bad Bunny, whose real name is Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, is here with his girlfriend, 28-year-old jewelry designer Gabriela Berlingeri, and their three-month-old Beagle puppy, Sansa. Dressed in a pair of royal blue Bravest Studios L.A. shorts, neon green slides, a black Balenciaga T-shirt with bébé bedazzled across the chest in rhinestones, and a tan bucket hat with the string hanging loose around his chin, Benito, also 28, is carrying a stack of coffee table books on interior design, which he neatly arranges on a side table next to the sofa. There’s a gold ring in his septum, a necklace of small diamond hearts around his neck, small gold hoops with diamond charms in both of his ears. His nails, a modest length, are painted ballerina pink.
[. . .] The idea that America is about more than just the United States is something he’s been thinking a lot about—something, in fact, that governs his entire approach to global stardom. Specifically, it reminds him of “This Is Not America,” a recent song by his friend René Pérez Joglar, the Puerto Rican rapper better known as Residente, who helped awaken Benito’s political consciousness when in January 2019 they paid an early morning visit to then governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló to discuss the island’s violent crime, and later joined protests that ultimately resulted in his resignation. Inspired by Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” Residente offers a searing critique of U.S. imperialism and violence in Latin America. “Ever since I heard that song, I’ve loved it,” Benito says. “It gave me the chills. We were drinking, and suddenly René played that song. Cabrón, my eyes welled up. My hair stood on end. I don’t know if it was because I was a little drunk, or what. But the song is very good.”
Released on May 6, Benito’s latest record, Un Verano Sin Ti (A Summer Without You), is less political, but his sensibility remains as proudly Latin as ever; a large portion of the album was recorded at a house in the Dominican Republic. [. . .]
And he’s certainly continuing to soar ever higher. Later in April he was tapped to star as El Muerto, the Spider-Man antagonist and superpowered wrestler who is the first Latin Marvel character to get a standalone live-action film—the latest chapter in a burgeoning acting career. [. . .]
Benito hasn’t changed, though—not according to the people who know him. [. . .] His Boricua pride, for one, remains as strong as ever. So does his commitment to singing in Spanish. Back in the day, for a Spanish-speaking recording artist to break into the mainstream American market, they had to sing in English—Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Ricky Martin. That idea has crumbled thanks in part to people like Benito. “It’s like that curtain fell,” he says. “Everyone is in the same league, on the same court. I’ve said that from the beginning.”
Social media has allowed him to present himself on his own terms—defiantly Puerto Rican, playfully gender–neutral, and politically outspoken. “I was never on a mission to be like, Oh, this is what I’m going to do,” he says about conquering the global pop market. “It happened organically. Like, I’ve never made a song saying, ‘This is going to go worldwide.’ I never made a song thinking, Man, this is for the world. This is to capture the gringo audience. Never. On the contrary, I make songs as if only Puerto Ricans were going to listen to them. I still think I’m there making music, and it’s for Puerto Ricans. I forget the entire world listens to me.” [. . .]
For full article, photo gallery and video, see https://www.gq.com/story/bad-bunny-june-cover-profile#:~:text=In%20the%20six%20years%20since,next%2C%20a%20Marvel%20leading%20man.
[Photography by Roe Ethridge.]