Daddy Yankee Says He 'Took the Bullets' for Reggaetón: 'I Wanted to Take My Culture to the Top'

"Right now we have elevators, not stairs. And in music, you have to take the stairs to navigate the highs and the lows," Yankee told Billboard

daddy yankee
Photo: Jai Lennard

Súbele al volumen, "El Godfather" has something to say!

In Billboard's cover story interview Wednesday, Puerto Rican reggaetón icon Daddy Yankee, 45, opened up about the role he played in making the genre the mainstream, global success it is today.

"I like to say I took the bullets. I wanted people to understand my essence, where I come from, what I represent. But at the same time, I wanted to take my culture to the very top. I can't tell you there was a formula," the "Gasolina" singer told the magazine.

"I had to take the culture with me everywhere so it became permanent instead of fizzling out like other genres where artists simply promote themselves," he continued. "When I did promotion, I talked about all the artists in my album: 'This is me. But this album also features Zion & Lennox, Plan B, Ivy Queen.' I had to play their music and say, 'This is them. This is reggaetón.'"

daddy yankee
Jai Lennard

During the interview, Yankee also talked about some of the newer acts and how their rise to stardom differed from his.

"Right now we have elevators, not stairs. And in music, you have to take the stairs to navigate the highs and the lows. Most of these kids talk to me, and what I see is they can't deal with failures," he said. "They haven't gone through a process. So when they hit that hard patch, which happens to all of us, how will they work through that? This generation doesn't have the tools that are vital for longevity."

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His advice to newer artists, however, is to "go to the studio and do your best work. Music is what will speak for you and what will really connect with your audience. "

"Social media is incredible but it doesn't bring you revenue," he continued.

When asked which new acts he likes, Yankee said he's "100% pro Bad Bunny," "Ozuna is a hard worker," "[Anuel] brings the street and street swag with him," he admires "[J] Balvin's dedication," he likes "what Rauw [Alejandro] and Sech are doing," "Maluma has extraordinary branding," and he loves "what Karol [G] is doing" as well.

Yankee explained that Latin music will always play a role in American industries thanks to its varieties and flavors.

"That's why I never left Puerto Rico. I understand global music, but our roots are really important. That's our identity, and we can never lose that identity," he said. "And I don't think we've lost it. There are a lot of kids doing it, but they're flying under the radar."

daddy yankee
Jai Lennard

"That's why you see so many of us recording with them, because we recognize the importance of the culture, even if the streaming numbers are not there yet," he addd. "Right now, there are so many colors to choose from in our music. From reggaetón to trap, tropical, urban tropical, everything is working. It's just about doing it right."

Yankee is currently preparing to release his 10th studio album this fall on El Cartel Records, a label he created in 1997 — under a revamped global distribution deal with Universal Music Group — and will include his latest single "Métele Al Perreo," which was released on Sept. 3.

Yankee — who's headlining Billboard's Latin Music Week — will be inducted into the hall of fame at the 2021 Billboard Latin Music Awards on Sept. 23 — where he will also perform "Métele al Perreo" for the first time.

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