How a Spotify podcast succeeded in reggaeton history

When Daddy Yankee showed up at a Montebello gas station to promote his contagious hit “Gasolina,” the Puerto Rican record star drew so many fans he couldn’t get out of the limo. That’s when local music publicist Ximena Acosta was struck: reggaeton was here to stay.

” I’ll never forget. I had a strand of hair pulled out, it was so bad, ”recalls Acosta in the newsworthy Spotify podcast“Loud: The history of reggaeton. “We tried to get him out of the limo a few times, and we just couldn’t. And I had this feeling in my stomach of, ‘Oh, my god, this is gigantic.’ “

It was the mid-2000s, and Daddy Yankee, who had never been to Los Angeles, was releasing his 2004 album “Barrio Fino”. “Is he playing for the Yankees?” Acosta remembers a local TV station asking him in response to his pitch.

But the streets of Los Angeles were well aware of Daddy Yankee and the sound of reggaeton, which detractors at the time called a passing fad. After Daddy Yankee was dragged through East LA until he pulled up to a taqueria, Acosta in the podcast recalls turning on the radio for a new soundscape. “Power 106 was playing Don Omar, Super Estrella was playing Daddy Yankee, KIIS FM was playing Ivy Queen, and I was like …” It’s here to stay. “It was going to completely, completely change the landscape of music.

When reggaeton star Daddy Yankee was promoting his 2004 album, some called reggaeton fashion. But in 2008, even Republican presidential candidate John McCain – seen here with the Puerto Rican artist at a campaign event at a high school in Phoenix – knew the importance of appealing to reggaeton fans.

(Getty Images)

It’s a thrilling memory amidst a deeply sought after production by Spotify Originals and Futuro Studios. “Loud”, which comes out this week with its 10th and final episode, arguably set a new standard in historical cultural podcasts focused on Latin music, following last year’s WBUR hit “Anything for Selena”. He also innovates in his use of Spanish and Spanish as the show’s de facto lingua, and in his inspired choice of the original reggaeton. Queen of ivy as its host.

The podcast traces the journey of this amalgamation of musical influences direct from Jamaica, Panama, New York, Puerto Rico, where it has exploded, and now to Colombia and around the world.

A listener can hear Ivy Queen, a strong female leader in a male-dominated subculture, barely containing her wonder at the global acceptance of the genre that was once the subject of censorship, police repression and political persecution. . Everything is detailed in the series.

“I still remember the first time I got paid to rap, it was around $ 500, y yo thought that quinientos pesos era one millions of dollars, you know! Ivy Queen is remembered in the 10th episode.

Tantas cosas han pasado, so much has happened. And check out reggaeton now! said the host. “It kind of makes me wonder, what has reggaeton given to the world? What is our heritage?

Well, the 2017 reggaeton remix of Luis Fonsi’s track “Despacito”, starring Daddy Yankee and written by Erika Ender, has become the most watched video in YouTube history and has recorded over 7.5 billion. readings. Today, Bad Bunny does commercials for McDonalds and Cheetos, and was the most streamed artist on Spotify in 2020.

Puerto Rican singer Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, stage name Bad Bunny.

Bad Bunny was the most streamed artist on Spotify in 2020.

(Chris Walker / For the Times)

Listening to “Loud” I was struck by the realization that one of the ugliest footnotes in reggaeton history is that many of the people who are now swooning at its reach probably didn’t like it. not when they first heard it.

To many ears in the early 2000s, reggaeton sounded somewhat crass or vulgar. The lyrics certainly weren’t safe for the job, and artists who were club favorites were often seen as linked to drug trafficking or openly objectifying women. A lot of people I have otherwise shared many cultural references with laughed at or just said they hated it.

Not surprisingly, institutional respect was difficult to achieve. Even today, artists complain that the Latin Recording Academy places reggaeton in its “urban” categories, using what many see as a term of exclusion and segregation. Latin Grammy wins in major categories have been rare for reggaeton stars. This year, artist J Balvin calls for a boycott of the awards, two years after he and Daddy Yankee missed the 2019 ceremony following a social media campaign with the phrase “Without reggaeton , there are no Latin Grammys “.

“These gatekeepers of what real music is, whether in journalism or in cultural institutions, have had many objections,” including the claim that reggaeton’s style of performance was unqualified of “song,” says Raquel Z. Rivera, one of the early writers. on reggaeton. “It was an aesthetically conservative argument. People dance to it and you refuse to call it music?

“Then to top it off,” she adds, “there was the prejudice people still have towards musical genres if they are produced by young black people from low-income communities.”

I loved reggaeton from the second I first heard it. He had an aggressive, very Latin baseline and somehow the music always sounded noticeably better played, yes, strong, via the FM radio or via the subwoofers. It made me want to dance. What not to like?

When reggaeton really started to take hold locally, the city had already grown into a mostly young, brown metropolis. In that sense, it sounded like popular music intended primarily for young urban immigrants, as opposed, for example, to middle-class rockers from outlying towns, whose tastes have long defined the boundaries of popular youth culture.

The once total dominance of Mexican regional genres in Los Angeles now had a formidable competitor for the attention of young people.

And at first, it was everywhere. Literally every car stuck in the lanes around me in South or East LA, or passing the other way, was loudly playing Tego Calderon or Ivy Queen, the queen of sonido urbano. On Broadway or Central Avenue, floods of two-tone flyers announcing performances in immigrant dance halls cluttered all the available space on the light poles.

In 2005, station 96.3-FM switched to a full-time Latin urban format, giving reggaeton a permanent home on the airwaves of LA that remains a leader to this day in a robust local market.

Ivy Queen on stage in 2015

Ivy Queen on stage at the Latino Grand Slam Party at Marlins Park in Miami on December 5, 2015.

(Rodrigo Varela / Getty Images)

The Ivy Queen posters stood out. To LA’s queer Latin community, Ivy Queen was an underground goddess. Her sharp features and deeper viola voice made some fans (and foes) believe she was transgender, which Ivy Queen recognizes, but also who cared? How could you not dance even a little on his 2003 banger ”Yo Quiero Bailar”?

“It goes to your ear and once you get moving, that’s it, it’s done, you’re trapped,” Ivy Queen said with a big laugh in a recent interview with The Times.

Reached by videoconference at her studio in Miami, Ivy Queen calls LA one of her favorite places, a city any starving artist must conquer to become massive. Look at it: almost half of the population is Latino and almost one third of it is between 15 and 34. No wonder he had a part by catapulting reggaeton into the American mainstream.

“We have a lot of Mexicans, Hondureños, Salvadorans who come to our shows,” she says of her performances in LA. “Cada show que vamos hacer todavía ponen los posters en las luces en la calle, and yo, it’s an OG movement, it’s retro, that’s how you promote!

The podcast project for Ivy Queen was “an emotional roller coaster,” which involved confronting her personal story and the difficult stories of some of her fellow pioneers in the movement.

From the start, she wanted the production to remain faithful to the actors, to the roots, as well as to the language that united it. “I asked Spotify [if] I could please maintain my essence and make my little spanglish, ”says Ivy Queen. “Because I’m talking about the history of reggaeton and the whole movement is in Spanish. This music belongs to Latinos, you know?

Over a hundred interviews have been completed for the podcast, and Spotify and Futuro Studios have hired some of the most experienced and respected field producers. The production also placed emphasis on hiring female talent and engineers.

“The history of reggaeton had never been fully told before, and we wanted to treat it with the same respect as any other great music, be it jazz or hip-hop,” says Marlon Bishop. , executive producer. by Futuro Studios.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Spotify executives. “I had high expectations and they lived up to it,” says journalist Rivera.

With the “perreo” dance style – think Latin twerk – adopted by younger generations who haven’t experienced the backlash of reggaeton, it’s nice to hear Ivy Queen reflect on how far music has come, especially for women and queer artists.

After all, change is constant.

“I just hope we don’t lose the gasoline, que no la perdamos “, said the artist. “We see a lot of mixtures. Now is the era of reggaeton pop, using all of those drum patterns that reggaeton has. I am an OG. I need this rhythm to hit hard. I know the music is meant scalable, corn I hope we don’t lose the true meaning of lucha that we did.

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