Daddy Yankee: More Than Music

posted January 18, 2006 12:00:00 AM CST | 1 comments

The Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash are credited as two pioneers of hip-hop historically, and even though he made his own moves nearly two decades later, Raymond Ayala deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence. When Latin music started gaining steam in the early 2000s, the artist known in the music world as Daddy Yankee spearheaded the reggaeton movement with the success of his single Gasolina. With the crossover success that reggaeton has received for the past year, along with a freshly-inked Reebok deal, Daddy Yankee gets an opportunity that pioneers of other musical genres havent received: the opportunity to see the prosperity of what he helped create, and capitalize off of it. In this interview with HipHopDX, Daddy Yankee talks about reggaetons success in the U.S., working with hip-hop superstars and improvisation.

HipHopDX: What do you think is behind the sudden explosion of Reggaeton in the States?

Daddy Yankee: Because of the elements that were using. Reggaeton is a hybrid of dancehall and hip-hop, so we have everything you want. You have the best of all of the worlds in one genre, so thats why were coming so fast. Another thing is that its the first genre that represents the real essence of the Latin community. We didnt have nothing to represent us out there before, there was just rock music and pop music. But at the same time, we were underground, creating this new genre that a lot of people could identify with. The people in the States, the way they feel about hip-hop, is the same way we feel about Reggaeton, the same pride and the same energy. Its a subculture that was born underneath the society.

HipHopDX: Being one of the pioneers, whats it like to see something you helped create be so big now?

Daddy Yankee: I feel proud about that, because I didnt know it would be at this level. I always knew that we had the potential to conquer the South American and Latino markets, but right now, we have transcended boundaries. Ive been in Japan, Ive been in Europe, Ive been here in the States (and) in places that I never imagined I was going to be. So being able to see all the races singing my songs and dancing to it, Im proud about that. Japan is the second-largest market after the States. Seeing the Japanese people feel my music is incredible. Man, I dont even have words that can describe that feeling.

HipHopDX: You also have a deal with Reebok for a shoe and apparel line. Tell me about that.

Daddy Yankee: Yeah, we signed a deal with them. Were planning to launch everything in April and May. Were going to have active wear and sneakers. I became the first Latino to ever have a deal with them, so thats good.

HipHopDX: How did that happen?

Daddy Yankee: Reebok is really into the urban market, they sold big revenue and great profit with the Jay-Z and 50 Cent projects success. (As for) the Latino market, I think were some of the biggest consumers here in the States. Ive seen the facts, Ive seen the statistics, Ive seen everything. Obviously, they wanted to get in that market, so they needed [someone] to represent the Latin community, so thats why Daddy Yankee came into the picture. Daddy Yankee is not a pop artist, hes an artist that came from the streets. Theyre looking for the street people, the Latino urban market, and Daddy Yankee was the answer. (Where I grew up), you learn to have that sixth sense, and I took advantage of all the opportunities that were in front of me. So Im just showing the world Daddy Yankee and Latin music.

HipHopDX: How much control do you have in the project? What direction are you going? What will the clothing look like?

Daddy Yankee: Everything. With the content, and ideas, Im involved in everything. Its teamwork.

HipHopDX: One of your nicknames is King of Improvisation.

Daddy Yankee: I gained that name in the streets in Puerto Rico. When we started rapping, before radio and before deals, it was straight battling. I used to win most of the battling, so thats how I gained that name.

HipHopDX: Name a time recently when you had to improvise in your everyday life, outside of music.

Daddy Yankee: Right now, my normal life is about a lot of things going on. Its about waking up and enjoying a new day, working out in the gym, and then handling the business. Because Daddy Yankee is the artist, but Raymond Ayala is the man behind thatthe businessman, the entrepreneur. Ive got to be taking care of things from the time I wake up. When Im in Puerto Rico, I take Monday through Friday about business, but Friday through Sunday is Daddy Yankee looking for that inspiration.

HipHopDX: A lot of artists nowadays have guest appearances on their albums, but you have Snoop and Paul Wall on your album. Hip-hopspecifically, West Coast hip-hop and Down South hip-hopare really distinct forms of hip-hop, and seems like those mixed in with Reggaeton would be interesting to bring together. When you were working together, how much did each of you have to budge for the other?

Daddy Yankee: Its about understanding each other, its about chemistry. The good thing about me is that I grew up in a hip-hop environment. I approached them with an idea in my mind, so it wasnt hard for me to work with them. I wanted to create a Reggaeton/West Side sound. I did the song with Paul Wall because I wanted to mix Reggaeton with the Dirty South as well. Working with Snoop Dogg, Im bringing back Reggaeton back to its roots, because we were rapping in the streets, so that song was more lyrically than being a party song. But the Dirty South is recognized as the club songs.

HipHopDX: What made you decide to do the live DVD with the album?

Daddy Yankee: That DVD is going to educate the people here in the States, and the people that want to learn more about Daddy Yankee and Reggaeton. I know that there are a lot of doubts in the industry, or people that want to know more about it, so we came with this DVD to educate the masses out there. With this live footage and live performance, youll see Daddy Yankee on successnot the same thing youre reading in a newspaper or a magazine. Youll be part of it, and see for yourself whats happening there.

HipHopDX: What do you think of Don Omar?

Daddy Yankee: Hes a great artist. He represents Reggaeton, even though were not getting along, Ive got to represent for my genre and keep it real with the genre.

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