Have you heard of him yet? Tainy, the producer behind Cardi B's massive Latin-inspired hit "I Like It" with reggaeton superstars J Balvin and Bad Bunny, is making sure you won't miss out on his tracks no matter what language you speak. The Puerto Rican has become today's most recognized reggaeton producer, and he's continuing to push (and expand) his sound with some of English-language pop's biggest stars. Currently, you'll hear him on Balvin's catchy pop track "One Day" featuring megastar Dua Lipa and Bad Bunny.
The song landed the "Don't Start Now" singer her first No. 1 on a Billboard Latin Chart, but the collab is one that is no doubt elevating the producer as well, earning him his fourth song on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and the second on the chart with a leading lady (the other was with Selena Gomez, J Blavin and Benny Blanco's "I Can't Get Enough").
Of the "One Day" collab, Tainy says the U.K. singer was the missing ingredient. "I'm so grateful for her, for her talent and how she just gave this amazing energy to the song which elevated it to where we thought it needed to go," he told GRAMMY.com via Zoom.
The song is just one of the exciting projects the producer has been cooking up. Another? Making SpongeBob perrear (Spanish slang for getting down to reggaeton) in the happy-go-lucky character's forthcoming 2021 movie, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.
But Tainy has more to share. He has also made the time to launch HumanX, an initiative with music executive Tommy Mottola and MITH Media, that is giving back to those in need.
We spoke to Tainy about the new project benefitting migrant laborers that launched with David Guetta's help, expanding his sound through reggaeton, his vision for the SpongeBob soundtrack, how the pandemic has taken him back to his roots and more.
You've got a lot of awesome things going on. One thing is that you've launched Human X, which will support migrant day laborers. Tell me more about this initiative.
It's this movement we're trying to start to see how we can help our communities, help these different causes and organizations. For me, it's sometimes difficult to know where to go, how to do stuff. This is a way for us to use our platform, our music to put the message out there, to bring information to whoever wants to help different causes and doesn't know where to go to or how to do it. It's something special. I'm so proud to be a part of this and to bring this to the forefront because we're dealing [with] a lot of different issues right now. Being able to help in whatever [way] you feel you want to help is something special.
You launched the initiative with "Pa' La Cultura," with David Guetta which features Sofia Reyes, Abraham Mateo, De La Ghetto, Zion & Lennox, Manuel Turizo, Lalo Ebratt, Thalia and Maejor. Can we expect more tracks like these with big collabs?
It could happen. It's not something that we're ruling out, but I mean, for now the whole focus was giving it that stamp and that opening to what we want to do. And it could be something that could be in the works later on. But for now there hasn't been any talks about something specific. So, I mean, who knows? But we want to continue to help and [I'm] so glad that this started it all off.
You've chosen proceeds to go to the National Day Labor Organizing Network ( NDLON). What made you want to help migrant workers?
It's something that we feel very connected to. Since we're Latinos, we have a real connection to [migrant laborers]. Also, seeing how the pandemic is affecting [their work] on top [of that]. It's something that needs more immediate help and we're all aware on the team, so we wanted to come up with something that would really be helpful. We wanted to start off with this and also be able to just bring [awareness to] different issues at the same time and [give] different organizations a platform to spread [their] message.
You also have "One Day"/ "Un Dia" with Dua Lipa, J. Balvin and Bad Bunny out, which recently hit number one on the Billboard Hot Latin charts. Do you ever have a day off?
[Laughs.] I don't really know. I'm always trying to see what's next, work on different projects, whether it's with a specific artist or something that we want to create [within] our team. I just enjoy it so much and I'm happy to be working on something that I really enjoy. I don't really feel that I'm working sometimes. I want to create music. I know it's a difficult moment, and what better thing than to give us that little escape sometimes from reality with music that just fills us and brings that positive energy? I'm super blessed to be a part of something like this.
Dua Lipa is a huge name. How was working with her?
She's amazing. I've been a huge fan of her music before even being able to collaborate with her. So it made it even more special to be in the track that featured her and also these amazing artists that I've been blessed to work with in the past. To combine all three in one track, it just made it even better. I'm so grateful for her, for her talent, and how she just gave this amazing energy to the song which elevated it to where we thought it needed to go. [I was] so happy that she also enjoyed it and she feels happy about the song. Hopefully, it's not the last time that I work on a track [with her], but [I'm] so happy that it happened with "One Day."
A lot of people expect a reggaeton sound from you, but this is not full-on reggaeton. Can you tell me what inspired the beat?
I'm always trying different ideas, different approaches to music. I am a fan of different types of music. People know me mainly for doing reggaeton and I always want to see how I can merge different sounds, different genres within the same one. You can probably feel there's a bit of the pattern with the percussion on "One Day" but at the same time, it doesn't feel exactly like a typical reggaeton beat. It has a totally different sound. That's what I wanted to bring with it, a totally different approach to what reggaeton should be and it just opened up this door to a different vibe and different artists giving their input, without it necessarily being a strict reggaeton track. It gave it a whole different space to be able to create and bring Dua Lipa's flavor and her artistry to the table.
During our 2020 GRAMMY week panel in January, you talked about not wanting to be boxed in. How have your fans received the song?
From the ones I've heard from, the response has been amazing. It's always something different when you're bringing a song like this. It doesn't typically say reggaeton, so you don't know exactly what to expect. You don't know how people are going to approach it or feel. [Maybe it] is too different. But you just feel it when you hear a song and you get a feeling just hearing [this song]. I felt that people, as soon as they heard it would probably get the same sense and that feeling I heard when I was working on it. So glad that it did for a lot of people. [It's] not just having an artist like Dua Lipa collaborate with Latin artists, but to have an amazing song as a whole and the message it brings and what it's about. It's super cool to see people appreciate what we were trying to do. What we were trying to do to elevate the music, elevate the genre, elevate everything that we're doing and give us a chance to do so.
You also worked on Kali Uchis and Rico Nasty's "Aqui Yo Mando." Amazing collaboration. How did that come about?
I've always wanted to work with Kali. She has such a specific, amazing sound that I've been a fan of and that's another one that people probably don't feel what I've been doing combines exactly with her sound. But we gave us the time, we came together, we decided that we want to go into a studio for a couple of weeks and just like, "Let's create music." She wanted to really bring in her Latin heritage and put it at the forefront. It was cool to see how she works, her process, and just her tone and her melodies, her everything. It's such a different approach to what I usually work with. So, [I'm] excited for that collaboration.
I think it's the second one because "Solita" already came out and now we've got "Aqui Yo Mando" with Rico Nasty. I mean, it's such an amazing track. I worked the production with Albert Hype, who's also an amazing producer. I can't wait for you guys to hear the rest of it. It's just mind-blowing. It's just a different vibe of than that's happening out there right now. I'm so excited and happy to be able to be a part of it and her trusting me. Can't wait.
You're also executive producing the forthcoming SpongeBob movie soundtrack. What does it mean for you to be doing that?
It's a dream come true. As a producer, you work on artists' albums and just strictly music per se, but you want to have those goals of achieving being on a soundtrack or working for a movie. That's the next step for me. I've seen people that I admire, like Pharrell Williams do it, and that's something that I've always had in mind that, "Wow, someday I would like to be in that position," because I'm a huge fan of cinematography and the film industry. So it's something that I always had in mind and got the opportunity rose [to start working] on this new film.
My team had the opportunity to sit down with them and see what they were looking for and see where we can come in and be of help. They gave us the chance and I started to go into the studio. I'm going to say it was intimidating at the beginning because you have such a big franchise and to merge it into what we're doing, how would that sound? But as soon as I sat down and I started doing my thing, I think everything just felt so easygoing because I just had fun working on it, having Bob be on the track and him have his input. It was just a fun process because we all grew up watching SpongeBob. So it just felt natural to go in and know what to talk about and how to do it and what energy to bring with the music. Excited that they gave us a chance and that people are connecting amazingly with it. At the beginning I thought it would just be for kids or something, but it's all ages. You just have fun when you listen to the song and you can see the TikToks and the Instagram posts and everything.
Speaking of J Balvin and "Agua," you're from a tropical paradise. Did that influence the sound of that song?
I mean, probably. It's tropical, we're surrounded by water all the time. We have amazing beaches. I think you can get [the vibe] from our music. Reggaeton comes from happiness, dancing and a tropical [place]. All these combinations come into play. I think it helped a lot to have that essence in me before going into working on it. I think it was a huge component of being able to do it successfully.
Can you tell us anything more about the approach you use for the soundtrack?
I wanted to stay true to the franchise. Who SpongeBob is. You have all of these specific theme songs in the opening and during the end. So you have a lot of special things to work with. If you have the tools and the studio gave us all the tools to work with. As soon as we started with the first one, which was, "Agua," the ball started rolling. Ideas and, "We can use this sound or this melody and combine it with these types of drums or this type of groove and basslines. And this artist will be perfect for this." So it was just an amazing, fun process of coming up with ideas. Knowing what the franchise is about and who could really deliver that message.
Has it been tough getting used to the new normal as you continue making music?
For me, the first couple two or three weeks were a bit difficult because we were dependent on our creativity and when you have your mind in so many different things on what is happening, what's going to happen, how long is this going to happen? It was just a sense of not knowing. I feel like the creativity wasn't there, and after a while, I just settled. I got a little bit, not used to, but I started understanding a bit more that we're going to be here for a while. We just need to make the most out of this. I think it brought me back a little bit to my beginnings when I started to produce music, it was just me and my room and my mom's house and having all these ideas and coming up with four or five beats in a single day. It's just you by yourself, you're not with the artists in the studio. You will probably focus on one song the whole day. It just felt cool to go back to that essence of trading ideas and having instrumentals to show to the artists or talking with them through texts and seeing where they're at, what they're looking for and being able to sit down, relax and just create. We're usually in the studio all the time anyways, so I think it's been easier for me than probably other people in their jobs or their careers.
When you were a teen working with Luny Tunes, did you ever think you would get to this point where you are now?
No. Never, never in a million years. I sit back sometimes and try to watch where my mind was when I start working. I mean, most of the things that I've been able to achieve or do at this point, they didn't seem like a possible thing. My thing was to have Luny Tunes [be] what I'm doing and appreciate it. That, to me, was one of the goals. Having Wisin Y Yandel or Daddy Yankee say that what I'm doing is dope and give me an opportunity and being able to work in this and not just do it as a hobby—I think those were my goals. Then, learning about certain things, you start to get a little bit of more achievements. But I mean, there's a lot that didn't even seem possible to me. Being on the Hot 100 of Billboard, to me, that's something that, us as Latinos, weren't even able to be on. Our chart was the Hot Latin songs. It's an amazing accomplishment, but it's something that we didn't have in mind because I thought it wasn't possible. Thank God and thanks to the artists, I've been able to be there and have a number one song. It just goes to show you that when you just keep pushing and working and putting your heart into it, you can accomplish things that you didn't even think of. I'm super happy and grateful.