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Songbook: Celebrating Daddy Yankee's Legendary Three-Decade Reggaeton Reign
At the start of his farewell tour, GRAMMY.com examines the solo hits and collaborations that have made Daddy Yankee a living legend — and why countless of rising reggaeton artists are following in his footsteps.
Presented by GRAMMY.com, Songbook is an editorial series and hub for music discovery that dives into a legendary artist's discography and art in whole — from songs to albums to music films and videos and beyond. In this edition, GRAMMY.com pays tribute to reggaeton legend Daddy Yankee, examining his biggest hits and most memorable collaborations.
Daddy Yankee goes by many names: The Big Boss. El Jefe. El Cangri. The King. While many of them are self-proclaimed, it’s undeniable that the artist is a reggaeton icon. In his nearly three-decade-long career, Yankee (real name Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez) has reigned tall with hardly any visible competition (with all due respect to Don Omar), and his journey to the top is the stuff of legends.
In fact, the 46-year-old reggaetonero is the most successful person to emerge from the underground in the mid-'90s. He became el género's biggest export during its first international explosion in the aughts and, in the decades that followed, D.Y. has enjoyed a highly prolific career. As the genre currently enjoys massive mainstream popularity the world over, Daddy Yankee has also gained the respect and admiration of the majority of reggaeton’s new class.
Unbeknownst to many, Yankee coined the word "reggaeton" 1994 on DJ Playero’s seminal 1994 mixtape Playero 36 (DJ Nelson would popularize the word reggaeton the next year). His underground debut No Mercy (1995) laid the foundation for the future of reggaeton, fusing old-school hip-hop and turntablism against his signature dancehall-esque, quick-witted lilt. A decade later, Daddy Yankee fueled the reggaeton explosion with "Gasolina," and the rest is history.
Six Latin GRAMMY wins and four GRAMMY nominations later, the Big Boss remains a global force to be reckoned with. Following D.Y.'s recent retirement announcement, GRAMMY.com pays homage to his prolific and highly influential body. From Barrio Fino to "Despacito" and Legendaddy, we examine the solo hits and collaborations that have made the Puerto Rican artist a living legend — and why countless of reggaeton newcomers are following in his footsteps.
The Global Hitmaker
Armed with a rapid-fire flow backed by a revving, EDM-driven thump, the former baseball player scored his first musical home run with "Gasolina" in 2004. Produced by Luny Tunes, the song became an instant gargantuan hit that unleashed reggaeton well beyond his island home.
In the Americas, Yankee became known as the face of a burgeoning scene and the incendiary song became the gateway to the genre for those outside of the Caribbean diaspora. The album cover of Barrio Fino — a candid black-and-white shot of Daddy Yankee looking off camera, donning a New York Yankees cap — inspiring legions of followers to sport Yankees hats.
In addition to expanding reggaeton’s international reach, the album is widely considered foundational for many reggaeton artists that followed. Daddy Yankee’s linguistic dexterity and influence on the genre was recognized at the 2005 Latin GRAMMYs, where "Gasolina" became the first reggaeton song to be nominated for the coveted Record of the Year; Barrio Fino earned him his first Latin GRAMMY for Best Urban Album Music.
Nearly two decades later, Barrio Fino’s countless hits — like the party-starting "Lo Que Pasó, Pasó," about an old fling, and "Tu Prínicpe" — continue to ignite dance floors at block parties and bourgeois resorts alike. In 2005, Daddy Yankee followed up with a live album and four new songs, including "Rompe," a fire-in-the-belly banger for serious perreo enthusiasts. His popularity accelerated well into the aughts, and Daddy Yankee was added to Time's list of 100 influential people in 2006.
The Boricua superstar journeyed to further sonic territory with 2010's Mundial, which employed equal parts braggadocio and trap experimentalism as heard on "El Mejor de Todos Los Tiempos" and "El Más Duro." Early signs of the then-new Latin trap seeped through, thanks to producers Musicólogo & Menes, while the Yankee also embraced beloved Puerto Rican tropical rhythms (hear the merengue on "La Despedida" and "Rumba y Candela").
Prestige arrived a couple of years later with more memorable bangers at the intersection between EDM, reggaeton, and electropop. In 2012, the rapper told a news outlet in Miami that Prestige is his "best and most complete album" yet. The charts and viral streams confirmed it: flashy, swaggering numbers like "Limbo" and "Lovumba" both peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard’s U.S. Latin charts; and the former song currently boasts a staggering 1.2 billion views on YouTube.
A new cohort of música urbana superstars that grew up on old school reggaeton — led by the likes of J Balvin, Ozuna, and, later, Sech and Karol G — gave the genre a more sophisticated makeover in the mid-2010s. Many of urbano’s rising stars cite Yankee as an inspiration, while their changes to the genre were also inspired by improved technology that refined production.
Meanwhile, new reggaeton fans began to explore the roots of the genre. While genre O.G.s such as Don Omar experienced a back-catalog boost, many slowed their new music release momentum — not Daddy Yankee. To popular perception, this made the D.Y. the default genre originator, with hardly any visible competition from peers.
During the later part of the decade, Daddy Yankee released a slew of singles and buzz-worthy collabs. As an unrivaled reggaeton icon, Yankee dropped "Shaky Shaky" and "Dura" to further virality. By the time of the reggaeton-pop of "Con Calma" (featuring Snow) and the tropical-soaked "Que Tire Pa Lante" — which samples vocals by the new hype generation including Bad Bunny, Natti Natasha, Anuel AA, and Darell, as well as genre pioneers like Wisin and Lennox — Daddy Yankee was unstoppable.
The Powerhouse Collaborator
When "Despacito" arrived in 2017, the reggaeton movement spread like wildfire. Daddy Yankee’s artistry and decades of street cred paid off in a huge way when he joined former rock balladeer Luis Fonsi for the now-omnipresent smash hit. Beyond his existing fame, the track instantly transformed D.Y. into a full-fledged Latin pop phenomenon. The song itself took on a new life of its own: "Desapcito" currently clocks in at a staggering 7.92 billion views, making it the second most watched video in YouTube history. Today, reggaeton and Latin pop are used interchangeably, and popular Latin pop playlists are loaded with reggaeton songs.
Perhaps one of Daddy Yankee's most memorable collaborations is "Oye Mi Canto" by N.O.R.E., also featuring Nina Sky, Gem Star and Big Mato. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 12 in 2006, this song helped catapult reggaeton to mainstream success. "Oye" also put the Latino/a and Black Latino/a presence on the map at a time when MTV largely aired music videos by white and African American artists.
Yankee's feature on "Machete" by Héctor El Father was another early banger that resonated throughout the underground. Released the same year that "Gasolina" dropped, the song channeled a similar bombastic energy and made maximalist reggaeton sound defiant.
The New Class
Reggaeton’s new cohort further helped elevate Daddy Yankee’s star to newer heights. In 2020, Panamanian sensation Sech invited an all-star cast — including Farruko, J Balvin, Yankee and superstar Rosalía — to sing in the remix of his hit song "Relación." "Daddy Yankee is the Big Boss, the best of all time," said Sech. "He’s not about just arriving and making a hit, he’s about maintaining, and if we talk about maintaining, he has the record."
As he continued to make huge strides within the ever-growing reggaeton empire, Daddy Yankee then stepped into Latin drill. In 2021, Yankee joined forces with Brooklyn drill pioneer Bobby Shmurda and J Balvin for a remix of trap rapper Eladio Carrión’s viral dissonant drill song "Tata." The song sees the D.Y. diving into darker territory while maintaining his bad boy image.
At the same time, Yankee was shedding that image: A few years earlier, he joined Janet Jackon for a more gleeful pop duet in New York City, and helped break then-teen reggaeton upstart Lunay on the remix of "Soltera," joined by Bad Bunny.
By combining sounds and styles from different generations, reggaeton is cementing its everlasting star power. This is exemplified in "Mayor Que Usted," a recent hit by Natti Natasha, Wisin & Yandel, and Daddy Yankee, which sees three artists of different stylistic leanings bring forward a potent reggaeton recipe. In the month and a half since its posting, the YouTube video already racked up 14.5 million streams.
When considering his biggest hits and collaborations, it’s undeniable that El Jefe has made epic strides. As he plans his exit in full galore, Yankee leaves us with a riveting record for the reggaeton-pop cannon that encapsulates his dynamic and linguistic prowess. There are plenty of moments in LEGENDADDY (his seventh and final studio album, released in March) where D.Y.'s creative brilliance shines through, but in contemporary Latin pop fashion, he invites plenty of others to share the spotlight, while making his claim as the G.O.A.T.
In "Agua" starring Rauw Alejandro and fabled guitarist Nile Rodgers, the three artists summon a revamped pop-funk for perreo under a disco ball. Bad Bunny’s hit-making streak continues on the exhilarating club track "X Última Vez," and El Alfa brings forward his frenetic Dominican dembow dazzle on "Bombón," alongside unlikely guest Lil Jon. Our main man re-returns to the native tropical rhythms of Puerto Rico on "Rumbatón," all in all accumulating to a welcoming, farewell homage that captures Daddy Yankee’s enduring legacy.
From coining the genre to continually rewriting the música urbana playbook for over a quarter-century, and amassing 20.4 billion total YouTube views, there’s no denying that the Yankee has been helping transcend reggaeton’s cultural boundaries. As reggaeton enjoys plenty of global acclaim, this legendary daddy has every right to boast his bravado.
Photo: C Flanigan/Getty Images
Luis Fonsi To Maluma: Who Will Win Record Of The Year Latin GRAMMY?
Cast your vote. Who will voters choose for Record Of The Year at the 18th Latin GRAMMY Awards?
Including the likes of Shakira and Carlos Vives to Natalia Lafourcade, Marc Anthony, Jesse & Joy, and Alejandro Sanz, the previous Latin GRAMMY winners for Record Of The Year reads like a who's who of Latin music. This year's nominees are no different.
With Rubén Blades' sensual "La Flor De La Canela," Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee's song of the summer "Despacito," Residente's impactful "Guerra," Ricky Martin with Maluma's Vente Pa' Ca," and Jorge Drexler's "El Surco," among others, this year's class of 18th Latin GRAMMY Awards nominees for Record Of The Year is loaded.
Which song do you think will take home the Latin GRAMMY for Record Of The Year? Cast your vote below.
Photo: Thaddaeus McAdams/WireImage.com
2018 GRAMMYs: Who's Performing?
Find out which of your favorite artists are performing on the 60th GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, Jan. 28
The 60th GRAMMY Awards celebration in New York is quickly approaching. From rolling out the red carpet to tuning the guitars and adjusting the lights at Madison Square Garden, the Recording Academy is getting ready for the big milestone installment of Music's Biggest Night. But how about the performers?
Spanning multiple genres, including pop, rock, hip-hop, R&B, country, and more, this year's lineup of GRAMMY performers — many of them current nominees or past winners — will make for three-and-a-half hours of must-see television.
Without further ado, here is the list of performers for the 60th GRAMMYs.
- Alessia Cara, Khalid and Logic
- Brothers Osborne, Maren Morris and Eric Church (Route 91 Harvest Festival tribute)
- Childish Gambino
- Gary Clark Jr. and Jon Batiste (Chuck Berry and Fats Domino tribute)
- Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee with Zuleyka Rivera
- Emmylou Harris and Chris Stapleton
- Elton John and Miley Cyrus
- Lady Gaga
- Kendrick Lamar
- Little Big Town
- Patti LuPone and Ben Platt (Broadway tribute)
- Rihanna, DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller
- Bruno Mars and Cardi B
- Sam Smith
Hosted by James Corden, the 60th GRAMMY Awards will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York on Jan. 28, airing live on CBS from 7:30–11 p.m. ET/4:30–8 p.m. PT.
Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee in "Despacito"
What Was YouTube's Most-Streamed Music Video Of The Decade?
"Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee earns the spot of the most-streamed music video of all time with over 6.5 billion views to date
YouTube has released data for the most streamed music videos of all time on its platform. Not surprisingly, Luis Fonsi's and Daddy Yankee's huge 2017 Latin GRAMMY-winning hit, "Despacito," earns the spot of the most-streamed music video of all time with over 6.5 billion (!) views to date.
To be clear, this is the original version, not the Justin Bieber-assisted remix, although the pop sensation also makes the top 10 list, at No. 6, for his 2015 bop "Sorry." The Purpose track earns the spot with over 3.2 billion views. In fact, each of the top 10 videos has racked up over two billion views.
Related: Who Ruled Music Streaming In 2019?
The second most-viewed music videos on YouTube is one of the other catchy-as-hell, inescapable hits of 2017: Ed Sheeran's GRAMMY-winning "Shape Of You," which has over 4.5 billion views to date. Another one of the British pop star's GRAMMY-winning songs, 2014's "Thinking Out Loud," also makes the list, at No. 10 with over 2.8 billion video views.
As for the third and fourth spots, we have 2015's "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth, a GRAMMY-nominated song from the Furious 7 Soundtrack, and 2014's GRAMMY-winning bop "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. These two music videos have over 4.3 billion and over 3.7 views, respectively. Fifth place goes to PSY's 2012 meme-ready viral hit, "GANGNAM STYLE," at over 3.4 billion video views.
The seventh most video of all time goes to the song that allegedly prompted a stranger to throw sugar at Adam Levine's face, Maroon 5's GRAMMY-nominated hit "Sugar." The 2015 track's visual has over three billion views on YouTube and is followed by Katy Perry's 2013 GRAMMY-nominated empowerment anthem, "Roar" at over 2.9 million views. Finally, the number nine spot goes to OneRepublic's 2013 barn-stomping pop hit, "Counting Stars."
The data, which YouTube shared via a press release, broke out the top music videos by the last four decades, based on the year they were originally released because, of course, YouTube has only been around since 2004. While the aforementioned top 10 videos of the 2010s were also the top 10 videos of all time, the top music videos of the 2000s, 1990s and 1980s also had some interesting finds.
The No. 1 song of the 2010s is Axel F's "Crazy Frog" at over 1.9 billion views, surpassing Linkin Park's Numb," Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and Taylor Swift's "You Belong To Me," which followed chronologically on that decade chart. Guns N' Roses take the number one spots for both the 1990s and 1980s list, with "November Rain" topping the former and "Sweet Child O' Mine" the latter.
An honorable mention goes to "Baby Shark Dance," the kid's song that was released in 2016 by South Korean company Pinkfong and went viral earlier this year. The original video (not to be confused with the many spinoffs or official EDM remix by JAUZ) has earned more views than "Uptown Funk." Baby Shark's family takes the number five spot of the most viewed videos of all time (music or otherwise) list on YouTube. Don't worry, Fonsi and Yankee are still at the top of this all-content list, so they don't have to worry about any hungry baby sharks—for now, at least.
Courtesy of Mad Decent
Watch Ms. Nina's NeoPerreo Video For "Te Doy" Ahead Of Her Mixtape Release
'Perreando Por Fuera, Llorando Por Dentro,' or "dancing on the outside, crying on the inside," is out July 3 and includes collaborations with some of neoperreo's most recognizable names
Neoperreo queen Ms. Nina is on the cusp of dropping her Perreando Por Fuera, Llorando Por Dentro debut mixtape. Now, she's giving us a taste of what's to come through her latest concurrent single and video release.
"Te Doy," produced by El Licenciado, Latin GRAMMY nominee and former member of GRAMMY-winning Mexican band Kinky, is a hip-shaking reggaeton-influenced track that mixes a bit of the humor Ms. Nina has come to be known for with empowering, pro-consent lyrics.
"I give you this a with love." she says in one verse, while in another she proclaims, "I''ll dance with you, but no, I'm not your woman."
Perreando Por Fuera, Llorando Por Dentro, or "dancing on the outside, crying on the inside," is out July 3 and includes collaborations with some of neoperreo's (a new, underground take on reggaeton named after its style of dancing), most recognizable names: La Favi, Maria OT, Mygal X and more. "Te Doy" follows "Y Dime," the singer's single featuring Tomasa Del Real.
The singer will have U.S. stops on her upcoming tour, including a performance at MoMa PS1 Warm Up with Bad Gyal on July 13, San Diego, Calif., on Aug. 28, Los Angeles on Aug. 29, Tucson, Ariz., on Aug. 30, San Francisco on Aug. 31 and San Jose, Calif., on Sept. 1.