Words by ‘LLERO Editors
Bad Bunny put his stamp on 2020, period.
In an industry that loves to tout numbers from record sales to revenue generated, el conejo malo did what few artists before him have been able to. Deliver unprecedented numbers while solidifying his authenticity – exploitation be damned!
First, the numbers – three album releases in one year, the first all-Spanish album ever to debut at No. 1 on Billboard. Six hundred million streams on Spotify and another 500 million downloads on YouTube – just for good measure.
As for the authenticity, well Tito and Lysaurie’s son– nee Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio–has been writing, singing and producing his own music since before labels knew his name. Growing up in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico his school teacher mother took him to church weekly and watched him sing in the choir until he was 13. By then he was bitten by the music bug. After leaving the choir, he developed an interest in the island’s radio staples, especially Daddy Yankee and Puerto Rican salsa icon Hector Lavoe.
Martinez worked on his craft while bagging groceries at a supermarket and studying communications at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. He was eventually signed to a record label and gained popularity on SoundCloud, with his breakthrough single, “Soy Peor.” The track landed him squarely in the Latin Trap scene. Ten months after the track’s video was release, and it reached 330 million views on YouTube. It was all uphill from there.
In 2017, he branched out by making the collab rounds beginning with Becky G’s single “Mayores,” followed by a variety of tracks with “Latino Gang” members JBalvin, Ozuna and Nicky Jam. In 2017 alone, Bad Bunny was featured on 15 Billboard Hot Latin Songs-charting tracks. The next year was no different. He scored his first number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 for his collabo with JBalvin and Cardi B on “I Like It” and released “Mia,” a collaboration with Drake.
Yet, in 2020 San Benito reached another stratosphere. It started in January with a guest performance at the Super Bowl LIV halftime show, headlined by Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. In February he released YHLQMDLG where the artist and album respectively became Spotify’s most-streamed artist and album globally of 2020. It was the first time a non-English language music artist topped the list. By mid-year, he dropped two more albums; one a compilation of unreleased tracks and the latest El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo became the first Spanish language album to notch #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album charts.
But Bad Bunny is more than music and swag to spare. He is a pied piper for his generation. He doesn’t shy away from being an LGBTQ ally or taking fearless political positions.
He has been publicly critical about the lack of humanitarian aid that did not reach Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Borinquen. Shortly after the hurricane, Bad Bunny personally distributed food, water, and generators in his hometown. He’s even established the Good Bunny Foundation, which distributes toys to children living in poverty in Puerto Rico.
During a performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in February 2020, he called attention to the murder of transgender woman Alexa Negrón Luciano in Puerto Rico by wearing a shirt with the statement “They Killed Alexa. Not a Man in a Skirt”, referencing news reports that had misgendered Luciano. In response Ricky Martin said Bad Bunny “has become an icon for the Latin queer community.”
We, however, beg to differ. With his talent and courage Bad Bunny has become an icon for an entire generation.