11 Of Your Favorite Reggaetoneros Then And Now
Perhaps more than any other pop music genre reggaeton is full of rags-to-riches stories, kids from the urban US or from Latin American countries who find their calling as artists, work hard and become famous. Because the genre calls for the creation of tough-looking personas, many reggaetoneros might seem menacing at first, but are often tame creative types who use their imagination to write lyrics and construct a character. At the end, however, they are all humans who were once kids or just normal cabrones far from the fame they now embrace.
Here’s 11 reggaetoneros and their looks way before they were on the spotlight.
Credit: 1473892681_500340_1473893192_album_normal. Digital image. Los 40 Principales.
Juan Luis Londoño Arias was born in 1994 and has one sister. When he was a kid he showed interest in soccer and even played in lower divisions for the teams Atlético National and Equidad Sports Club in his native Colombia.
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He is now one of the most popular artists in the world, regardless of language. Not bad for a kid who was once inspired by the likes of suave performers Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson.
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Armando Christian Pérez was born in Miami in 1981, in a family of Cuban expatriates. He loved classic Cuban poetry when he was a kid, and was famous for reciting poems in Spanish.
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He is now a global celebrity and has struck sponsorship deals with the likes of Kodak and Dr Pepper. He is active in the Cuban community in Miami. He is also testing his luck as a television producer and is working with Endemol, the Dutch company responsible for the Big Brother reality show concept.
3. Daddy Yankee
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Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez was born in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico in 1977. His first love was baseball and he was bound to become a professional pelotero, but he was shot on a leg and his sporting dreams were over.
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He is considered one of the precursors of the genre. He has quite a political voice, and in 2008 endorsed John McCain because he considered the late Arizona senator supported Latino causes.
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Llandel Veguilla Malave was born in Carey, Puerto Rico, in 1977. Like many singers he learnt a trade before taking on the stage. His was being a barber… and it is evident if you notice his meticulously trimmed facial hair!
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He has made a name for himself both as a solo artist and as part of the super successful duo Wisin & Yandel.
5. J Balvin
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José Álvaro Osorio Balvin was born in 1985 in Medellin, Colombia. He came from a middle-class family that faced bankruptcy. In order to pursue his American Dream he worked as a painter and construction worker in the States.
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In just eight years he has released five albums that have positioned him as one of the most popular performers in the genre.
6. Austin Santos/Arcángel
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Austin Agustín Santos goes by the stage name of Arcángel. He was born in New York in 1985 and then moved to Puerto Rico, where he got his musical juices flowing.
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He is one of the precursors of the movement. In 2008 he faced the challenge of illegal file sharing and he had to cancel the release of an album. This is one of the realities of the music industry today.
7. Bad Bunny
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Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio was born in 1994 in Puerto Rico. He knows how to create and sustain a brand, as he studied audiovisual communication at university. His education translates into an interesting and cohesive style.
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He started right from the bottom. He released indy recordings while working as a bagger in a supermarket. But perseverance paid off when DJ Luian listened to one of his songs on SoundCloud and signed him to his level. Dreams do come true.
8. Luis Fonsi
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Luis Alfonso Rodríguez López-Cepero is responsible for one of the most popular songs of all time, “Despacito”. He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1978. He used to sing at school parties with a group… one of the members, Joey Fatone, later joined NSYNC
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Fonsi is also an actor. He appeared in the 1992 film Como agua para chocolate, which marked the beginning of the New Mexican Cinema era. When talent rains, it pours.
9. Residente (René Pérez Joglar)
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Who would have said that this cheeky boy would become one of the fiercest songwriters of the modern era. Residente’s mother was part of a theater company, which perhaps had an influence in her son’s elaborate stage performances. Calle 13 is famous for taking performance to the next level and having a concise audiovisual style with music videos by directors like the Argentine Campanella and actor-director Diego Luna.
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The angriest half of Calle 13 is an active advocate for indigenous and migrant rights, which is often revealed in songs such as “El Hormiguero” and the epic “Latinoamérica”. He has give voice to the vulnerable. He doesn’t hold back from speaking his truth, and has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration and of neoliberal governments in Latin America.
10. Visitante (Eduardo José Cabra Martínez)
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Look at those two! Calle 13 wouldn’t be what it is without Residente’s brother. He was born in 1978 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Since he was a little kid he had deep political inclinations. He was once kicked out of his classroom because he refused to honor the US anthem… he believes Puerto Rico should be independent, a plight that many in the island’s intellectual circles have.
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He is a versatile musician who researches Latin American sounds with the tenacity of an anthropologist. Some of his strongest influences are Panamanian salsa master Ruben Blades and Cuban troubadour Silvio Rodriguez. In a way, Visitante goes beyong reggaeton and enters folk music territory.
11. Tomasa del Real
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Her name is Valeria Cisternas and she hails from Chile, where she was born in 1986. Her stage name is inspired by Afro-Latin Americans. She has said that she feels both masculine and feminine, which transpires in her style. The above picture is from one of her first YouTube videos, which made her a social media celebrity in her own right.
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She is widely considered one of the queens of Neoperreo, a subgenre in which women have a more empowering position. This is a lot for a genre that is infamous for taking violence against women lighter than it should.