Up Next: Meet Kim Viera, The Nuyorican Powerhouse Singer Soaring Over Tropical Beats
Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.
Kim Viera is a star — but don’t take it from us. That’s what Daddy Yankee told the rising Nuyorican vocalist when he worked with Viera on her debut single, “Como.”
The hit, a tropical treat about a paradisal romance that features the Big Boss, dropped last July, garnering more than 25 million views on YouTube. Since then, fans of the Bronx-born artist have been hungry for more. Lucky for them, Viera is holding on to enough musical goodies to feed their appetite all year long.
Most recently, the singer, who is signed to Republic Records, released “Here For Ya,” a playful jam that flips Ghost Town DJs’ classic “My Boo” beat into an anthem for every girl who was ever feelin’ someone who was already in a relationship.
“It’s not about pursuing anything. It’s not about taking another woman’s man. It’s more like how you are feeling in your head, what you’d want to do with that person if the situation was different,” Viera says of the banger.
We chatted with the rising act about her musical upbringing, her varied sound, her long journey to the spotlight, working with Daddy Yankee, new music and more.
FIERCE: You’ve described your sound as American Latina. What does that mean to you?
Kim Viera: I was born in New York, in the Bronx, and I always had my heritage. It was strongly a part of my life. But I also grew up with American culture. That also influenced who I am as an artist. For me, basically, I always felt like I was somewhere in the middle of my culture and American culture. It’s American Latina. The first culture I knew aside from my own is American. I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. I learned that as I got older. American Latina is a new generation of Latinas who experience culture different. It’s the third-generation types. I was born in the states, and my parents were also born in the states.
FIERCE: Who were your biggest musical influences, English and Spanish, and how do you think they’ve influenced this “American Latina” vibe you embrace?
Kim Viera: I definitely listened to everything. I love Selena, Marc Anthony, La India, J Lo as well as the large voices of Christina Aguilera and Mariah. They all had an influence on me as an artist. Growing up and seeing people who look and sound like you or have similar stories as you was encouraging for me as a little girl. That influenced me to feel like I was OK. They don’t speak the language either, but they love their culture like I do. I wanted to learn more. If they could do it, then I could, too. So it influenced me to push myself to do the same thing I saw artists I love do. I took some of the things they went through in their journey and applied it to my own and how I approach struggles. For instance, Marc Anthony didn’t speak Spanish, and he learned and became one of the best salseros of all time. Selena and J Lo didn’t either, and they’re Latin icons. Seeing them break through these cultural barriers was very helpful for me.
FIERCE: You grew up in a musical home. Your dad launched, owned and operated a live production company, and your mom sang backup for major Latin acts like Willie Colón and Rubén Blades. That’s really dope! When did you realize that you wanted to follow in your parents’ footsteps and pursue music professionally as well?
Kim Viera: I’ve always wanted to do music since I was little. I was always naturally an entertainer since a little girl. I decided I wanted to do it professionally or as a career when I was a teenager. At times, it seems like you have the talent but dreams still seem so far away because it takes so much to get to that place. Opportunities started popping up, and I was like, if I don’t take them now, I may not get them again. So I went for it. There were people who took me under their wing as an artist and songwriter, who helped teach me and help me grow. I started getting in the room with the right people. It’s been a whirlwind, but I realized early that I wanted to do music. I just didn’t know if it was attainable or not.
FIERCE: This is a difficult, brutal and in many ways insecure industry, which I’m sure your parents were aware of. Knowing this firsthand, were they concerned about your musical pursuits, hoping you’d do something more “stable” instead, as many Latinx parents do when their children profess interest in the arts, or did they fully embrace and support this decision?
Kim Viera: It was a split decision with my family, or my parents. They’ve done this before. They were always supportive of me and what I wanted, but they wanted the best for me and were scared for me, because there’s a lot of rejection, a lot of nos before yeses, a lot of hard work with no payoff. You really have to love what you do. They were always concerned about me finding a way to make a living and how I would be perceived. My dad was like “go for it,” and my mom, who was a singer, was more hesitant because she had a deeper understanding of what you’re up against as an artist and also saw how I reacted to rejection as a child. She saw me go through auditions as a kid and not understand why I was getting rejected. But I had to show her that’s how I reacted as a kid because I was a kid, and I’m older and smarter now.
FIERCE: You started off songwriting, including for major acts like Lil Wayne, before landing your own deal with Republic Records three years ago. A lot of young aspiring artists think big breaks and fame come overnight, which is actually very rarely the case. Talk to me about hustle, about your grind in this industry that’s taking you from working in the background to becoming the star of your own show?
Kim Viera: It’s taken me so many years to get where I’m at: sleepless nights and a lot of sacrifices with friends and family. When you are young, you want to hang with friends but you can’t do that when you are trying to strive for a dream. I sacrificed a lot of my own money to invest in myself. I spent years writing very crappy songs to get to good ones. There were so many nos, so many doors closed. It was about eight years of that, constantly going and going, nights you don’t sleep because you’re editing videos you need to put out the following day for content. You are sleeping and breathing what you’re working toward till you get there. Then you get there and think you can relax more, but you actually have to work hard to keep it. It’s definitely not an overnight situation. People don’t know who you are or your story or situation. They just think this person came out of nowhere. Some people do pop off in a year. Every journey is different. But it’s very hard and you have to try to not get discouraged and just keep pushing through. If you don’t enjoy the journey, then you won’t enjoy the destination.
FIERCE: Last year, you get on everyone’s radar with your hit “Como” featuring Daddy Yankee. What was it like working with the boss, one of the originators of urbano music, so early in your own career?
Kim Viera: It’s really cool. Freaking amazing is what it was. We had the song. I wrote it like a year before, and he had heard it through a close friend of mine, who was one of his stylists. He was playing it for him at a shoot, and Yankee heard it and kept singing it over and over. He said he thought it was catchy. His stylist told him, “that’s my girl Kim.” The conversation started there. At that time, I didn’t have a record deal. He ended up hearing it again and asked my friend if I was signed yet. At that time I was. He was just like, “I want to jump on it.” This all happened organically, just because my friend was showing love. Next thing you know, I’m in Puerto Rico shooting a music video with Daddy Yankee.
FIERCE: Wow. That’s an amazing story! You have to love community. What was it like working with Daddy Yankee?
Kim Viera: Exactly. It was crazy. I can’t explain it. It was wow. The word to describe it would be surreal. I remember listening to his music growing up. Then I’m on set with him and he’s like, “Kim, you look like a star. You look beautiful.” My heart sank. Like, wow, my first record being signed with Republic and I’m in Puerto Rico shooting my first major video with a legend, Daddy Yankee, whose music I would dance to in my car as a kid with my friends. Now I’m standing next to him shooting a video. It goes to show your dreams really can happen and sometimes God has better plans for you than you have for yourself. It was one of the best days of my life, and I’m so grateful and humbled.
FIERCE: Most recently you dropped “Here For Ya.” Like “Como,” this is a fun, upbeat song about a lighthearted romance or affair. How do you want people, particularly women, who listen to these songs to feel?
Kim Viera: I mean, this song is about someone you are interested in that’s taken already. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. It’s a lighthearted thing. I think a lot of girls can relate to being attracted to someone and then being like, damn, they have a girl. That’s what it is, a feel-good, summer, retalateble record.
FIERCE: That is hella relatable. And it’s not like you’re going to pursue anything with this person, just highlighting that feeling of, “damn, why you ain’t single, dawg?”
Kim Viera: Right. It’s real shit. It’s not about pursuing anything. It’s not about taking another woman’s man. It’s more like how you are feeling in your head, what you’d want to do with that person if the situation was different.
FIERCE: Before “Here for Ya,” you released “Never Listen,” which had a much different sound. This wasn’t a playful, dance, pop song. Rather, this was a slowed-down, raw ballad about the pain, rather than joy, of romance. Artists today, in many ways, don’t have genre or thematic constraints that existed just a couple decades ago. How do you think this allows you to be a more authentic and better artist?
Kim Viera: I never really put constraints on myself in terms of what I should sound like to people. I try to be truthful in my music and aesthetic. In my writing, sometimes it shows up differently in the way it sounds, thematically or genre wise. I think, for me, before I listened to so many different types of music growing up and that diversity made me different because I don’t put constraints on my creativity. I like to take people on different journeys musically. I don’t think every song has to sound the same. I don’t need to be in a box. I can be Kim. People can be multifaceted, and that’s how I am with my music. I love those things that make me different. People should embrace difference.
FIERCE: You have dropped back-to-back songs that bang, undeniably, over the course of a year. What can we expect next from Kim Viera? What are you working on that you’re excited about and can tell us about?
Kim Viera: I’m dropping another record in the next month or so with a huge a feature. I can’t say who just yet, but it’s a major feature. And I have my EP coming out at the top of the summer. You’ll have that by the beginning of summer. I’m working on projects and doing a lot more shows, possibly a tour. But I’m working on some dates to make people more familiar with me. I have a body of work people can live with for the summer.
FIERCE: That sounds so exciting. You are at the start of your career and it’s already looking very bright. In 10 to 15 years, what do you hope people can say about Kim Viera?
Kim Viera: I just hope that people would say a few things, see that I was a person who broke barriers for young girls in this music industry, culturally but not just for my own culture. I want to show that you don’t have to fit a mold. You’re enough as you are. That I am a person who tried and cares about people and really touches people. That’s what I care about.