Music

Daddy Yankee To Receive a Legend Award – Here Are Some Moments That Prove He’s an Icon

Daddy Yankee, the Puerto Rican superstar who coined the term “reggeatón” only to become the genre’s most successful and influential artist, is currently on his farewell tour to promote what may be his final album, “Legendaddy.”

The album has gotten rave reviews since its release in March of this year, and its accompanying world tour has 90 dates booked through January 2023.

It is hard to overstate the influence that Daddy Yankee, or Ramón Ayala Rodriguez, has had on Latin artists, including his unofficial successor Bad Bunny, whose music represents a kind of sonic evolution of his trademark sound. Daddy Yankee was dubbed the King of Reggeatón by the New York Times in 2006, following a decade-long feud with musical frenemy Don Omar.

Other members of reggeaton’s newest freshman class have also cited Daddy Yankee as a massive influence on their music — everyone from J Balvin to Ozuna has sung his praises and credited him as their main inspiration. Looking back at his storied career, it seems impossible to even be a reggeatón artist without taking some influence from the king himself.

Daddy Yankee’s career began in 1994, when the artist was torn between pursuing music and baseball full time. However, a chance encounter outside of a recording studio where he was shot in the leg while taking a break from a session forced him to prioritize his passions and focus on his music career.

By 1995, he released his first album, “No Mercy,” a minor success that can be attributed to Daddy Yankee’s determination. He would personally take the album with him to any store, club or party that would play it and even did free shows to boost his local notoriety. It was around this time when he would officially adopt the moniker Daddy Yankee.

Throughout the next decade, the reggeatón superstar would see varying degrees of success collaborating with Puerto Rican artists and DJs to craft his signature sound. Upon the release of 2004’s “Barrio Fino,” he would become a global sensation thanks to “Gasolina,” a song that single-handedly launched him into the stratosphere and made him the most successful artist in the genre’s history.

The success of “Gasolina” led Daddy Yankee to a $20 million contract with Interscope Records and a spot on Time Magazine‘s 2006 list of the world’s 100 most influential people, a coveted list of individuals that anyone in the public eye would kill to be on.

He was even honored with a personalized radio station in 2008’s “Grand Theft Auto IV,” part of a franchise of games that has made a habit of courting the era’s best and most influential artists to sponsor in-game stations with curated playlists. More recent examples include Flying Lotus, Julian Casablancas and Frank Ocean, all celebrated and critically acclaimed musicians in their respective genres.

In 2017, the reggeatón icon collaborated with Puerto Rican artist Luis Fonsi on the record-shattering single “Despacito,” a No. 1 single in more than 40 countries that is still the most highly-certified song in the United States, going 13x platinum.

On YouTube, the video has eight billion views and is the second-most viewed video of all time. A little more than a month after the song was released, the 45-year-old legend was honored with a star on Puerto Rico’s Walk of Fame.

Addressing his fellow Puerto Ricans, he said, “I want to tell Puerto Rico that we are not the only ones, that this is worldwide.” He continued, “We do not need to feel bad or marginalized because the whole world is going through great trials, but we as Puerto Ricans have to look for change internally first to try to positively impact our Island. To those who have made the decision to leave, we don’t judge them because we also see others’ situation.”

Despite his 2008 endorsement of John McCain in the U.S. presidential election, Daddy Yankee joined Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ricky Martin in protesting Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after a series of abhorrent, homophobic and sexist texts were leaked from the governor’s phone, including one instance where he made light of the 3,000 victims who were killed during Hurricane Maria in 2017, according to GQ.

In honor of his retirement, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation plans to honor Daddy Yankee with the Legend Award on Sept. 30 to celebrate his contributions to Latin culture and music. He will be honored alongside Victoria Alonso, an executive at Marvel Studios who is credited with championing more inclusion for Latino actors in the MCU.

HHF president and CEO José Antonio Tijerino said, “Simply put, Daddy Yankee is a game changer. We are also honoring his service to our community through his work with the founding of his Daddy’s House and his work with organizations that support those in need in Puerto Rico and beyond,” reports Telemundo.

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