A conversation about global expansion, musical production, online bullying, and the ever-present reggaeton.
The all-stars on the Latin AMA panel all took the hard route. “It hasn’t been an easy journey,” noted moderator Leila Cobo, executive director Latin content & programming for Billboard.
The superstar session featured Becky G, Farruko, Ozuna, Wisin & Yandel, all of whom play in the urban field and came from a tough background.
“It hasn’t even been easy for Becky who has been working since she was nine-years old,” Cobo continued.
The relaxed atmosphere at Hollywood’s NeueHouse (the original CBS Studios), touched on pressing matters within Latin music and its culture as the urban genre seems to be in a state of flux, finding its own identity within a market brimming with genre-bending sounds and with a group of acts who have navigated challenging waters.
So what were some of the most difficult things for the panelists through this long ride?
Yandel remarked, “one of the hardest things for us was the acceptance of the genre in radio and television. We have been at it since its origins when it wasn’t accepted because of its content but we turned things around, adapting our lyrics. It has been extremely difficult and required a lot of sacrifice, a lot of sleepless nights and trips with no resources.”
Farruko added: “Wisin and Yandel are two of the ones who have paved the way for us, the ones who opened the doors and made things easier. The most difficult thing has been maintenance, to have relevance, to reinvent myself. With the tools our pillars provided the journey has been easier.”
Becky had this to say, “I started singing in English and then switched to Spanish and that was extremely challenging because I feared rejection. Like in Selena’s movie: ‘You are either too Mexican for the Americans or too American for the Mexicans and you can’t be in the middle.’ But luckily all I received was love. It has been an authentic experience but when the public makes you feel uncomfortable I feel obliged to demonstrate that I am a neighborhood gal.”
Billboard highlights some of the key moments from the popular panel session below.
With the increasingly active social media demand by consumers, the artists discuss how to effectively adapt the role of communicators without affecting their creative process, timing, and the danger of disclosing personal information.
Farruko: Social media is the red button, it’s our best friend, our digital partner. An artist needs to have direct contact with the fan, not only so they see your professional development but how you act as a human being. It helps us a lot with our music on a global level.
Becky G: It’s part of branding. It did change my life as I was able to upload YouTube covers when I was 14 years old. But it’s a blessing and a curse: we can connect with anybody on a global scale, it has helped for the music language to become universal but also, as a woman, I see that there are a lot of women who feel entitled to share certain things, showing their bodies, disclosing family information and it could become very judgmental.
On collaborations and remixes.
Ozuna: We are the genre which collaborate the most, there is always been a disposition. There are always differences but when the moment arrives urban artists are always available. It’s a good thing for the newcomers, it opens doors for them and cultivates the presence of the established ones.
Wisin: It also has to do with the essence of the genre. It started to sell as a project of many artists.
If we now decide not to collaborate and give into our ego, the genre wouldn’t have the impact it has today. It’s a demographic movement which is now being seen with respect. Those great artists like Ricky Martin, Luis Fonsi, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez decided to bet for our music and it’s then when the genre saw a creative growth. We need to be bold and dare to innovate while being careful to preserve the essence of the genre.
About the lack of presence of the genre in the 2019 Latin GRAMMY nominations.
Farruko: What’s happened with the genre is so big that it’s time to categorize it as something of value. With the urban genre there is trap, reggaetón, reggae/pop, different types of beats and sounds so it can’t be treated as a barbecue or be encapsulated in one.
Wisin: It’s about reorganization. There are so many producers and composers within the urban genre who are unknown to the industry and the market, who have never been nominated and are great protagonists behind many hits. Nobody has dared to acknowledge them in a public forum and consider them for a nomination. The Academy can also educate the audience with promotional campaigns which explain the basis of the nominations. We are artists within the urban genre but all strategies are pro-music. We are not better than any other genre.
Ozuna: There is a key fact which is knowledge. It’s a matter of awareness, of registering and voting. The new generation needs to be educated and as leaders it’s our job to educate them and think of ideal ways to foment presence within the members of the Academy because the Academy is not going to change its own methods.