Don Omar first got a taste of acting when he landed a small part in the 2009 installment of the "Fast & Furious" film series. Now, having scored a role in the next chapter, he's deep in preparation for it. Omar plays Rico Santos, a member of Vin Diesel's posse in the ongoing saga of street racers and drug lords.
"I love it," he says. "I prepare every day for it. I pay for my own acting coach. Now I'm also a drag racer, and I got my license as a drag racing driver. I'm really enjoying everything about this."
But he hasn't left music behind. In addition to releasing a new album, "Don Omar Presents: Meet the Orphans," due in early November on Machete/Universal Music Latino, Omar will have five tracks on the next "Fast & Furious" soundtrack, and he's also collaborating on the score.
On "Meet the Orphans," Omar keeps everything in the family, working with a host of new producers, songwriters and artists that he's grouped together under his own El Orfanato Music Group.
"We made this new album, written by myself and the people inside my new company," says Omar, who's signed as an artist to Machete/Universal. "I decided I would begin to produce albums by these artists," he adds. "They're very talented young men. Today I consider myself a music executive, and my business is to make music and make money."
Omar says the artists and producers are all linked but separate. Although Omar is a Machete artist, those signed to his Orfanato Music Group roster-which includes Kendo Kaponi, Syko and Linkon-aren't, even though they're featured on his album (which also features Zion & Lennox and Plan B).
The variety of collaborators gives the 15-track set (a 20-track version with a DVD of two videos and an electronic press kit is also slated for release) a broad range of styles, from such dance tracks as current single "Danza Kuduro" to gritty social-commentary cuts like "Angeles y Demonios," a tale of a street thug looking for redemption.
"He's literally worked months and months on the creative process, and the end result is a very complete work that mixes both social themes and street music," Universal Music Latino/Machete president Walter Kolm says.
Throughout his career, Omar has consistently delivered big-selling albums, beginning with 2003's "The Last Don," which has sold 368,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and peaking with 2006's "King of Kings," which has moved 500,000-plus. But his last studio set, 2007's ambitious "iDon," hasn't cracked 100,000 since its release.
However, "Danza Kuduro," a remake of a reggaetón track originally recorded by Lucenzo, has exploded online, notching more than 11 million views on YouTube in slightly more than a month. And the song is perched in the top 10 of Billboard's Hot Latin Songs and Latin Digital Songs charts. (The video also premiered on Vevo the same day it was made available for sale at iTunes worldwide.)
As he was assembling the album, Omar reached out to fans online and sought feedback. He believes more artists should do the same. "Anyone who isn't in contact with their cyber communities and social sites will increasingly [become far] removed from their fans," he says.
His manager, Adam Torres, thinks incorporating fans' comments paid off. "People spoke to Don and he listened," Torres says. "He gave them what they wanted on this album."