"The guy you're dating is mine, and you know it, but here's the detail: He's worthless in bed," Ivy Queen declares to a rival on her latest single, "La Vida Es Asi" (That's How Life Is). "That's why I'm here to congratulate you for setting me free, I have to confess."
Fifteen years into her career, reggaetón pioneer Ivy Queen -- known for her aggressive, ghetto-fabulous style and take-no-crap lyrics delivered in a rich alto -- remains the sole female claiming major status in the male-dominated Latin urban world. She has earned that rank by championing the grievances of the genre's female fan base: Think Mary J. Blige serving up a generous helping of dance-ready beats.
"I have a lot of fans with a lot of problems, and when they see me, they tell me [my music] gives them hope," says the Puerto Rican artist (born Martha Ivelisse Pesante). "I've spoken to fans who have been abused by their exes; I've had male fans who can't find jobs because of the way they look, with tattoos and piercings. I always get a lot of feedback from men; that they love the way I rhyme."
But while Ivy Queen's empowering messages haven't changed much, other things have. With first-week sales of 3,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan, her latest album, "Drama Queen," debuts at No. 3 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart on a new label and in a vastly different business climate.
Her last studio album, 2007's "Sentimiento," was distributed by Univision Records and has sold 154,000, according to SoundScan. A subsequent live album was distributed by Machete Music and spawned the 2008 hit "Dime." Universal's Machete, whose roster includes nearly every top Latin urban artist, signed Ivy Queen to a 360 deal this year. The artist is now set to co-headline the Machete Music Tour 2010. The trek, which starts Oct. 15, is a co-production with AEG Live celebrating the label's fifth anniversary.
Machete also plans to help the artist spin off an Ivy Queen perfume and doll next year, according to Walter Kolm, president of Universal Music Latino and Machete. "Machete Music doesn't just sell music. It's a complete entertainment and lifestyle company," Kolm says. "A book or clothing by Ivy Queen would be interesting propositions for us too."
"I said, 'You're going to sign the only female; you're going to sign the queen. What's the deal? What are we going to do?' " Ivy Queen recalls. "They said, 'We're blessed to have you under this label; we respect you.' And that's the first thing that attracted me to them."
While the singer/songwriter has diversified her sound in the last few years, the textures on "Drama Queen" vary from tropical bachata to R&B, rap and reggaetón. "La Vida Es Asi" was recorded in urban and bachata versions, with both serviced to radio -- now the standard method of scoring a hit on Latin radio, where formats have increasingly overlapped playlists in recent years. "La Vida" has charted on tropical, Latin pop and rhythm stations, driving it to No. 21 this week on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart.
Ivy Queen says another of her goals at Machete is to record with such English-language R&B/hip-hop artists as Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Ne-Yo. In the meantime, she's getting her camera gear ready to film behind-the-scenes drama on the Machete tour. "I know a lot of things are going to happen," Ivy Queen says. "My shoes are going to disappear, and I'm going to have a tantrum."