The King of Reggaeton revisits each track of his album that kickstarted a global Latin movement
Ten years ago this week, Daddy Yankee became the first reggaeton act to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart with Barrio Fino. It would become the top-selling Latin album of the entire decade. Even more importantly, Barrio and its lead single, “Gasolina,” detonated a global reggaeton explosion that irrevocably altered the business, sound and aesthetic of Latin music.
It was an eminently commercial take on what was then an underground, subversive genre shunned by major labels. Reggaeton, with its aggressive, danceable dembow beat, had been percolating for years in Puerto Rico’s underground. But it took Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” to make it explode in the Latin market and beyond. With its intro of rapid-fire rapping over the sound of gunning motors, “Gasolina” climbed both Latin and mainstream charts and traveled the world, opening the door for a reggaeton movement led by Yankee, Don Omar, Wisin & Yandel, Tito El Bambino and others. And it’s still going strong.
But it all started with Barrio Fino -- Elegant Barrio -- an album full of hits that liberally fused street reggaeton with other tropical rhythms. It wasn’t just “Gasolina.” Tracks like the infectious “Lo Que Pasó, Pasó,” the haunting “Corazones” and the uplifting “Salud y Vida” are classics of Latin urban music. “It was a movement,” says Yankee today. “Barrio Fino brought glamour to the barrio. And it gave kids the possibility to say, ‘Man, if Yankee can, I can.’”
Ten years later, Daddy Yankee gives us the track-by-track of his reggaeton classic, in his own words.
“Intro”: “It’s a poem by Gavilán [Hawk], an ex-convict poet who talks about the humble face of the barrio."
“King Daddy”: “I describe my career and I also predicted this album would change the genre and validate my name -- Daddy Yankee. King Daddy is also the title of my  mixtape, which includes the hit ‘La Nueva y la Ex.’”
“Dale Caliente”: “A dance track inspired by dancehall music. That’s why you hear the Jamaican in the background together with me the entire song.”
“No Me Dejes Solo (Don’t Leave Me Alone)" ft. Wisin y Yandel: “A club anthem. This track helped Wisin & Yandel gain international recognition because it was part of the promo video for Barrio Fino, along with ‘Gasolina.’”
“Gasolina”: “Innovative with a very catchy chorus. It describes the woman who likes to go out and have a good time. The chorus -- ‘A mi me gusta la gasoline, dame más gasoline” (I like gasoline, give me more gasoline) -- is a very popular Puerto Rican saying which inspired the track. ‘Gasolina’ became the most famous track in the history of the [Latin] urban movement. Thanks to this song, the world got to know reggaeton. The word gasoline -- everyone in the world knew what it meant. And I think part of the success of the track was people looking for some hidden meaning: Was I talking about alcohol, about drugs? That track is completely literal. It’s the most innocent song I’ve ever written.”
“Like You”: “This was my first Spanglish track. A mix of R&B and reggaeton. I made the decision to write a track with English in it so I could be understood by people who liked reggaeton but didn’t speak Spanish.”
“El Muro (The Wall)”: “After the fusion of ‘Like You’ I needed to quickly get back to basics with something hardcore. This is the classic sound of our genre.”
“Lo Que Pasó, Pasó (What Happened, Happened)”: “The album’s second single. It became a Latin anthem. The fusion of merengue and reggaeton give the music a Caribbean tropical sound.”
“Tu Príncipe (Your Prince)” ft Zion y Lennox: “A romantic track that describes how someone falls in love with his best friend but is afraid to tell her because he doesn’t want to ruin the friendship and lose her. This song got into radio on its own thanks to the fans.”
“Cuéntame (Tell Me)”: “Because ‘Tu Príncipe’ was a romantic track, I made this one similar, to create a romantic block within the album and balance the production.”
“Santifica Tus Escapularios (Bless Your Icons)”: “A rap track allows me to vent against all spiritual evil.”
“Sabor a Melao (Taste of Honey)” ft Andy Montañez: “A mix of reggaeton with salsa. I had the opportunity to record it with one of my musical heroes and salsa pioneer. I used one of the choruses he sang with the Batacumbele orchestra to create the track.”
“El Empuje (The Push)”: “After a fusion track, I once again balance the album bringing back a classic hardcore reggaeton track.”
“Qué Vas a Hacer? (What Are You Going to Do?)”: “Speaks about violence against women. You hear the dialogue between man and woman the entire song. The chorus was recorded by a female singer and I do the verses. It’s a blend of R&B and reggaeton.”
“Salud y Vida (Health & Life)”: “Latin hip-hop with Mexican banda influence. It’s a West Coast sound. It speaks about the greatest treasure we have -- and don’t value enough: Our health and living our life to the fullest above all else. The title, ‘Health & Life,’ became a popular slogan among Latinos. If you want to wish someone well, when you say goodbye you add “salud y vida.”
“Interlude”: “Gavilán reappears with another poem, this time speaking about the roughness of the barrio. It paves the way for the next track.”
“Corazones (Hearts)”: “'Corazones’ describes how every heart in the world is different and feels different things. So intentions, emotions and even the most similar of situations are always unique to each individual. The track touches on politics, crime, hope and Christian spirituality.”
“Golpe de Estado”: “It’s all about how I took total control over the movement with Barrio Fino. “
“Dos Mujeres (Two Women)”: “A humorous reggaeton that describes how a guy maintains a relationship with two women, his wife and his lover. It describes each scene and the difference between them. This track was the inspiration behind ‘La Nueva y La Ex.’”
“Saber Su Nombre (Know Her Name)”: “It’s a dancehall song in Spanish. These are the kinds of tracks you do for yourself, for your own enjoyment. I’ve been a big dancehall fan since I was a teen.”
“Historia (Outro)”: “I wrote this story by putting a face to all the names of the neighborhoods in Puerto Rico. I wanted to bring them to life in a story that’s very humble but full of pride. It closes the album and brings together the sound and concept of the production.”