Karol G and Becky G

Becky G and Karol G on Lifting Up Music's Latinas: 'There's Space For All Of Us'

As a teenager in Medellín, Colombia, Karol G saw her city’s flourishing music scene and imagined that she, an aspiring singer, would find an easy way to its top. “At the time, there weren’t many women. And I thought, ‘I’ve got a clear path. I have no competition,’” she says on the phone from Miami. “Then, when I started working, I realized why there weren’t more women.” Even as Medellín transformed into Latin America’s reggaetón capital, there were “zero opportunities” for females in the urban genre, where, says Karol G, the explicit lyrics, machismo and stereotyping of women made it impossible to break in.

Mexican-American singer Becky G understands those obstacles well. “What Karol goes through is very similar to what I go through,” she says on the same call as Karol G but speaking from her hometown of Los Angeles. Becky G is making a 24-hour pit stop between a European tour date and a show in Mexico, while Karol G is rehearsing for an upcoming tour with a new, all-female band, and both women are excited to catch up. Over years of running into each other at awards shows, they’ve developed a warm rapport, and they chat in a fluid mix of Spanish and English.

Growing up in Inglewood, Calif., “my parents never told me, ‘You can’t do this because you’re a girl,’” says Becky G, 21. “If I wanted to play soccer, if I wanted to play baseball, it was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go sign you up.’” But in the music industry, she encountered a very different message -- particularly when in 2016 she made the unconventional leap from English-language pop to Spanish. “I remember going into the Spanish space and people telling me, ‘Girls don’t sell records. Girls don’t get played on the radio. Don’t expect to go on tour.’”

Today, both women are, in Becky G’s words, “living proof that when someone says you cannot do it, there is still a way.” Karol G, 27, is a chart-topping reggaetón artist whose silky voice and coolly seductive attitude took her first album, Unstoppable, to No. 2 debuts on the Top Latin Albums and Latin Rhythm Albums charts last November. In 2018, three of her songs -- including the remix of her hit “Mi Cama,” featuring J Balvin and Nicky Jam -- ended up in the top 10 of the Hot Latin Songs chart. And since releasing her first Spanish-language track, “Sola,” in 2016, Becky G has emerged as the leading young voice in Latin pop, logging 10 hits on Hot Latin Songs, including the unabashedly sexy “Sin Pijama” (a collaboration with Dominican singer Natti Natasha), which peaked at No. 4 in August.

“There has been a really beautiful evolution this past year in what women are representing,” says Karol G. “This isn’t about just me, or just Becky, or just Natti. We have to generate a movement. It’s not about a fight to see who stays -- there’s space for all of us.” It’s a message of solidarity that Karol G and Becky G promote behind the scenes as well, even when fans or the media expect cattiness. “They always want to sow discord where there isn’t any,” says Karol G. “Honestly -- and she knows this -- I have a natural connection with Becky.” A year ago, the two women hung out in Colombia when both were shooting videos with Mau y Ricky there, and they hope to work together in the future. “ We’ve shared my country,” Karol G recalls fondly. “We’re going to continue to cross paths.”

The feeling is mutual. “There was this one awards show that I remember was Karol’s debut performance as a crossover artist from Colombia,” says Becky G. “Everybody on the red carpet wanted to start drama over, ‘Oh, did you hear there’s another “G” in the house?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, there needs to be more of them!’” She laughs. “There’s actually so much love and unity and compassion for each other. We know what it takes to get to where we are.”

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of Billboard.