Don Omar Returns: Watch Best Moments From His First Interview in Two Years (Exclusive)
With new music on the horizon and more than two years since his last press appearance, Don Omar sat down with Billboard for an exclusive conversation and to preview his new singles.
Don Omar (real name William Llandron) spoke to us about new music, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, his return to Puerto Rico, the state of Latin urban music, the lyrical content of trap, and violence in Puerto Rico.
On why he took a break: I was exhausted. I think we all need to stop sometimes.
I love what I do. But it had become a chore and a routine. Routine kills. I got used to the routine of a song, a video and then nothing happens. I wanted to sit back and look at the business.
On his return to Puerto Rico: I went back to Puerto Rico at a time when my family needed me and I needed them. Tocar tierra. Return to the house I grew up in. Return to my mom, my brothers. Go back and see the great blessings that you forget you have. I think I returned to Puerto Rico to find myself. I also learned about agriculture.
I didn’t know how relaxing and powerful it could be to be in touch with nature and understand the cycle of growth. It began with my desire to develop a sustainable community. I bought some land. I work organic products and I employ senior citizens. I love it. I rediscovered a sense of life.
On surviving the hurricane: I was completely alone in my house in Puerto Rico. It’s one of those moments where a human being experiences real fear. After the hurricane, I felt completely vulnerable. I was like everyone else. I had to stand in line with everyone else. I helped people and would come back home and have no water to drink. That, and the fact that the entertainment industry wasn’t really sensitive [and good works were translated into media campaigns], it really affected me very much. I woke up every day for a year to make sure every family I worked with -- 3,000 families -- had something to eat.
On controversial lyrics in music: I’m living proof that I was banned in my country. The violence found in my songs one day gave me a wake-up call. One day, my partner had a gun pointed at her face. People thought that wasn’t going to change my life, but it did change my life. The reality is, if it’s easier for you to sell the bad stuff, then don’t expect good things in return.
I’m not throwing my colleagues under the bus. They, themselves, are cleaning the music scene -- Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Anuel AA. I'm not saying that the fault lies with the exponent, I'm not saying that it's the fault of the listener. What I am saying is that human beings are programmable beings, and I am the example.
On violence in Puerto Rico: Educate. The fault is not of the artists, the fault is of those who marginalized the education. The system has to change. One of the most radical moments in my career was when I had a presentation in Puerto Rico and we were celebrating the birthday of a friend, who's facing a life sentence in prison now, and in the midst of the party, I was singing a song that said “let’s kill each other." At that point, a shooting started at the club. The person who got shot in the face was my girlfriend. This happened more than 10 years ago, and since that day, Don Omar doesn’t sing music with violence because I experienced violence in real life.
Why is it easier to sing about it, rhyme about it and sell it? Because they don’t live it, and that’s being selfish. Nowadays, parents can’t do anything to their kids because they have tools so that their parents don’t punish them. Give back the respect to teachers. Give your kids a good education, that’s what children really need. Let us make it clear that technology can not defeat humanity, changes can't defeat humanity. Humanity will always be there.
On releasing new music for 2019: I would like to kick off the release during spring break this year. I’m preparing a digital release to tease fans on social media. I have a partnership with a third party that’s releasing a compilation album, where I’ll be featured with Post Malone and Nicki Minaj. I would love to release my first single in March. I’m going to work on more music and promo during the summer and hopefully go on tour in June. I miss it. I want to start in Puerto Rico, go to the Dominican Republic and visit Cuba; I’ve never been there. I’d like to kick off in the Caribbean, go to the U.S., first in the West Coast and then the East Coast, go to Mexico, and then Spain.
--Billboard Latin assistant editor Jessica Roiz contributed to this story.