Minutes before Bad Bunny steps into an arena filled with 19,000 fans, he jogs back and forth in the green room, his face stoic. The 24-year-old Latin trap star is the final performer at Calibash, SBS Entertainment’s Latin mega-concert at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. The bill features the biggest names in música urbana -- the umbrella term encompassing genres like reggaetón, Latin trap and dembow -- including Ozuna, Anuel AA, Farruko, even Enrique Iglesias. Bad Bunny is performing for the first time since the surprise late-December release of X100PRE (pronounced Por Siempre, or Forever), his critically acclaimed debut album, which peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 in early January and has yet to fall out of the top 20.
Bad Bunny, born Benito Martinez Ocasio, may be pacing like a prizefighter before a match, but he’s not nervous. “I feel great,” he says in Spanish -- he speaks minimal English -- as he offers a hug and a handshake. When the call comes for him, the singer, decked out in a fluorescent orange windbreaker and shorts, snatches an unopened Coke can, yells something that roughly translates to “Let’s do this! Fuck!” and throws it on the floor. He then storms down a long hallway toward the stage and jubilantly dances in the wings as Farruko, his fellow Puerto Rican and sometime collaborator, performs a rendition of the merengue smash “Mi Forma de Ser,” an anthem about owning one’s individuality and not giving a fuck about the haters -- which might as well be Bad Bunny’s ethos. After Farruko exits, Bad Bunny’s totem -- an image of a “third eye” he recently said allows him to “see everything,” including a female red-carpet reporter’s underwear -- unfurls to the roars of the crowd. He breaks into a big smile.