In the final months of Latin trap artist Anuel AA’s two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for a 2016 arms possession arrest, he started following reggaetón artist Karol G on Instagram while out on parole, leaving comments like “Bebecita” (“Little baby”). Within a month of his release, the two were speaking on the phone. Eventually, they remotely collaborated on “Culpables” (“Guilty”), which tells the story of a couple that falls in love while dating other people. (Anuel AA and Karol G were both in relationships when they started talking.) It wasn’t until the shoot for the track’s music video, though, that they finally met.
“I told my manager [Frabian Eli], ‘She’s going to be my wife, I swear,’” says Anuel AA during a recent lunch at Miami’s Novecento steakhouse. Karol G sits beside him. “That’s exactly what happened,” she says, resting her head on his shoulder. In the beginning, they agree, she played hard to get, ignoring his multiple daily WhatsApp messages. “He literally spoke to himself every day,” she says. “He’d write, ‘How are you,’ at 6 a.m. Then, ‘I hope you’re fine,’ at 10 a.m. ‘I saw you on Instagram,’ at 4 p.m. I’d finally reply late at night.”
They are disarmingly in love. “Déjate llevar,” (“Let yourself go,”) she says to him, encouraging him to try the provoletta that arrives at the table. When they talk fashion, he tells her the same thing. They often finish each other’s sentences, Karol G speaking in the formal dialect of her native Medellín, Colombia, and he in Puerto Rican slang. Their real names -- Carolina and Emmanuel -- are tattooed on their hands, and a photo of them touching tongues is inked across the entirety of Anuel AA’s back. The ink, however, pales in comparison with the massive emerald framed by diamonds on her ring finger. (He wears a band of rubies and diamonds.) Her ring has sparked speculation of an engagement, though Anuel AA insists it’s more symbolic.
While in jail in Puerto Rico, Anuel AA only saw his nascent fame grow, and he made international news when he dropped his debut on the day he was released on his own label Real Hasta la Muerte (GLAD Empire distributed the album, but Anuel AA has since signed a distribution deal with The Orchard). As a solo artist, he has had four Hot 100 hits, including collaborations with 6ix9ine and Meek Mill, and has grossed $5.2 million from 13 shows on his first-ever U.S. tour last fall, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Karol G, signed to Universal Music Latin Entertainment, has had three top 10 hits of her own on Hot Latin Songs. She won best new artist at the 2018 Latin Grammy Awards and has scored endorsement deals with Nissan and CÎROC. She has painstakingly crafted a clean image, even turning down songs she deemed too sexual or lyrically objectionable -- all of which makes her relationship with Anuel AA, whose lyrics are often raunchy and explicit, even more of an eyebrow-raiser.
“Early on, [a journalist] asked me how I could go out with someone who had been in jail, who’d had all these problems,” she says. “That’s probably why I’m in love. I’ve always been so discreet, and suddenly, the alpha male shows up, and it’s so sexy. It makes you feel like you have Superman by your side.”
And Anuel AA appears to always be by her side. The two have developed a strategy of well-choreographed Instagram posts designed to yield maximum attention from their nearly 27 million combined followers. Their most-liked photo together, of the two mostly nude in bed on Dec. 30, 2018, has over 3.5 million likes. “We are the power couple,” says Karol G without irony. “We do everything together, we never tire of each other, and all the time we’re super productive. We talk about what we’re doing -- his album, my album, the tour.”
The key to keeping romance and business flourishing, they say, is knowing when to separate the two. Their creative decisions are made together as artists, but, says Anuel AA, “when it comes to business, we tell our managers, ‘You guys negotiate between the two of you. Don’t call us.’” Even so, both artists can’t help but give each other input on aspects of their careers. Karol G has been militant about getting Anuel AA to be punctual, to stagger the release of his singles and to moderate his often feud-starting social media posts.
“For four months, I wouldn’t post anything on Instagram without showing her first,” says Anuel AA. “I’ve known Karol for seven months, and she has already done more for me than almost anyone else in my life. She has learned from me, but I’ve learned many more things from her. She always says I’m big, but I see her as bigger.”
Careers aside, it’s their relationship that they are most focused on. Anuel AA spent the holidays with Karol G’s family in Colombia -- “He calls them Mom and Dad,” says Karol G, who herself speaks with Anuel AA’s father “almost every day.” And while she says their relationship is new, they both affirm it’s very real and very much permanent. “I take care of her,” says Anuel AA. Adds Karol G: “We came together at a time when we both really needed one another.”
It Takes Two (And Then Some) To Tour
Promoter Artie Pabon on organizing the live outing for “the first Latin urban royal couple”
Last November, Anuel AA and manager Frabian Eli approached Artie Pabon, who has worked with Anuel AA since 2018, with an idea: Karol G would join his upcoming Latin America tour. Within two months, they had sorted out the details, and in January, they announced the tour. Pabon, 46, held several meetings with both management camps to determine how each artist’s staffs would be shared. “Being that both Anuel and Karol have big crews,” he says, “it took time to decide which members could be eliminated and which could do the job for both without jeopardizing their shows.” The Bronx native believes bringing Karol G -- “one of the hottest Latin female artists of today” -- along will only make the tour stronger. She “has her own audience, which differs from Anuel’s. Together, they make a great recipe.” Pabon, who worked with both artists as they prepared for the tour, says their dynamic both on and offstage is “full of love.” When they’re rehearsing, they are “two professionals who are focused on perfection.” Pabon promises that the tour will be full of surprises, as any good promoter would, but one thing is for sure: “The fans will see these two superstars at their best.”