Why More Latin Artists Than Ever Are Sampling Hip-Hop and Reggae Classics

Anuel AA, Shaggy, Karol G, J Balvin, Inner Circle, Nicky Jam and Daddy Yankee
Anuel AA: Victor Chavez/Getty Images. Shaggy: Jonathan Mannion. Karol G: John Parra/Getty Images. Balvin: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images. Circle: Larry Marano. Los Cangris: Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images.

Clockwise from top left: Anuel AA, Shaggy, Karol G, J Balvin, Inner Circle, Nicky Jam and Daddy Yankee.

Last year, Daddy Yankee scored another smash with “Con Calma,” one of the first in a recent wave of Latin tracks that sample throwback radio hits. The reggaetón icon recruited Snow, the original singer of the 1992 song “Informer,” for his upbeat version. By May, “Con Calma” had reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart, where it stayed for 14 weeks.

“In Latin urban music, we started something a little different,” says Juan Salinas of Play-N-Skillz, the production duo behind “Con Calma” and this January’s “Muévelo” by Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam. (The track features an interpolation of a fragment of the 1994 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 dancehall hit “Here Comes the Hotstepper” by Ini Kamoze.) “Everybody saw the success of ‘Con Calma’ and how the melodies of a familiar song appealed to people around the world,” says the Texas-based producer-DJ. “Even if you don’t know the artist or understand the language they’re singing in, you might love its melody and therefore fall in love with the new version.”

Salinas says that he and his production partner and brother, Oscar, love to dig through crates of vinyl in search of the next classic track to pitch to an artist. And while he insists “Con Calma” and “Muévelo” were the duo’s ideas, he notes that artists are getting more involved in making suggestions. “Yankee, for example, is fond of a lot of styles of music,” says Juan Salinas. “He will call us and tell us about a song that was a hit back in the days in Puerto Rico that maybe we weren’t aware of, and then we start working on different ideas.”

While sampling hits from previous generations isn’t new in American pop and hip-hop, it’s the first time the practice has been so widely used in Latin music, with stars including Ozuna, Karol G and J Balvin incorporating sampling in their songs as well. Balvin recently collaborated with The Black Eyed Peas on “Ritmo,” the lead single off the Bad Boys for Life soundtrack. The Colombian reggaetón artist gives Corona’s 1993 Eurodance hit “Rhythm of the Night” an urban-EDM twist; it peaked at No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart dated Jan. 4.

And after Anuel AA followed the trend on last August’s “China,” on which he sampled Shaggy’s 1999 smash “It Wasn’t Me,” he started 2020 by teaming with Shakira for their first collaboration, “Me Gusta,” a reggaetón/Latin trap track that samples Inner Circle’s 1992 reggae hit “Sweat,” reviving the track’s catchy “a la la la la long” chorus. “Listeners are still vibing to these classic songs,” says Salinas. “That’s why we’re bringing a new Latin flair to them.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 1, 2020 issue of Billboard.