Inside The Growing Trend of Latin EDM Hits

Farruko, Karol G, Steve Aoki, Tiësto
Farruko: Jesse Grant/Telemundo/NBCU/Getty Images. Karol: Taylor Hill/Getty Images. Aoki: Aldo Carrera. Tiësto: John Parra/Getty Images.

Clockwise from left: Farruko, Karol G, Steve Aoki and Tiësto

When Farruko was working on what would be his next single, “Pepas,” in April, he started off with a song in guaracha — a genre known for its rapid tempo that originated in Cuba — powered by a reggaetón beat. Once he sped up the BPM, a rave-ready anthem was created.

“It was strange because it’s not really an EDM song, but it has that same structure,” says the Puerto Rican artist. “I wanted to evolve, reach a fan base that was more Anglo and replicate that energy that only EDM music can have at shows.” Released in June, the track scored Farruko his first No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart (dated Aug. 28) and has reached an average of 4 million daily streams on Spotify, according to the platform.

It’s not the first time that EDM and reggaetón have fused: Steve Aoki was among the first dance acts to tap into Latin rhythmic with “Azukita,” a 2018 collaboration with Daddy Yankee, Elvis Crespo and Play-N-Skillz. “Reggaetón is mostly electronic productions and heavily driven by the youth culture — there’s definitely an organic synergy there,” says Aoki. The veteran producer adds that there’s a long history of Latin rhythmic music influencing the mainstream: “[Now, it’s] playing a big role in revitalizing some of the subgenres in EDM.”

In recent months, more and more A-list Latin artists have started dabbling in the genre and have found immediate success. Bad Bunny and Jhay Cortez released the futuristic synth-pop banger “Dákiti,” which made Billboard history in November by becoming the first Latin hit to simultaneously crown the Billboard Global 200 and Billboard Global Excl. U.S. charts. Earlier this year, J Balvin and Skrillex teamed up for the 1990s dance hit-interpolated “In Da Getto,” which arrived at No. 7 on Hot Latin Songs (dated July 17), and in August, Tiësto tapped Karol G for “Don’t Be Shy,” Karol’s first-ever English-language song and the Dutch DJ-producer’s first time working with a Latin act.

“Given the star power of the artists that are collaborating and the global nature of dance music and Latin music, it automatically has that big reach,” says Monica Herrera Damashek, head of U.S. Latin artist and label partnerships at Spotify. “It works well because reggaetón at its core is about movement, dance, celebration and a release of energy, and dance music is obviously the same. This level of experimentation indicates that there’s some longevity beyond a trend that superstars are embracing right now.”

This story originally ran in the Sept. 18, 2021, issue of Billboard.