Cardi B, Major Lazer, J Balvin & More Highlight Dominican Republic's Electric Paradise Festival 2018

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Cardi B and Ozuna perform at Electric Paradise Festival in the Dominican Republic on Dec. 23, 2018.

The pristine sand beaches of Punta Canta echoed with the sounds of over 20,000 swimsuit and beachwear-clad festival-goers on Saturday (Dec. 22). The crowd, many of whom had temporarily migrated from unforgiving winters ahead of Christmas, or alternately come from the Dominican Republic’s capital city of Santo Domingo, gathered for the fourth annual Electric Paradise Festival. Featuring three standalone setups -- a dance, live music and electronic stage -- all scattered across private beaches, attendees were offered the best of each respective musical world.   

The brainchild of Pablo Pou, the fest, which takes place at Sanctuary Cap Cana -- a sprawling private resort -- has quietly become a hidden gem that boasts a uniquely eclectic mixture of electronic, hip-hop, dance and Latin talents. “Dominican people love music and we have diverse tastes. My goal with the festival was to create an environment where everyone could listen to the music they love,” Pou explained to Billboard from the festival grounds.  

For acts like Major Lazer, who opened the evening with a bass-heavy remix of Post Malone’s “Rockstar,” Electric Paradise’s unique intersection of genres undoubtedly felt tailor made. The trio, led by a shirtless Diplo, also tipped a hat to Travis Scott and Drake with an EDM-leaning version of “Sicko Mode” before ceding the floor to the ladies via Beyonce’s “Run the World” and the Spice Girls “Wannabe.” Not to be outdone, Walshy Fire and Jillionaire paid homage to their Caribbean roots and deep love of soca, reggae and dancehall with a variety of samples including Major Lazer’s lush remix of Chrissie Hynde’s 1981 breakout single “Talk of the Town.” However, it was their spin on Dominican native son DJ Kass’s “Scooby Doo Pa Pa” that captured the heart and dancing feet of the exuberant audience.

While things momentarily wound down at the dance stage, there was an influx of bodies to the live stage where Cardi B set a high-energy tone for follow up performances from Ozuna, J Balvin and Wiz Khalifa. Clad in a sparkling green leotard, the award-winning raptress set aside much-publicized drama with estranged husband and Migos member Offset to woo the crowd with “Motorsport,” “Money” and “Be Careful.” Backed by a retinue of dancers -- also wearing ruffled, “money green” leotards -- Cardi spoke exclusively in Spanish, and shared with the audience her pride in her Dominican roots. The new mother ended her performance with a rousing rendition of her breakout single “Bodak Yellow.” Yet still, it was an appearance from Puerto Rican megastar Ozuna who helped perform “La Modelo” that ultimately whipped the audience into a true frenzy.

Following Cardi’s set, Ozuna took the stage for his own dynamic performance. Wearing a simple graphic T-shirt and diamond jewelry -- he stripped himself of the former by the end of the set -- he inspired equal parts dancing and moshing with crowd pleasers like “Se Preparó" and “Siguelo Bailando. The Puerto Rican star also took advantage of his proximity to Cardi B, inviting her on stage to perform her fiery verse on the DJ Snake and Selena Gomez featured single “Taki Taki.” By the time headliner J Balvin hit the stage -- nearly half an hour late due to delayed set times -- people were truly in the festive spirit, which was only amplified by his elaborate stage setup, which included a giant inflatable dinosaur. Balvin, reading the crowd’s frenetic energy, immediately launched into crossover favorites like the Beyonce-featured “Mi Gente” as well as “Ay Vamos” and “X.”

He was followed up by perennial weed smoker Wiz Khalifa, who ended the live stage performances with a lineup of classics ranging from his 2011 breakout album Rolling Papers to the 2018 reboot, Rolling Papers 2. Humoring an expectant crowd, the heavily- tattooed rapper was persuaded to perform his most beloved single, “Black and Yellow,” which, as always remains a theme song for his hometown. So much so, the Pittsburgh Steelers adopted the single as their theme song following their 2009 Super Bowl championship win. Although Wiz’s set started well past 2 a.m., party-goers were hardly deterred, and found their way over to the electronic stage, which featured a late night set from house music maven Seth Troxler, who kept the party going until well past 6 a.m.