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Lunay: El Niño Con Un Sueño

Puerto Rico's reggaeton and urbano artist, Lunay, humbly states, "music embraced me, and it is the most beautiful connection I have ever had.”

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A young Jefnier Osario Moreno remembers growing up in the small town of Corozal in Puerto Rico’s countryside and having his eyes set on a bigger stage, the city of San Juan. Little did he know that his early clippings of covers and freestyles uploaded to SoundCloud and Facebook would launch his music career globally.

Lunay, the stage moniker adopted by Moreno, figuratively represents “sacrifice, commitment, discipline, and responsibility,” he says. For him and his fans, it is a daily reminder that no dream is too big or unattainable with determination, ambition, and hard work.

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As a young boy, Moreno spent much of his childhood on the field, perfecting his dexterity and agility in soccer. His energy came to life in friendly scrimmages, and he enjoyed the freedom the sport gave him to be a force on the field. If not kicking around, he lived on the wild side, forming an infatuation with motorcycles – a passion he has carried with him to adulthood.

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“A memory from my childhood that brings me happiness is seeing my dad coming to my house to tell me, ‘Hey! Come, come with me, we’re going to race’ and I, very small, would get on it and ride them around.” Moments like this helped young Lunay navigate his parents’ early divorce.

When he wasn’t a daredevil or athlete, the devout singer attended church every Sunday, followed by the standing tradition of visiting Abuela, whom he would often bug for two or three pesos (that she wouldn’t have) to fund his mischievous activities, before enjoying family dinner. Through these anecdotes, it’s evident that Lunay values his family and God at his foundation.

As an avid listener of reggaeton since 13, the young urbano talent enjoyed but didn’t pursue music aggressively until years later. He believed his talent and love for soccer would be his ticket out of el campo. However, equipped with an ear for melodies and hooks, an attribute he accredits to the heavy rotations of Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam’s catalogs growing up, as well as watching his father and brother perform in the choir band, music came naturally.

Lunay humbly states, “music embraced me, and it is the most beautiful connection I have ever had.” The retired athlete continues, “I knew that my love for music was the biggest thing when I laid my first track and started freestyling, improvising, playing with lyrics and rhymes from my mind. I felt so much emotion to feel that talent, and there was no turning back.”

Supported by his family and teammates, who often encouraged him to freestyle and sing, Lunay practiced his lyrics in front of his trusted fans before uploading his soundbites to Facebook. When a freestyle competition presented itself, the eager novice jumped at the opportunity to prove his craft. The grand prize was a meet and greet with Daddy Yankee, his idol, and this meant everything to Lunay, who then put his best foot forward. And he won.

Sharing this experience with his father, the two made the trip to the big city to attend the showcase. When the time came at the end of the night to meet the star, as any eager fan would, Lunay approached the urbano legend and expressed his appreciation to Yankee for his immense contribution to the reggaeton genre.

Witnessing the stage presence and glamour of the music industry that night, the fire to become a sensation, just like his idol, grew. He told the “Gasolina” singer that he wouldn’t stop making music until he had a song with him one day. Yankee imparted his advice never to give up dreaming and working hard, and the two wrapped their encounter with a photograph. “Meeting Yankee caused me not to sleep until I met him again, but in a studio,” he recalls.

The dreamy boy returned to Corozal and devoted all his time to perfecting his craft – even selling cans to cover studio fees. “I realized that creating music was my life’s purpose,” he says.  Most of his school days were spent conjuring lyrics and melodies in his head that he’d jot down. After classes were over for the day, he would go straight to the studio to record. “To see the magic behind writing something that comes to your heart and mind and going into the studio to record as an artist…as a singer. It was more than a dream to get into the booth and listen to YOUR voice.”

Lunay amassed an impressive following releasing DIY freestyles recorded on his phone before uploading online under his first name, “Jefnier.” In 2017, he released the well-produced “Aparentas” onto Soundcloud. The upbeat Latin track showcases a versatile young Moreno, flowing between singing and rapping, and features a sharp hook by Mvrio.

“The internet has truly changed my life,” he says, referring to the successful track that caught the attention of seasoned music producers Gaby Music and Chris Jedi, who later launched the label La Familia. The veteran producers worked with various reggaeton hitmakers, Daddy Yankee, Bad Bunny, Anuel AA, and Ozuna, before adding Lunay to the roster.

Once the trio linked, Moreno knew it was time to rebrand, and so came the name change to Lunay. “Originally, I started as Jefnier… Lunay is just a play on lyrics; it’s a play on rhymes. I was in Condado one day with Chris Jedi, and we had the first song ready that we would put out, but it still had my first name, and the stage name was missing. So, what do the Martians do: they create and look for ideas, and so Lunay came out.”  Lunay’s affinity for extraterrestrials is evident in his recent tattoo: a mockup of a half-martian and half-niño.

His reintroduction under the new stage name came with “A Solas,” followed by “Como La Primera Vez,” before collaborating with Ozuna, Rauw Alejandro, and Lyanno on “Luz Apaga,” which went on to amass millions of views on YouTube. Infused with the adrenaline of a 147M-viewed-song on YouTube, Lunay invited Anuel AA, Brytiago, and Alex Rose for a remix of his 2018, “A Solas,” continuing the streak of popularity on the platform. By 2019, he released “Soltera,” reaching over 5M views in its first week.

The hard work and dedication paid off when Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny hopped on the “Soltera” remix that February, garnering Lunay his first break on the Billboard charts, with the track peaking at 69.

“[I remember saying] Yankee, I’m not going to stop working until I can record with you,” he calls back of his early teens encounter with the reggaeton legend. “Three years later, I met Yankee again in the studio, and I reminded him,” he says, gesturing to an imaginary photo. “Yankee, look at the photo. Do you remember I told you I would work non-stop until we could be here? We are here now!” He pauses, giddy in reflection of the full-circle moment. He adds, “thank you, Yankee, for always being the inspiration.”

The rising success of Lunay as a household name on the island was all before he released his debut album, Épico, in October 2019. The inaugural 14-track long-form reached number 2 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums and 79 on the Billboard 200 chart – impressively only 14 months after first taking music seriously.

Under new management, La Familia, he went on to release his 15-track sophomore album, El Niño, in May 2021. The album, titled after his childhood nickname, came before his 21st birthday, representing his transition from boy to man. The LP opening track, “El Niño,” is an homage to Jerry Rivera’s “Cara de Niño,” before listeners are taken on an exploration of ballads, up-tempo bops, and perreo-inspired beats, including features from industry favorites Anitta, Bryant Myers, and Zion to name a few. The jam-packed project also includes introductions to some of Puerto Rico’s rising acts, Lunay’s interpretation of paying it forward and building opportunities for other young artists to join the conversation as he was once was.

The musical landscape of Puerto Rico is dominated by urbano and reggaeton, bringing to life the energetic and sultriness of the Caribbean genre, infused with primarily Spanish lyrics worldwide. Joining the company of legends, Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam and  in recent years, Bad Bunny, Rauw Alejandro, Anuel AA, and Ozuna, to name a few, Lunay speaks proudly of continuing the legacy they trailblazed: “it is extremely important for me to represent the culture and reggaeton. Reggaeton is the culture, and it is what will continue to give us a voice.” For that, he has no immediate plans to sing in English and celebrates the receptiveness of the bilingual genre worldwide. “I always want to highlight my Puerto Rican flavor and my Puerto Rican essence.”

Far from completing his legacy, the wide-eyed urbano star has his eyes set on Europe and Asia, Tokyo to be specific, hoping to bring his Spanish lyrics abroad. However, as Lunay builds his global fanbase, Puerto Rico will always be his foundation. “Puerto Rico means my blood, it means home, it’s me… I am Puerto Rico,” he proudly states. “Wherever I stand, I am Puerto Rico, and I represent it from the moment I open my eyes.”

The artist figuratively pinches himself when reflecting on how far he’s come and how much more he has left to accomplish. “It feels like a dream that has finally arrived: that the fans are there consuming my music, that my name is recognized worldwide, and to be able to represent Puerto Rico and my family…it feels like a blessing.”