There’s a lot of music stars at Billboard Latin Music Week 2021, but even among that rarified company, Daddy Yankee is a king. On Wednesday (Sept. 22) in Miami, the reggaeton pioneer and Billboard cover star sat down with Billboard VP/Latin Music Lead Leila Cobo for The Superstar Q+A with Daddy Yankee Presented By Samsung Galaxy.
Yankee touched on a number of topics in the wide-ranging interview, sharing stories from his come-up, reflecting on his role in creating reggaeton and offering career advice for the next generation. He also provided an update on his upcoming album, his first in nearly 10 years.
“I’m still working on it. No pressure. We’re almost at the end,” he said. “When it’s ready, I’ll let you guys know.” In the meantime, lead single “Problema” just sailed past one billion streams, and he’s executive producing a documentary on reggaeton. “That’s where I see me growing – an executive producer of movies, documentaries,” he shared.
From his 2021 Latin Music Week discussion, here are five pieces of career advice from Daddy Yankee.
Talent Is What Matters
Yankee pointed out that two of the biggest songs of his career were collaborations with artists who weren’t on career hot streaks at the time: “Despacito” with Luis Fonsi and “Con Calma” with Snow. “I’m always grateful to Fonsi for making me part of that song. Our friendship is what made that happen,” Yankee recalls. “When I saw Fonsi and the musical impact, I felt happy at what we were able to achieve, and he was able to bring his career back up. It’s a lesson. You don’t have to record with a new talent – you can still create really big things.” Similarly, when “Con Calma” hit, he says, “Nobody was thinking about Snow, but I said, ‘let’s do it.’
“We gotta work with new and established talent. That’s the goal: Just work with talented people. It’s not just recording with hot artists – which is nice and good – but do things that are unpredictable. Two of the biggest hits of my career were with people that were underestimated,” he says. “This is what happens when you underestimate a talent: You give them power.”
When asked to give rising artists advice, he asked Cobo, “You want my political answer or my real one? I don’t speak a lot because they tell me, ‘you can’t speak like that,’ but sometimes I want to.” Here’s his no-prisoners take: “The artists that are starting up and are being crybabies, I can’t talk to them. A new artist that is complaining, I leave. With all of the platforms now – we started with none of this – you starting now and you’re complaining? You’re a loser. You have so many things to connect to your public. You have to work.”
Don’t Worry About Relevance
“Music doesn’t have age. It’s infinite. That’s my philosophy,” he says. “There are legends that continue to make music for the love of it. I focus on enjoying the journey and the process. I don’t have a formula. We make the beat, the rhythm, and from there we continue.” And if it doesn’t land, there’s always next time: “If they like it, great. If not, we’ll work harder for the next one.”
Learn the Process
After having doors slammed in his face early on, he learned how to take the production and distribution of his music into his own hands, asking himself, “It’s part of the business, so how can I learn?” Being in charge of his own career means owning his masters, and that’s made each paycheck that much bigger. “Eventually when I distributed a CD that got into Billboard, I got the check and almost died,” he recalls.
Don’t Listen to the Haters
“A social network has a nice public and audience, but a whole ‘nother group think they have the truth — but they don’t,” Yankee says. “And sometimes they attack an artist.” But he keeps it in perspective, pointing out that if you’re racking up millions of streams but seeing some haters online, just remember that “they’re [in the] minority.”