On TikTok, Ryan Castro’s “Mujeriego” sound has nearly two million video creations. People of all ages and parts of the world have connected with the vibrant merengue fusion that ultimately put Castro on the map. But 14 years ago, he was singing on local buses trying to make a living for himself.
“My story begins in my humble barrio of Pedregal (located in northern Medellín),” Castro tells Billboard. “Since I didn’t have enough resources for my studies, I began singing at bus stops and on the buses. That’s how I was able to buy my own clothes and support my household.”
A dreamer who was highly influenced by hip-hop biopics, such as Eminem’s 8 Mile and 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin,’ Castro said his first supporters were his friends from el barrio, who baptized him as their very own “cantante del ghetto” (singer from the ghetto).
His strategy back in the day consisted of uploading his music to YouTube and SoundCloud with no actual marketing plan. As his music got around locally, he landed on the radar of renowned Colombian artist Kevin Roldan, who he credits as being the first artist to “support my music and be involved in my project.”
It was then, about four years ago, that he decided to take his music career seriously and built a team. Now, with a strategic plan behind all of his releases, Castro has positioned his music internationally, with singles such as “Mujeriego” and “Jordan” entering both the Billboard Global 200 and Global Excl. U.S. charts.
“‘Jordan’ is the song that everyone identifies me with,” he elaborates. “I feel it’s my biggest hit because it relates to urban street fashion and my personal flow. ‘Mujeriego,’ on the other hand, shows my versatile and explorative side. A lot of artists are criticized for taking the risk of doing other genres but I’ve gotten a lot of support from even the biggest merengue artists.”
Castro’s career has catapulted within the last year or so, not only establishing a friendship with Karol G but also opening up her “Bichota” show at the Estadio Atanasio Girardot in Medellín and nabbing the 2022 Heat Latin Music Award for best new artist. He’s also a two-time nominee at the forthcoming Premios Juventud for best male artist of the new generation and best social dance challenge for “Jordan.” In August, he will continue with his first-ever U.S. tour, presented by BC Management, which has already made successful pit stops in Miami, West Palm Beach, and Orlando.
As for an artist who derives from the barrios in Medallo and is Colombia’s breakthrough star of the moment, Castro owes it all to two things: dedication and support: “It’s the discipline I’ve had with my career,” he notes. “I work on the daily for my projects, dreams, and fans. I believe it’s a team effort of my audience and Ryan Castro as an artist.”
Learn more about this month’s Billboard Latin Artist on the Rise below:
Name: Bryan Castro
Recommended song: “Jordan”
What’s one thing we should know about the music scene in Medellín? “There’s a lot of talent in the streets of Colombia. So many of them don’t even have social media or have the desire to become famous but they are very good singers and producers. I want people to know that emerging artists in the country are working hard with a lot of love and respect. There’s no war between the artists, on the contrary, we’re united, collaborating together so that the genre in our country can grow. I know one day they’ll have the same opportunities as I do.”
Major accomplishment: “I would have to say both of my tours in the U.S. and Europe. It’s so important for me to take my music outside of Colombia.”
What’s next: “I’m working on my first album called ‘El Cantante del Ghetto.’ I want it to have a lot of collaborations, especially with artists I grew up listening to. I’m putting a lot of love into it and I hope it marks the beginning of many beautiful things in my career.”