Ten years ago, 5-year-old Luis Vázquez stepped foot on a stage in Puerto Rico as the lead singer of Los Bravitos de la Plena, a kids music group that included seven other members and was founded by Vázquez’s father, who is also a musician.
“All my life I’ve been surrounded by music. Since I was a little kid, we used to sing in the holiday parrandas,” says the now-15-year-old salsa singer who kicked off his career singing plena, a folkloric genre born in Puerto Rico powered by hand drums, or panderetas in Spanish. “I grew up with plena, which is somewhat similar to salsa, so for me to transition into salsa now isn’t really a major change.”
After being part of Los Bravitos from age 5 to 14, Vázquez split from the group to focus on his career as a solo salsa singer. In February, he released his debut album, Comienzos, which includes the chart-topping track “Tu Fan,” an urban-infused salsa anthem that scored Vazquez his first No. 1 on any Billboard chart. The track currently tops the Tropical Airplay chart (dated July 3). At 15 years old, the Puerto Rican becomes the youngest soloist to arrive at the summit since the chart began in October 1994.
“All my life I’ve dreamed of growing as a singer, so when there was an opportunity to cross over to salsa as a soloist, my parents and I agreed it was for the best,” he says. “It’s a new world for me but I want to keep growing and experimenting.”
Since dropping Comienzos, he had been keeping up with the Billboard charts, checking every night before bed to see if any of his songs had entered the charts. “When I saw that ‘Tu Fan’ had reached No. 3, I thought that was already huge and I was proud. But earlier this week, my phone started blowing up one morning and when I checked my entire family and team had sent me messages saying we were No. 1. My heart was full and I started crying. It’s a major feat.”
Vázquez, who enjoys spending time with family during his free time, is among the few young salseros of this generation who is making waves in the industry. With reggaeton and trap still among the top genres to date, Vázquez thinks young artists incline toward what’s popular.
“Because they get caught up in the trends, they don’t see other genres like salsa. That’s a major reason why we decided to go this route. And I know I’m not the only one, but there isn’t many of us. We want to see more young artists singing salsa. We hope my story serves as inspiration for upcoming artists.”
Meet this week’s Billboard Latin Artist on the Rise below:
Name: Luis Vázquez
Major Accomplishment: To participate in my first ever Día Nacional de la Zalsa event in Orlando. It’s one of the biggest events for salsa singers and to have been able to sing there is just incredible. Also, to be No. 1 on Billboard, I still haven’t wrapped my head around that.
Recommended Song: “Tu Fan” because it’s a really refreshing song and also very catchy. It’s a nice fusion between salsa and urban, which gives it a different touch and makes it different from anything out there.
What’s Next: Keep recording more music, and specifically record more salsa in all its facets. From hardcore and traditional salsa to something like “Tu Fan” that has an urban touch to it.