Exactly one year ago, Ozuna released his debut album, Odisea (Dimelo VI/Sony Music Latin). The set has broken the record by a male artist for weeks a No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart; only Gloria Estefan has spent more time on the top spot, with her seminal “Mi Tierra.”
Now, Ozuna is set to release his follow up, Aura, on Aug. 24. He’ll also launch his new U.S. tour Sept. 8 and has a new collaboration with Cardi B in the works. In between myriad projects, he uses what little rest time he has to “get on my jet ski, stay home with the kids. I don’t drink.”
We caught up with Ozuna to speak about his newfound fame, his friend Anuel, reggaeton’s raunchy themes, and those collabs with Akon, Cardi B and Romeo Santos.
Odisea has broken the record for weeks at No. 1 on Top Latin Albums. What kind of pressure did this put on you?
It wasn’t about doing something bigger or better. I don’t like to proclaim things. But people ask for a lot of music; it’s different from what it was. I study this genre, and it’s like the university for me. Now, artists grow weekly, there’s new sounds, new rhythms, new technology, new people, and you have to evolve.
Aside from releasing all this solo music, you have dozens of collaborations…
I like that. It’s like being in a group. When you work with people like Drake, Anuel, Wisin, J Balvin, all those artists we collaborate and film videos with, that’s where we can be free, talk, create. I can’t walk down the streets of Miami, for example, but I can be on set with J Balvin and feel comfortable.
It’s been an amazing year for you. What from it most stands out?
Winning the artist of the year award at the Billboard Latin Music Awards. I keep that award separate from all the others, because It’s made of glass. If it falls and breaks, I don’t want another one! I want that one.
I didn’t understand how important it was until a few months go. I realized, ‘Wow, that’s THE award.’ It was one of the most emotional days in my career. Everybody was watching. In Puerto Rico, it was like a boxing match in the time of Tito Trinidad. People bought TVs, they bought boxes to see it!
This new album has many collaborations. Tell me about “Coméntale,” the song with Akon, where he sings in Spanish! How hard was that to accomplish?
It was actually easy to do. It’s easy to work with someone who shares your same work ethic, who likes to create like you do. When we got together, we did four songs: There’s one for his album and two for the future. He sang in English, he sang in Spanish, I sang in English. He doesn’t speak it perfectly, just as I don’t speak perfect English, but we understand each other.
You say in this album you brought several artists into your genre. One was Cardi B, who’s here with “La Modelo.” The other is Romeo Santos. Tell us about that collab?
He’s on a track titled “Ibiza.” He came in at the very last minute. Can you imagine, going to Romeo and saying, “You have two days to record this.” My brother Romeo. He’s a great artist and a great person. He doesn’t fail you. When we recorded “Sobredosis,” we spent 12 hours in the studio. He’s very demanding. And that’s how it was with “Ibiza.” I didn’t send it to him so he’d record it; I just wanted him to listen to it. And he said, “Wow, papá!” I told him, “I didn’t send it for you to record, but go ahead! But, you have two days to do it. If not, we’ll leave it for the next album.” But he did it, and it’s one of my favorite songs.
You also told me there are parts of the album that will make people cry….
Yes. You know everyone’s a sinner. No one’s a saint. “Aura” is a song where you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, and I was personally impacted when I recorded it. I identified with it. There are so many things happening in the world right now, and doing a song about it is painful.
Your friend Anuel, he’s in the album. Were you waiting for him to get out of prison?
He’s in the album three times. It’s not so much that I was waiting for him, because I continued to work and do projects. But I was counting on his presence in the songwriting, because that’s how we both got started. You should never lose the formula that worked for you fom the beginning, no matter how big you get. We have good chemistry. We’re good friends.
And J Balvin?
He’s an extremely important person for me. His opinion, his presence in my projects, is important. I even consult him about fashion. I send him videos and ask him if this goes with that. Plus, he has this aura. Every person in my album is someone who works from the heart and who is always willing to go with him. Cardi B, for example, came to the Billboard awards. She’s in.
Many of your friends, including Anuel, have these very raunchy, street lyrics. You don’t. Yours are more family friendly. What are your thoughts on this?
I feel bad singing music that my children won’t like. But I like listening to that music myself! It’s a problem. [Laughs.] I’m a huge fan of Anuel’s. I know all his songs. But that’s music for you, and we need to respect that. It’s like a video game; if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. But as far as me, you won’t see me singing stuff like that. One of those days, my son will say, “That’s my dad singing that.” If he likes that music, fine, but I don’t want to be the one singing it.
With everything that you’re doing, do you ever rest?
Since my body isn’t big, I don’t need much sleep. I’m fine with four hours.