Bad Bunny was all smiles and nerves while presenting his longtime manager, Noah Assad, with the Executive of the Year award at Billboard‘s 2023 Power 100 event on Wednesday (Feb. 2) at Goya Studios.
After being introduced by Leila Cobo, Billboard‘s Chief Content Officer Latin/Español, the global sensation, who typically opts to publicly speak in Spanish, decided to give English a try, lightheartedly joking with the crowd, “Tonight is a special night not because my friend is winning this award, it’s more because I’m making my first English speech ever.” He was met with supportive applause and cheers, with a handful of attendees encouraging him to speak in Spanish anyway. Nevertheless, El Conejo Malo found middle ground, sharing a heartfelt speech in a mix of both languages.
“I know my man doesn’t like this kind of thing — this attention, the speech, this corny s–t,” he said amidst laughter from the crowd. “This award means a lot to me, the same way that my own awards mean a lot for him. It’s because this award is the proof that I’m not working alone, that dreams come true, but it’s never only by yourself. It’s always about team work.”
Together, the dynamic Puerto Rican pair have achieved unprecedented heights in Spanish and English markets, including Bad Bunny’s first of two tours in 2022, El Último Tour del Mundo, boasting the top sales day for any tour on Ticketmaster (since Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s On the Run II tour went on sale in 2018), selling out nearly half a million tickets in less than a week. Four months after the tour closed, Bad Bunny commenced his World’s Hottest Tour stadium run, which made him the first artist to ever achieve separate $100 million-plus tours in the same calendar year. The global pop star’s 81 concerts in 2022 grossed $434.9 million, which marked the highest calendar-year total for any artist since the launching of Billboard Boxscore in the 1980s, posing it to become the biggest Latin tour ever.
“I came from a family of three brothers, I’m the oldest one,” Bad Bunny continued. “I never felt what it was like to have a big brother. So I want to thank Noah for being a friend, a partner and being like a big brother to me. I know that it’s tough, no soy facil, but I want to thank him for believing in me from the first day. Not just believing, but making those dreams and that vision real.”
Toward the end of his speech, the Puerto Rican phenomenon appeared to choke up under his sunshine-yellow New York Yankees fitted cap. “I want to thank him for inspiring me to dream bigger, to be a better person. To be more like you,” he directed to Assad. “There’s no big Bad Bunny superstar without Noah Assad. So if you ask me what it feels like to be the number one artist in the world, I have to say, I’m not. Noah is. We are the best. Lo mas hijo de p–a from Puerto Rico.”
As Bad Bunny foreshadowed in his sweet speech, Assad was a man of few words, more comfortable in the “big brother” role as Benito described it: in the wings cheering on his superstar friend. The pair shared a warm embrace before Bad Bunny playfully took the mic with him off stage to spare Assad the public speaking. “He had me crying in the corner,” Assad began. In the end, the mega exec offered a few profound words, shouting out his and Benito’s hometown of Carolina, Puerto Rico, and showering the rapper with praise, as the artist had just done for Assad.
“Everything we do, we do it to Puerto Rico, to the world. I’m honored to be the first Latin [to win this award] even though I don’t look like it,” he joked. “I want to thank Billboard. Billboard has always covered Latin. They never undervalue us in any way. They treat us as equal as the global American market. We have to be very grateful for that. At the end of the day, me and Bunny are products of thousands of people who work very hard on our island. All those walls they had to break down. There are a lot more stories to be told. This is only chapter one.”
Thanking his team back in Puerto Rico who couldn’t be at the event, Assad was brought to tears. “No one wins championships alone,” he says. “It kills me that [my team] isn’t here today. They’re everything.”