Natti Natasha was up against music icons like Jennifer Lopez at this year’s Billboard Latin Music Awards, but the 32-year-old prevailed, walking away with the award for Hot Latin Songs Artist of the Year, Female. The award commemorates an impressive rise for Natasha. After years of singles and collaborations, her debut album, released in February through Pina Records/The Orchard, is the breakthrough project elevating her to international fame and critical success.
Days before the show, Natasha (real name Natalia Alexandra Gutiérrez) appeared at Billboard’s Latin Music Week. Her stardom is quickly evident, as her fans scream and rush to her side while she walks through the hotel. Natasha smiles, taking her time with each fan to snap selfies and listen to what they have to say. After her panel, Natasha notes how important her fans are to her and how meaningful the connections they share are in her life.
Sitting on the floor looking at old photos with Billboard, Natasha openly reflects on her humble upbringing in the mountains of Santiago de los Caballeros. “The culture of the Dominican Republic definitely influenced me,” Natasha said. “We enjoy music in this crazy way, we celebrate absolutely everything. I’m proud of how the people are so humble, how they love family, how they celebrate the positive…I feel like music is a part of that.” The D.R. is famous for several genres; reggae, bachata, merengue and bolero — influences that are notably heard throughout Natasha’s catalogue.
When she was just 18, she made the decision to leave the Dominican Republic to follow her dreams of becoming a musician. Natasha arrived in the Bronx with no job, no family and nowhere to live, but determined to find a way. New Yorkers and the city itself became another source of inspiration for Natasha, and she never doubted she made the right choice. “Everyone believed in something and they actually pursued it,” Natasha said. “I saw a city full of dreams and dreamers, and it made me go for more.” After news of her struggle reached a family friend, she was offered space in a studio and eventually features on small projects. At that time, there were very few women in urban music and Natasha’s voice stuck out, eventually getting her onto the radar of Latin music icon Don Omar. “It was definitely harder being a girl in the industry, but sometimes you have to struggle and you have to work harder to actually enjoy when you start getting the results,” Natasha said.
After a few years of steady releases, Natasha signed to Pina Records, a label with a long reggaetón legacy, and formed her relationship with Daddy Yankee. “He’s taught me discipline,” Natasha said of Yankee. “And how to be ok with having a voice for myself, as a woman.” This has become a strong source of inspiration for Natasha throughout her career, and she has often made note of the lack of female representation in Latin music. Although often compared to genre masters like Yankee, Ivy Queen and Nicky Jam, Natasha has set herself apart, proving herself a genre mixer by incorporating popular Latin sounds like trap and bachata alongside sweet pop vocals.
Natasha’s distinctive style brought her to the top of the genre, and she was declared the most viewed woman on YouTube in 2018, beating out all other Billboard chart topping leading ladies. She released her debut studio album, illumiNATTI, shortly after and redefined herself once again. This album was momentous in several ways, but most notably it was recorded only with women, with features from Kany Garcia and Anitta. “Me Gusta” leads the way in airplay and critical recognition, but the album in its entirety is a strong and distinct project that has a modern take on her traditional influences, such as the breathtaking acoustic ballad, “La Mejor Versión De Mí.” For Natasha, the album’s release and success symbolizes her years of hard work and the love she holds for creating music that makes a connection with her fans.
Now, Natasha has her sights set on international radio dominance. After the worldwide praise of her female led album, she is confident that women will climb in the currently male occupied Latin airways.
“Supporting other girls and other women, in your surroundings, it could be anything not necessarily music, it is you giving back to the world,” Natasha said with a smile. “I want to keep representing for all Latinos– for men, women, young girls and young kids that have a dream.”