The most-listened to song in the world this week is “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 52” by 22-year-old Argentine producer Bizarrap and Spanish rapper Quevedo. With 88.3 million streams, the track tops both the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. chart and the Global 200 chart. It’s only the second all-Spanish track to top the Global 200, following 2020’s “Dákiti” by Jhay Cortez and a then already well-established Bad Bunny.
But “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 52” is an outlier in every sense of the word. Its lead artist is a producer who hides his face behind big sunglasses and a trademark baseball cap, and who up until “Vol. 52” had only placed three tracks on Billboard’s U.S.-based Hot Latin Songs chart, all falling below the top 20 (“Vol. 52” debuted at No. 20 this week). Its featured artist, Quevedo, is a developing Spanish rapper who has never charted in the U.S. Their double whammy — it’s the first time an act from Argentina or Spain tops the Global 200 — highlights an increasingly global playing field. Although Bizarrap has placed nine prior “Sessions” on the Global 200 (including those with Paulo Llondra, Residente, Nicky Jam and Anuel), “Vol. 52” has charted in countries as disparate as Italy, Portugal and Saudi Arabia, where Bizarrap had never impacted before, says Federico “Fede” Lauria, the president of Bizarrap’s label, Dale Play Records.
It was Lauria who signed Bizarrap (real name: Gonzalo Conde) in 2019, as a 19-year-old producer with a booming YouTube channel. Lauria, a respected indie concert promoter in Argentina, launched Dale Play Records in 2018, motivated by what he saw as a potentially massive urban music scene in his country, based on freestyle rap battles that artists uploaded to their YouTube channels and social media sites.
Lauria’s first signing was Duki, an Argentine rapper who this Fall is playing four sold-out stadium dates in Buenos Aires, and who Lauria regards as the leader of Argentina’s urban movement. Following Duki, Lauria signed Nicki Nicole, rising Argentine trap/pop star who made her Coachella debut this year. It was Nicole who introduced Lauria to Bizarrap, who she was recording a session with at the time.
“I did my research on him and I fell in love with the project and with his talent and creativity,” says Lauria. If Bizarrap is a novel artist now, three years ago he was a total anomaly. A teen wunderkind producer who uploaded tracks to his YouTube channel, he worked out of his bedroom in his parents’ house. There, he developed the “Sessions” concept as a platform for developing urban acts: He provided the beats and music, and the guest artist freestyled. Videos were filmed on the spot, inside his bedroom studio. The first session featured Argentine rapper Kodigo and was titled “Bzrp Freestyle Sessions, Vol. 1.” Soon after, Bizarrap switched to “Bzrp Music Sessions,” but kept the concept intact: One session per artist. By the time Nicki Nicole came around in 2019, he was up to Vol. 13, but largely unknown outside of Argentina. Lauria, however, saw an opportunity for global impact.
“For me, he was the perfect bridge between the Argentine urban movement and the world,” he says. “You could already see his impact in Argentina. His sessions were already having an effect.”
Fifty-two sessions later (they are released roughly every three weeks) Bizarrap has crowned the charts, and Lauria has a growing label with a roster of 20 acts, distributed by The Orchard, and with offices in Argentina, Miami, Mexico and Spain, where he spoke with Billboard about taking “Bzrp Music Sessions Vol. 52” to No. 1.
You signed Bizarrap to Dale Play in 2019 as an artist, but in fact, he is a producer. Why sign him as an artist?
I always saw him as an artist. The engagement was his. The space was his. After that, the reach depends on each session and each artist. For me he was the perfect bridge between the Argentine urban movement and the world. What was happening with his sessions was already having an effect. He is a unique example of a producer who has the engagement of an artist. I haven’t seen that combination before to this degree. Plus, there is no language barrier. We’ve worked with non-Spanish speaking artists as well.
What is a Bizarrap session?
It’s a creative space, a free space, a cultural space, and it’s a space that represents very well the beginnings of Argentina’s urban music movement. Our first successful one was [Vol. 13] with Nicki Nicole in 2019. She was the first woman to record with him, and that session went to No. 1 in a bunch of countries, and that’s when we realized what could happen.
From that moment on, we started to develop a more executive plan, with more promotion and planning, but keeping the organic spirit of the sessions. All those sessions were filmed in his house in his home studio – it’s his bedroom — at his parents’ house, where he used to live. Villano Antillano’s “Session No. 51,” [which peaked at No. 70 on the Global 200 last month] was filmed there. Now that we have to film in other countries, we try to replicate that vibe of being in a bedroom in his house.
Biza has done 57 sessions, including ones with huge stars like Nicky Jam and Anuel. What has made this one work so well?
He’s growing a lot, and his audience grows session to session. In this case, the song is also very mainstream; it’s a hit.
Are you doing radio promo?
Very organically. We’re obviously focusing on markets where we need to build up his name, because this session is doing well in new markets like Italy, Portugal and Saudi Arabia. But our promo is not so much radio, but PR and actions with the DSPs to let people know who Bizarrap is. Our focus is 100% based on the music. His main asset is his A&R, so we have to figure out how to communicate these releases without losing the essence of where the sessions are made, which is his home bedroom. Bizarrap is built on “anti-marketing.” His success doesn’t come from big actions, but from bottom to top. His market builds with every session. I can’t say there’s been a tipping point, and the fact that this session hit Number 1 doesn’t mean that the next one will. Each session is different.
How does your promo work?
It starts [on his Instagram], and then it multiplies via platforms like Twitch and TikTok. Bizarrap got started on YouTube, where he uploaded the sessions, and we [Dale Play] took the audience to consume in other platforms like Spotify and Apple. We do a series of actions to create expectation prior to release. He’s a great generator of content to tease upcoming sessions. Everything is very mysterious, and because each session features a different artist, there’s always an element of surprise. But he drops clues. With this session, we did a promo with Burger King Spain where we invited fans to a specific Burger King restaurant to order a Bizarrap meal. Those who did on that day got the meal with a little Bizarrap doll that played a snippet of the new session. But we don’t seek out these commercial deals. It’s the other way round. Gonzalo has the ideas, and we try to execute them. In this case, we reached an agreement with Burger King in 10 days.
What kind of deal do you have with Bizarrap?
He is a Dale Play artist, but our deal includes many options. Some releases are licenses, others include masters. We work very freely, but always linked to Dale Play.
Ironically, some of your biggest sessions have been with little known acts, including Quevedo, who was not well known outside Spain. How did that come about?
Because Dale Play now has an office in Spain, we get a lot of information from here. As soon as we heard Quevedo’s music, both Gonzalo and I felt he was a session artist. Gonzalo has that vision; he sees things before other people do.
Do you ever challenge his choices?
I speak with him daily. We talk a lot, we debate strategies, we disagree, but in the end, we respect his vision, and I believe in his vision. That was the key. We combined my executive power with his artistic power.
Have you had artists say no, and then say yes?
Many! [laughs]. But if the project works, if it artistically works, we’re always open to another conversation.
What’s next? There’s been some Twitter posts suggesting there might be a Bad Bunny Session in the future…
Bad Bunny is a faithful Biza follower, and in fact, he introduced Biza to Villano Antillano. But as far as a Session goes, only Benito and Noah can answer that question. [laughs]