Farruko’s “Pepas,” an EDM/reggaetón track about pill-popping partygoers, hit No.1 this week on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs and Hot Dance/Electronic Songs charts. Equally impressive is the fact that “Pepas” is not a multi-artist collaboration, but a Farruko solo single, bolstered by an irresistible, anthemic chorus that sent fans wild at the recent Baja Beach Fest in Rosarito, Mexico despite the fact that the song is only two months old.
That’s all sweet news for Farruko (real name Carlos Efrén Reyes Rosado), a reggaetón star who’s had eight prior top 10 hits on Hot Latin Songs, and who in the past decade has seen many of his pals, including J Balvin and Bad Bunny, ultimately climb to the top of the mainstream charts, even though their collabs with Farruko were often their major launching pads. Witness 2014’s “6 a.m.” with Balvin (No. 3 on Hot Latin Songs); 2017’s “Krippy Kush” with Rvssian and Bad Bunny (No. 5); “2019’s Calma” with Pedro Capó (No. 3); and, most recently, 2020’s “Relación,” the Sech track that features Balvin, Daddy Yankee, Rosalía and, of course, Farruko (No. 2).
Enter “Pepas,” which kicks off with Farruko singing gently over simple chords, almost as if it were a love song, before it pumps up, finessed by a sextet of producers: IAmChino, Sharo Towers, Keriel “K4G” Quiroz, Victor Cárdenas, White Star and Axel Rafael Quezada Fulgencio “Ghetto.”
The song was released June 24 on Sony Music Latin with little fanfare — there wasn’t even a video ready — and debuted at No. 28 on the Hot Latin Songs chart dated July 17. It jumped to the top 10 four weeks later, reaching No. 6 on the chart dated Aug. 7, and finally No. 1 this week, thanks to a 20% boost in streams (reaching the top 20 of Streaming Songs and No. 1 on Latin streaming songs) and airplay support.
The real driver of the song on the Latin charts was its performance on the dance charts. There, it debuted at No. 9 on the chart dated July 17 and has remained on the top 10 since, peaking at No. 1 last week. That’s because at heart, “Pepas” is an EDM track, propelled by dozens of remixes by DJs big and small that also aided its rise on the global charts — climbing this week to No. 6 on both the Global 200 and the Global Excl. U.S. — and on the Hot 100, where this week it rose to No. 23, Farruko’s highest position yet.
All that success was part of a strategy instigated by Farruko and his longtime manager Franklin Martínez, who is also the president of Carbon Fiber Music, the music company the two are owners and partners in. And the result earns Martínez the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
With the upward trajectory of “Pepas” showing no signs of stopping, and with Farruko readying a September release for his upcoming studio album, La 167, Martínez spoke with Billboard about the song’s surprising success, the DJ factor and an upcoming remix. “You can have a great organic record,” he says, “but if no one jumps behind it, it won’t go anywhere.”
“Pepas” is part of Farruko’s upcoming La 167. What’s the story behind the album and the song?
We were working on the album for a couple of years, in different sessions, different recording camps, until we got to the last one in Puerto Rico. It took place right where Farruko grew up, in Bayamón Puerto Rico, in his parents’ house. Farruko built his little home studio there, where this track was recorded. The concept of the album is coming out of that place. Farruko wanted the album to let people know about him; not the artist, but him: Carlos. That’s why the cover of the album is a gas pump. La 167 is the road he had to drive to and from every day.
In fact, you were considering a single called “La Perla” after the San Juan neighborhood, right?
We were going to release it. The video was done. And I kept saying, “Farruko, this ‘Pepas’ is a World Cup record.” I’m a huge fan of soccer, and when I heard this song it reminded me of the World Cup and of [Don Omar’s] “Danza Kuduro.” As we began to talk the album up, I had mini conversations with people I pitched the record to [for collaborations]. For example, I sent it to Noah [Assad, Bad Bunny’s manager], and I said, “This is a global hit!” But they passed on it. I sent it to the A&R at Interscope, to other artists, everyone passed. Finally, about two months ago, Farruko said, “You know what, you’re right. Let’s go out with ‘Pepas.’”
Two months ago was about when this single came out. How did you work so fast?
I had to run, call the DSPs, call Sony, call everyone. Then, we started thinking that everything had shut down during the pandemic, but the first thing that opened were restaurants and clubs, and the people performing were the DJs. So we decided to make a call to DJs everywhere and ask them to create their version of the record. On June 22, we leaked the a capellas and the beat on Instagram and Facebook with a link so the DJs could download them. The song came out June 24 and it started to go viral. We had no playlisting. Even today, 33% of the plays come from user-generated playlists and only 25% from editorial playlists.
Once the record started to pick up, it went to another level. You can have a great organic record, but if no one jumps behind it, it won’t go anywhere. If you don’t have radio and the DSPs, it will not happen. And the truth is, after it took off, everyone helped. I want to send out a special shout out to the smallest DJs. They were playing it on their social media; Facebook and Instagram were the first adopters. Then we got the big DJs like Tiesto, Alan Walker, DJ Carnage.
Is there a remix coming?
The remix is coming out hopefully by October, and hopefully it will be a remix with one or two mainstream acts. To me, as a manager, for Farruko’s career, we don’t work to be No. 1. And it was so difficult before, when we wanted to do records with Anglo artists. Now that we went digital, and the Latin movement took over, to combine three worlds — dance, Anglo, Latin — is so special. I think the culture is going to love it. We’ve been in many good positions, but never like this. Finally, it’s a solo Farruko record. He had a hit with “Calma.” We had a big hit with “6 a.m.” Farruko wrote that. We did “Krippy Kush,” “Passion Whine,” “La Toxica.” But it’s been with different artists. This is the one that made the non-believers believe. Finally we have to recognize that this is Farruko and this is the real animal here.
And while this is not a World Cup year, there is soccer in the mix, isn’t there?
We own a second division soccer club in Honduras, FC Alvarado, and we’re doing a version for them, using a “punta” rhythm, which is a traditional Honduran beat. We have 25 players, and we support them with their housing and their studies.