When one thinks of SoundCloud artists, they might not immediately visualize vibrant lights and stadium tours. But for Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, sharing music on the platform meant discovering his musical persona as Bad Bunny — a trailblazer dominating music charts around the world.
In 2020 and 2021, Bad Bunny was the most-streamed artist on Spotify worldwide — a major leap from his SoundCloud origin story. On its release date alone, his most recent album Un Verano Sin Ti amassed 183 million streams, surpassing Drake’s record of 176.8 million, and making the Latine legend the most-streamed artist in a single day.
The 28-year-old artist has performed with Shakira at the Super Bowl in 2020, and his list of collaborations includes Drake, Dua Lipa, the Marías, Rosalía, Cardi B and many other illustrious musicians. Even with these connections, his name alone carries more than just its own weight in the music industry — it holds pride for his Puerto Rican culture and resonance for reggaetón rhythm.
It’s estimated that Spanish is spoken by more than 500 million people around the world, meaning Bad Bunny sings not simply for Spotify streams or features, but for la gente. His name frequently topping the global charts comes down to Spanish-speaking fans who understand the difference between being “bebecita” and being “bebesota.” But his Latin-trap music also grabs non-Spanish speakers by the hand and salsas with them toward the dance floor.
For those who listen along without understanding the language, songs such as “Amorfoda” and “Otro Atardecer” universally represent raw emotion, while hits such as “Dákiti” and “Tití Me Preguntó” keep hips winding to their beat.
One cannot listen to his music and resist a foot tap or bopping of the head, and his songs’ danceability grounds itself in more than just creative counts of eight. Karina Ortiz, one of the main choreographer’s for Bad Bunny’s U.S. leg of his 2022 tour, “El Último Tour del Mundo,” told Billboard that choreographing for the artist involved both “respect” for dancers and “no label” based in stereotypes — both drastically different from the racism and lack of representation often found in the performing arts.
As for his relationship with his fans, he seems to take the same inclusive approach, especially when dedicating a show to “those who hustle for their family.” In many ways, millions of supporters appear like family to him, and his two Grammy Awards remind fans how much he is willing to hustle.
A long-time fan of World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, Bad Bunny isn’t afraid to physically throw down for his supporters either. On the television series “The Shop: Uninterrupted” starring LeBron James, the artist shared his experience moving to Orlando, Florida for three months to prepare for fighting in the WWE ring. And like many of his artistic choices, this one also comes from his roots, having had a childhood consisting of lucha libre action figures and watching wrestling with his father.
El Conejo Malo turns to wrestling for inspiration in style and his trademark element of surprise as an artist. But don’t mistake his fighting persona for closed-off adherence to masculine generalizations. Considered “one of the music scene’s most exciting, risk-taking dressers” according to Vogue, his style — both in fashion and energy — subverts the machismo that tries to fit him into stereotyped molds of other male artists.
Perhaps his work ethic and fashion explain why the City of Angels dedicated Oct. 1 as “Bad Bunny Day.” Or maybe the holiday is meant to recognize his philanthropy as founder of the Good Bunny Foundation, through which he has pledged to raise $1 million for Latine youth and the Know Your Rights Camp founded by Colin Kaepernick. Bad Bunny has been recognized for all of these achievements, including his commitment to never sacrificing his identity for fame or fortune.
Unlike some of his predecessors who entered the U.S. music charts and swapped Spanish lyrics for songs partially or entirely in English, El Conejo Malo has made one thing quite clear: You won’t be hearing him sing a verse en Inglés. His refusal to assimilate to the majority culture on the charts isn’t a gimmick — he is intentionally staying rooted in his Puerto Rican culture even as his success flourishes outside of the island.
In some of his music, he draws attention to plights the Latine community faces where he is from. His video for “El Apagón” highlights the gentrification occurring on the island, including the displacement of Latine communities from their homes and privatization of electricity causing increased rates for citizens. With the Export Service Act and Individual Investors Act, the country has incentivized wealthy foreigners to come and benefit from tax exemptions on capital gains. As the music video addresses, this has led to forced relocation of locals as non-locals move into their neighborhoods.
These events, compounded by hurricanes on the island, only exacerbate crises of power and inequity. Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio refuses to stay silent when exploitation occurs, and his accolades only motivate him in his commitments to artistry and advocacy. Bad Bunny uses his voice even beyond his lyrics to make it known that he has left his heart in Puerto Rico and his heartbeat within his music.