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Growing Up Latina With Nina Sky

Your favorite twins evoke some of their best childhood memories. 

Nina Sky burst onto the music scene at the tender age of 19, dripping 90s dancehall with their breakout hit "Move Ya Body." Nicole and Natalie Albino have since matured sonically, wooing us with their bold, innovative style and soulful sounds. Even throughout their evolution as women (Nicole and Natalie are both married) and musicians (you can find the girls spinning at various NYC locations), the twins have remained closely tied to their roots.

READ: Move Ya Body To Nina Sky’s ‘Forever’

"I think people would find it weird how much we identify with being Latina, because we don’t really speak the best Spanish," said Natalie to VIBE Viva. "But culturally, we grew up in a very Puerto Rican household. From the food to the music to the family closeness."

The Queens natives stopped by VIBE headquarters to traverse down memory lane and evoke some of their best childhood memories, from watching novelas with abuela to cutting up a rug at Christmas Eve.

READ: New Video: Nina Sky Feat. Smoke DZA ‘Stoners’

"It's not unusual to be loved by anyone.. It's not unusual to have fun with anyone.." 🎶💃#TBT

A photo posted by NINA SKY (@yourfavoritetwins) on

Unforgettable childhood memory:
Nicole: Christmas was a big deal for us in our family. We’d all go to my grandfather’s house, the entire family, both sides would celebrate together. That’s an unforgettable memory, especially considering that our grandfather is not here anymore. Our aunt, who was a big influence on us growing up, she sang too and wrote songs, she spent a lot of time with us as well. All the kids are older now, so we don’t celebrate that way anymore. We tried, but it’s not the same.

Natalie: We never celebrated Christmas Day, we always celebrated Christmas Eve. That was when the whole family got together. Lots of music, lots of karaoke, lots of food, and lots of presents with the most extravagant bows ever.

Favorite home cooked dish:
Natalie: Our mom makes a bomb pastelón. It’s basically like a Puerto Rican lasagna. It’s platano, meat and sauce. Our mother would make that for any holiday. For our birthdays -- we had birthday dinners -- she would ask us ‘What do you want for dinner? Ay, no, I know what you want. I’ll make you your pastelón!’ She used maduros to make it, it was always the best.

Nicole: Our grandmother would make – it’s the most simplest dish ever – chicken cutlet, mashed potatoes and corn. Those three things together, cooked by my grandma, was the best dish ever. It’s the most simplest dish, doesn’t require a lot of seasoning, but the way she made it was the best.

Little handsome. #MCM #MAXCRUSHMONDAYS

A photo posted by NINA SKY (@yourfavoritetwins) on


Craziest Hispanic proverb as told by mami or abuela:
Natalie: Our grandma used to come up with the weirdest things. On New Years, she would tell us to wear yellow or gold panties for good luck in the new year. Another one is not wearing all-black. My mother says the same thing. Yesterday she picked him up Max, my son, and said, ‘He looks really cute right now, but I don’t like it when he wears all that black. It’s not good luck, it’s really bad luck.’

Nicole: Meanwhile, Natalie and I, all we wear is black all the time. [Laughs] It’s so rare that we ever wear color, so for our grandmother to say that, I could only imagine what she thinks. She's probably praying over us all the time.

Che Guevara moment (greatest moment of rebellion):
Nicole: My first tattoo. When I got my first tattoo, I didn’t want anyone to notice and I tried to hide it so bad. I had this huge patch on my back and you know it bleeds through the patch. I threw out the patch in the garbage and my mom found it and got so mad at me. She thought I was using a gauze as a feminine pad. She was like, “Why would you use this?!’ I remember feeling so bad lying to her. I had an anxiety or panic attack, and an asthma attack, ultimately, because I couldn’t deal with the fact that I was lying to her about getting my tattoo. So, it was both my most badass moment and softest moment, because I cried and had a panic attack about it. [Laughs]

Natalie: For me, it was the same. We got our first tattoo together, but I didn’t get caught when she got caught. And she didn’t rat me out either. We always got henna tattoos. We used to hang out in the village a lot and get henna tattoos on St. Mark’s. We were 15, 16 maybe. Eventually [my mom] noticed I got the real thing on my back. She came up to me one day and asked, ‘What’s that on your back?’ I said it’s henna from last weekend, remember?’ She said, ‘No, no it’s not. It has color. Come here, I’m going to scratch it.’ So she started scratching my back and I’m like, ‘Ok, Ok! It’s a real tattoo!’ She was so disappointed in us. She got over, though.

I first saw myself as Latina when…
Natalie: I always knew I was Latina. We lived in a household where there was mad salsa, merengue and freestyle, which to me was like Latin hip-hop. We always knew we were Latina. We grew up pretty much with our grandmother. Our grandmother was the one who watched Nicole and I, we spent almost everyday and night with her. She spoke Spanish and we watched novelas with her. There was no real clear moment of clarity, but --

Nicole: You don’t realize it, but one day you’re just watching Maria la del Barrio. [Laughs].

Natalie: Yea! And I think people would find it weird how much we identify with being Latina, because we don’t really speak the best Spanish. But culturally, we grew up in a very Puerto Rican household. From the food to the music to the family closeness, we knew we were Puerto Rican.

Chupacabra or El Cuco:
Nicole: Man, I feel like both. [Laughs] My mom's side would be Chupacabra and dad’s would be Cuco.

Natalie: We spent half our time with our mom, half with our dad. We’re from Queens and he’s from the Bronx.

Poor man’s meal:
Nicole: Our grandma would give us a mayonnaise sandwich. Literally. Two slices of bread toasted, with mayonnaise. And If she wanted to get real special, she’d put any vegetable around in the middle of the sandwich.

Natalie: Avocado would be something, for example. It would be like tomato and mayonnaise, avocado and mayonnaise… Nichole now hates mayonnaise, poor thing. She could only have so much of it.

Household cure-all/remedy:
Nicole: Our grandma, if you were sick, would always make you Farina. No matter what, that was the cure.

Natalie: Omg, yes. Our mom was really sick not too long ago and our grandmother was like, ‘I’m going to send her the best Farina, it’s going to really make her feel better.’ So she sent it to the hospital to my mom, because she’s really old and can’t visit herself. It was the cutest thing ever. That was her way of nurturing you. And I think for us it’s been the same over the years.

Nicole: Vicks was definitely another one. Just breathing it was a magical remedy.

?Work and play.? #Twinning

A photo posted by NINA SKY (@yourfavoritetwins) on

Salsa, Bachata or Reggaeton?
Nicole and Natalie: Salsa!

Natalie: We grew up on it. La India was one of our idols, we love her. So salsa for sure.

Nicole: We saw her perform recently and we were just so in awe and excited about it. We literally grew up listening to her. She’s got the biggest voice and the best lyrics.

Telenovela guilty pleasure:
Natalie: Omg – and it’s [Nicole’s] too – Love & Hip Hop. She put me on.

Nicole: Yea, you have to feel guilty watching it. I feel guilty watching the women interact with each other the way they do, and watching the men treat the women in the same way. I don’t think it’s empowering for women at all, and we’re all about women empowerment. So sometimes I watch it and I feel like I’m just contributing to the success of a show that’s not good for anyone.

Natalie: It’s definitely an example of how not to be, how not to live your life and of what man not to bring home.

Historical hero/heroine?
Natalie: I love Rita Moreno. Westside Story is one of our favorite movies of all time. She’s so talented, across all boards. She was one of the firsts to do it, a pioneer.

Nicole: I would have to cosign, actually. Rita Moreno.

Life mantra:
Nicole: We always say dream big. Work hard, play hard, but only in that order. Being yourself is the most effortlessly cool thing you could do. [Laughs] All my mantras.

Natalie: Yea… hers are all cool. And -- you can do it!

 

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Carlos Perez

Anuel AA Breaks Free

In 2015, an entourage of close to 30 men drew guns among one another during a traditional Christmas parranda in Puerto Rico. The scene turned into something straight out of a movie when a pair of gangsters clandestinely attempted to kidnap local rapper Anuel AA. After a brief scuffle and flagrant shouting match, however, the man born Emmanuel Gazmey Santiago went on to finish the evening’s holiday spree in the boisterous company of his loyal posse.

Months later, after ushering in the new year on a promising note by featuring on one of Latin trap’s first global hits – De La Ghetto’s sex anthem “La Ocasion” with Arcangel and Ozuna – someone delivered Anuel AA a divine premonition of sorts: “If you keep talking about this stuff in your songs, something really ugly is going to happen to you.”

A Puerto Rican music legend, Hector “El Father” of reggaeton-turned-son of God, paid Anuel a visit to share his foreboding message. “He and I did not know each other,” explained Anuel, who prides himself on waxing poetics about the real-life experiences Hector was concerned with, “but God spoke to him and Hector felt he needed to reach out to me. When he warned me, he said it with so much conviction that he even cried.”

Having forged a legacy of his own as one of the key trailblazing reggaeton entertainers of the ‘90s who later signed a deal with JAY-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, Hector – now a devoted Christian – understood life imitated art when it came to Anuel’s lyrics.

“My lyrics talked a lot about God and the devil, so when he told me that,” Anuel continued, “I knew I needed to make some changes. Those themes, good versus evil, they were my mark and what separated me from the rest.”

On April 3, 2016, just two weeks after meeting with Hector, Anuel was arrested and held in Guaynabo’s correctional institution on charges of illegal gun possession. Following his biggest musical break yet, just as he was touching the cusp of international stardom, a court judge sentenced Anuel to 30 months in federal prison without bail.

Raised east of San Juan, in the Puerto Rican city of Carolina, Anuel AA has a lot in common with many of my favorite MCs: he’s charming, resolute, and lyrically gifted, yet marred by a criminal past, complicit misogyny and the constant struggle between right and wrong. “I had no choice but to carry those weapons with me, because of the issues I had on the street,” the rapper said to VIBE Viva over the phone, while quarantined in Miami. “I thought to myself I’d rather be locked up than found dead.”

Indeed, Anuel had evaded his probable demise when he was nearly abducted and landed right behind bars months later, fulfilling a prophecy that cost him both his freedom and a flourishing start at the tipping point of trap music en Español. “I was being forced to reckon with all the bad things I had done for money in the past,” Anuel expressed, regretfully. “I started reading the Bible for the first time and realized that my talent and blessings came from God, not anywhere else.”

Anuel had begun to take music seriously around the same time his father, José Gazmey, was laid off from his coveted A&R position at Sony Music. With his back against the wall, a scrappy Anuel left home at 15 and began to engage in felonious activity to help provide for his family and finance his music endeavors.

Like many rappers on the island, Anuel was influenced by popular culture and trends on the mainland, most discernibly by contemporary trap. Anuel understood the genre’s synonymy with street life and the drug enterprise and immediately took to Messiah El Artista, a Dominican-American rapper VIBE profiled for championing Spanish-language trap music all over New York.

“I figured if Latin trap was doing well in New York, it was for sure going to pop in Puerto Rico,” said Anuel, who had signed with the Latino division of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group the year prior to his arrest. “I spent about a month in New York before I returned to Puerto Rico. Then I started to release all the songs I had, one by one, and they began to gain popularity.”

While artists like J. Balvin helped breathe new life into the reggaeton genre in Colombia, Anuel wanted to spearhead a movement in Puerto Rico with a sound all their own. “I recorded the ‘Esclava’ remix with Bryant Myers and it might not have taken off worldwide, but it became a huge trap song in Puerto Rico.”

Akin to the heydays of reggaeton, an Afro-Caribbean genre-fusing hip-hop and reggae that originated in Puerto Rico, trap music was considered lowbrow and was heavily criticized for its vulgarity, violence, and explicit lyrics. Puerto Rican critics and artists alike had very little faith in the music’s potential and therefore denounced it. “DJ Luian, who is like a brother to me, couldn’t understand why I wanted to put all my energy into music that none of our artists wanted to sing.”

“Reggaeton went dormant for years,” he continued. “It was necessary to make trap music, because it felt like reggaeton was stuck in another era.” A self-described student of the late and oft-controversial Tupac Shakur, Anuel thought reggaeton had reached its pinnacle and believed Latin trap would be its successor.

Songs like “Nunca Sapo,” where Anuel channels Rick Ross’ Teflon Don ethos and spits a grimy slow-tempo flow over a sinister 808-laden instrumental, helped put a face to Anuel’s little-known name in the US. On cuts like Farruko’s “Liberace,” Anuel speeds up his delivery for fun and plays on the “Versace” rhythm popularized by Migos, who all hail from Atlanta—the widely credited birthplace of trap music.

For Anuel, whose life mantra “real hasta la muerte” is now a famous hashtag, music aspirations had little to do with radio play. Anuel, 27, was largely concerned with dominating the digital space, especially while incarcerated. Despite his arrest, he continued to release music from behind prison walls while his team fed his massive following up-to-date content.

Hear This Music CEO, DJ Luian heeded what Anuel was trying to accomplish and began to work with Bad Bunny, the Latin Grammy-winning artist and star voice of the current Latin trap movement. “When I was locked up, Luian helped develop Bad Bunny and he basically became in charge of keeping trap alive while I was away,” said Anuel, who ironically came under fire recently and was accused of throwing shade at Bad Bunny for the video treatment of “Yo Perreo Sola,” in which the rapper-singer dresses in drag as a stance against toxic masculinity.

“I couldn’t believe something like this was going viral,” Anuel interrupted anxiously before I could expound on a question concerning their relationship. “It looked like it was something that was edited or put together to make my Instagram posts read that way. I immediately texted Bad Bunny about it and he was like, ‘Don’t worry, people are always going to be talking sh*t.’”

Anuel considers Bad Bunny a genius at what he does and maintains that despite not knowing each other very well, he and his fellow compatriot are friendly collaborators with a working rapport: “When he and I do a new song together, what will people say then?”

Today, the collective jury will reach a verdict upon listening to Anuel’s newly-released sophomore studio album Emmanuel, where fans will find a track titled “Hasta Que Dios Diga,” a sultry, mid-tempo reggaeton number. Fans can expect to hear a star-studded project riddled with guest features, including Tego Calderón, Daddy Yankee, Enrique Iglesias, J. Balvin, Ozuna, and Karol G, to name a few.

Discussing life during a global pandemic, Anuel spoke fondly of his partner-in-rhyme, Colombian singer-songwriter Karol G. “She’s the love of my life. She’s been there with me through the good and bad. People who really love you are the ones who stand firm by you when things are bleak. In my toughest moments, Karol was there. She’s shown me how to be a better man,” he gushed.

“Karol comes off as super feminine—which she is, but Karol also has a really tough masculine side,” Anuel laughed heartily on the other end of the line. “She rides motorcycles and likes taking them up these crazy hills. She rides jet skis too! She’s like a dude, haha. We work well together and we give each other advice all the time.”

The pair are making the most of quarantine life in South Florida, releasing a self-directed and self-shot music video for their joint single “Follow,” a reference to flirting over social media in the era of social-distancing, the idea that shooting one’s proverbial shot can lead to a budding romance.

On July 17, 2018, Anuel dropped his debut studio album, Real Hasta La Muerte, hours before he was released from jail. By September, the RIAA certified his introduction to the game platinum, garnering the attention of Roc Nation artist Meek Mill. When the Philly wordsmith released his fourth studio LP in November of the same year, followers were geeked to learn Anuel had earned himself a place on Meek’s highly anticipated Championships album with “Uptown Vibes.”

I always wanted you and anuel aa to make a track together bc i feel like he’s the meek mill of spanish trap , how was it working with him ?

— Nagga (@naggareports) December 17, 2018

“Recording with Meek Mill for me was like when Allen Iverson played with Michael Jordan for the first time,” Anuel said, singing praises about their first-ever partnership. “I’m a huge fan of Meek; when his music took off I was still in the streets, so I related and identified with a lot of the things he was saying.”

“Meek doesn’t understand a lick of Spanish,” he mused in jest, “but he’s always with a bunch of Latinos. When I speak to him he says, ‘I don’t know what you’re saying, but my Spanish [speaking] ni**as tell me you be talking that sh*t!’”

Anuel leveraged his knack for storytelling and released “3 de Abril” earlier this year, an emotional freestyle about the day he was arrested and a graphic snapshot of his trials and tribulations.

“I did things without caring about the consequences. I thought I was a man because I was street smart. Now I know what it’s like to lose everything, so I wanted to talk more about my life and the experiences of me and my family,” Anuel described the inspiration behind the song.

Following the release of “3 de Abril,” Anuel again turned hip-hop heads when he and Lil Pump shared a fiery audiovisual for their collaborative effort “Illuminati,” stamping Pump's first new song since summer 2019. This year, Anuel also has songs with Colombian pop empress Shakira (“Me Gusta”) and with the late Juice WRLD (“No Me Ames”).

Albeit Anuel and Juice WRLD never got to meet in person, Anuel learned about the Chicago rapper from listening to his singles on the radio in jail. “The same year I won Billboard Latin’s Artist of The Year award, Juice WRLD won New Artist at the American Billboard Awards. We ended up recording the song after that but held off on releasing it for a bit because he and I had respective singles coming out at the same time,” Anuel explained.

“By the time we were finally ready to premiere it, Juice WRLD had passed away. We were never able to record together in person, but at least we got to feature him on the video. I know the tribute gave his fans and family some needed strength.”

Less than 30 minutes have gone by and already I am forced to wrap my conversation with Boricua’s burgeoning superstar:

Anuel, explain “real hasta la muerte” for me. Why exactly is this mantra of yours so important? 

“I can’t betray anyone. I don’t know what it’s like to really betray someone. I’m very loyal to my circle, my family, and those I hold close to me. Being real is what keeps me humble. It doesn’t matter how much money I make or how much I accomplish. What’s critical is staying real to myself and keeping my feet on the ground. That’s what helps keep me going.”

This interview was translated from Spanish to English and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Planes belonging to Delta Air Lines sit idle at Kansas City International Airport on April 03, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. U.S. carriers reported an enormous drop in bookings amid the spread of the coronavirus and are waiting for a government bailout to fight the impact. Delta lost almost $2 billion in March and parked half of its fleet in order to save money.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Puerto Rico Calls For Ban On Flights From Coronavirus Hot Spots

To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, Gov. Wanda Vázquez has inquired a possible ban on flights from popular cities in the United States due to the high number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Associated Press reports Gov. Vázquez launched the petition to the Federal Aviation Administration this week after officials accused tourists of taking medication to reduce their fevers and failing to adhere to the self-isolation rules. The incidents were later confirmed by GNPR general aide, General José Reyes.

The FAA reportedly granted a request for all flights to arrive at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMM), so that Puerto Rico National Guard (GNPR) could screen passengers arriving at the island.

“Now we want people from the areas most affected by Covid-19 not to arrive," Vázquez said. "This as part of the necessary measures to prevent this virus from spreading and affecting the health of the people of Puerto Rico."

As part of the proposal, Vázquez has listed flights from New York, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Illinois as "hot spots" of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, cases in Puerto Rico have sadly risen. The island has reported at least 24 deaths and 620 confirmed cases. Much like in cites like New York, a curfew was imposed on March 15 that closed non-essential businesses and ordered people to stay in their homes with the exception of grocery shopping or picking up medication.

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Cardi B attends "The Road to F9" Global Fan Extravaganza at Maurice A. Ferre Park on January 31, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Cardi B Assures Fans She Doesn't Have Coronavirus After Hospitalization

Cardi B has clarified her recent hospitalization had nothing to do with the current coronavirus outbreak.

The rapper took to Instagram Live to clear up the rumors after she shared a photo of her with an identity band from a hospital. “I’ve been very f***ing sick these past five days–not corona,” she said Thursday (April 2). “I have really bad stomach issues. I started throwing up; I took a pregnancy test cuz a b***h never f***ing knows.”

As she tried to find out what was wrong, fans went into a frenzy with claims of coronavirus. “I threw up seven times," she said. "I didn’t want to go to the hospital, I went to the hospital. I was sick and [press] ran with it, then my publicist hit me up and it ain’t nothing coronavirus-related, thank God!”

The possible stomachache may be connected to the singer's first world problems of finding a perfect chef. “I don’t have nobody to cook for me. I hired a chef two times and they were nasty and expensive,” she said.

In lighter news, the rapper confirmed proceeds of her viral "Coronavirus" track will benefit those in need during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Yes! That's what [we're] going to do!" Cardi B tweeted last week. "Keep in mind you don’t get your money right away...but even months from now there would be families with financial issues for getting laid off due to the virus. We will donate!"

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