Romeo Santos Joins Roc Nation Management and  Named CEO of Roc Nation Latin
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La Familia: Meet The Artists Of Roc Nation Latin

Get familiar. 

Nearly 20 years after Aventura first broke bachata music into the mainstream, using nontraditional forms like hip-hop and R&B, founding member and head honcho Romeo Santos is again establishing #newrules—this time, as CEO of the recently launched Roc Nation Latin.

Since Santos assumed his role at the new vertical of Jay Z's esteemed record label, the Dominican idol has signed on another four up-and-coming artists – after Mozart La Para, who was the first recruit – in genres across tropical, banda, hip-hop and R&B.

Before the ink set on their contracts back in October 2016, Angel “Mr. Paradise” Batista, Victoria “La Mala” Ortiz, JayRo Rosado and Karen Rodriguez impressed their new boss with their respective voices, each dripping mass appeal. Now, they're ready to flex their unique attributes to further build on the imprint's foundation. In fact, according to Roc Nation Latin President Johnny Marines, “We’re off to a good start.”

Below, get better acquainted with the new additions to the Roc Nation familia, who will hopefully help pave the way for the next generation of genre-bending, multicultural and bilingual recording artists. —Marjua Estevez

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Victoria “La Mala” Ortiz
Origin: Mexico City, Mexico
Family Heritage: Mexican
Genre: Regional Mexican with an urban twist
Hit Song: “Vete Mucho”
Favorite Meal: Tacos, rice and beans with avocado

Only a handful of women can say they’ve made an impact on the regional Mexican music scene, and Victoria “La Mala” Ortiz has earned her right to scream it loud and proud. Her family tree is peppered with musicians, including her own mother who sings. She grew up in her parents’ home of Mexico City listening to the sounds of Vincente Fernandez, the late Selena Quintanilla, and other beloved Mexican artists. Thanks to her younger, more hip aunts from across the border in Los Angeles, Ortiz was also influenced by the best in West Coast hip-hop, like her muse Tupac Shakur.

“In a way I’m a mix of those two, 2Pac and Selena,” La Mala said over the phone. “Because I’m a Mexican girl who grew up surrounded by heavy Mexican culture and all of their traditions in Mexico, but I’m also an urban child. I think both artists to this day inspire me because not only were they great, but they had a message that empowers and uplifts the people.”

After dropping a cover to “Ahora Soy Mala” by Olga Tañon, her fans dubbed her "La Mala" once the song went viral. The 28-year-old quickly evolved from a cover singer to a professional artist by embracing her persona of the gorgeous, alpha woman who packs a punch with her assertive lyrics in songs like “El Corridor Del Amor” and “Ni Como Amigos."

Victoria’s ear for the cultural melodies of her homeland, and the ones beyond it, is what will make her a mainstay in the music industry. Her ability to fuse her urban influence with traditional banda adds true sonic diversity to the label, and she’s already starting to make considerable waves. Last year, Ortiz made history as the first woman in regional Mexican music to release a video exclusively through TIDAL. “Vete Mucho” is in real life about a previous relationship that went sour, which is something all many of us can relate to. “It’s very important to me to come out with music and songs that are empowering, especially for women," she said. "This is a song based on a true story a bad relationship I was in. One day I said that I need to just let go of it and be the strong woman that I am.”

La Mala is currently putting in overtime at the studio, cooking up her official debut LP. Although working with Romeo Santos and Jay Z would be a dream come true, La Mala truly wishes to expand her brand and also work with prominent women in pop music. “I love Rihanna and Shakira so I would love to make something with other females and be very empowering.”

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Angel “Mr. Paradise” Batista
Origin: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Family Heritage: Dominican
Genre: Flamenco urbano
Hit Song: “Forastero”
Favorite Meal: Eggs, beans and rice.

Peaceful and tranquil vibes are hard to find in an era where artists are all about drowning their sorrows in sex and drugs over booming bass and 808s. Angel Batista, aka Mr. Paradise, would rather vent his frustrations on a beach in his native Dominican Republic. Since writing his first song at 14, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter has taken his laid back approach to his craft and truly capitalized on it.

"After writing my first song “Escape to Paradise,” I was thinking of all moments where I thought everything was like paradise,” Batista told us. “Based on that concept, the whole ‘Mr. Paradise’ thing began to take form. That’s how it all started—just singing about moments that seem perfect and reflecting upon it.”

Shortly after he was born, Batista moved to Spain where he learned to speak Spanish and then migrated to the U.S. in the fifth grade. As a Dominican immigrant with a thick Spaniard accent, Batista felt the social pressure to learn English in school, but didn’t have the greatest experience doing so. Both Americans and fellow Dominicans bullied him. He was frustrated he couldn’t acclimate as fast as his peers. However, he persisted enough to overcome the tough language barrier: “Coming to America was hard for me. The change was very rough. I was in a bilingual school, and just going there was a change for me. It might sound weird but I think this country made me a little tougher from all the social pressures.”

Batista was smart enough to graduate from high school and move on to college, while keeping his budding music career alive. Growing up, he was strongly influenced by the likes of Wyclef Jean and Alejandro Sanz. Women like Mala Rodriguez and Latino greats like Calle 13 also made a major impact on his lyricism and overall style. When he dropped his first single, “Forastero,” Batista took his inspirations into consideration as he poured his nomadic soul into the record.

“In my subconscious, I’ve always wanted to express myself in a way where I can tell people what it feels like to travel from one place to another,” Batista said about his first release under Roc Nation Latin. “Some people think its an integration type of song but for me it’s a universal type of song. It’s really universal and I wanted to make it as such to actually explain to the world what being a foreigner really is and that we’re all foreigners.”

Mr. Paradise is one of the most inspirational aspects of the newly established label imprint. His recent track, “De La 1 Hasta La 90,” which we premiered, proves the overall strength of his versatility as he raps in Spanish outside of the paradise he holds dear to his heart. As the youngest artist on the roster, Batista is hopeful about inspiring a new generation and Latinos from around the world with culture and music. Batista keeps in mind all of those who turn to his music for guidance as he prepares to drop his next single, which will reach the masses very soon. “I feel really happy that I’m able to influence people. When I write a song, I ask myself how I can make it influential. It’s very powerful. It’s one of the things that I think is most important when it comes to writing. The reason why I do it is to influence people. That’s the major reason why I do it.”

Karen Rodriguez
Origin: Miami, Florida
Family Heritage: Peru, Dominican Republic
Genre: Latin pop, R&B, hip-hop
Hit Song: “Hotline Bling” (Cover)
Favorite Meal: Turkey and Moro de Guandules

Karen Rodriguez is an angelic byproduct of a handful of powerful Latinas who have influenced generations of women around the world. Born in Miami and raised in Washington Heights, New York, the half Peruvian, half Dominican songstress grew up with the sounds of talented reinas from various backgrounds, including Celia Cruz, Rocio Durcal, Gloria Estefan, Selena and Jenni Rivera, among many others. Recently, Karen “The Siren” honored the lives of the women who influenced her with her seven-minute dedication titled “Reinas.”

“All of them shaped the artist and the singer I am today,” Rodriguez said sitting in the living room of her New York City apartment. “Selena embodied everything about being a Latin American woman in this industry. She was so powerful.”

Her other role model Jennifer Lopez, who served as her judge while she competing in Season 10 of FOX’s American Idol, was more than astonished when Rodriguez became the first contestant to sing in Spanish on the show. Marc Anthony was also blown away by her irresistible vocal skills, and eventually helped Rodriguez land her biggest writing opportunity of her career after she was eliminated. Rodriguez teamed up with Romeo Santos to write several songs for his Formula Vol. 2 album, including his Tego Calderon-assisted “Trust," and “Gone Forever.” She also got credit for touching up the most memorable record off the album, “Odio.”

“Just being in the studio with Romeo, taking his advice and writing with one of my idols was such an amazing experience,” Rodriguez added. “Plus having writing credits on a song with Drake made me cry as soon as I saw it.”

Karen brings a refreshing and versatile pop appeal to Roc Nation Latin. She’s able to flex her soulful vocals as she translates hip-hop, R&B and pop songs into completely new melodies, while easily weaving English and Spanish together in perfect harmony. Rodriguez proves she’s very much in tune with the new generation of Latinos who can love their parents’ favorite salsero and American music all the same. She reinforces her versatility by consistently dropping cover songs from celebrated artists like Adele, Bruno Mars, Beyoncé and Justin Bieber,

Rodriguez pays homage to her influencers by singing their songs in ways they never could, like in her Spanglish version of Whitney Houston’s classic “I Will Always Love You” she dropped earlier this month to commemorate the icon's life. She’s able to transform club records like Drake’s chart-topping “One Dance” into less a club riddim and more a Spanish ballad. Rodriguez’s medley of covers have kept her fans wanting more, but now she’s ready to show the world her own songs. “All those songs I’ve had for years written just sitting in my vault have been marinating in there and now they’re coming to life. That’s the biggest thing for me.”

Karen’s face lit up with excitement as she reflected on her own songs that she’s cooked up over the years. She’s got plans to embrace every genre possible from Latin pop to R&B. Now that she’s got the right support system behind her, we can expect to hear more original music from the 27-year-old singer real soon. In the meantime, she’s become an open book and plans to give her 170K+ YouTube subscribers a closer look into everything she does in and out of the studio.

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JayRo Rosado
Origin: Brooklyn, New York
Family Heritage: Puerto Rican
Genre: Bachata
Hit Song: “This Woman’s Work”
Favorite Meal: Arroz con huevo, habichuelas y chuletas

In the early 2000s, 17-year-old JayRo Rosado made his grand debut, winning over the audience at “Showtime at The Apollo” in Harlem. His rendition of Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work” had the crowd screaming with praise. Nearly 15 years later, the Puerto Rican crooner has stepped up to the plate to diversify bachata by turning his R&B-based cover into his first release under the new Roc Nation Latin imprint.

“Ever since Romeo and I met, it’s been this underlying click that only he and I could see and understand,” Rosado said about his work with Santos. “I believe strongly that he and I together is like a time bomb. It’s just a matter of time before we really blow up.”

Rosado’s journey to establish his music career had already been full of ups and downs before Romeo Santos signed the 32-year-old singer. His winning streak led him to Puerto Rico in 2005, where he competed in “Objectivo Fama” and dropped his first album Melodico one year later. Rosado was able to dip his hands into various genres of Latin music, from salsa to alternative rock. While he strived to find his niche, JayRo always discovered new ways to integrate his love for urban music in songs like “Alma Rosa” featuring Yomo.

After leaving Puerto Rico, Rosado found a full time job as a special aide for the Department of Education in Newark, yet kept his music career alive by performing at private events with a band on nights and weekends—that is, until he got the phone call that changed his life forever. “I was watching the Super Bowl at my sister’s apartment and I got this phone call from Joaquin Diaz, who is the musical director for Romeo, and he’s been my boy for 10 years prior to that. It came out of nowhere.”

In 2014, Romeo Santos needed a jack-of-all-trades who could embody the essence of Drake and Usher for his high profile ‘Formula Vol 2’ tour. He knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove himself worthy in the eyes of the “King Of Bachata,” proving to be the perfect pick. During Romeo’s tour stop at Yankee Stadium, Jayro gave Usher a run for his money after he seamlessly owned the hook for “Promise.” That’s when he truly earned his place in the spotlight.

Rosado’s passion for Latin music has garnered him worldwide attention, yet it was his love for R&B and hip-hop that pushed him to pursue music in the first place. His unique blend of inspiration from Jay Z, Big Pun, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, Musiqchild and Usher helped shape the core of his musical interest. Since the tour ended, JayRo and Romeo have been thinking up a master plan to evolve bachata into an international sound that everyone will know and love.

“He and I have always had that vision and that’s why we connect, Rosado said about his relationship with Santos. “If we’re going to do bachata, we want to give it that dope feel where the listener can hear the R&B influence and they might be confused as to who the singer is. They’ll listen and be like ‘is that a brother singing that?’ And that’s what we want. That’s where the key lies. Not everyone can bring it like that.”

After moving up the ranks in the last decade, the Brooklyn-born singer still can’t believe that his cover of “This Woman’s Work” that won over the Apollo has evolved into his first major single since inking his new deal. “It’s mind-boggling. It was a fun experiment and the people like it.” At the moment, JayRo is in the studio working on his next release, coming soon. —Tony Centeno

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Genres Aside, Here Are Our 25 Favorite Songs Of 2018

Keeping up with all of the music from 2018 was a full-time job, with loads of songs releasing every week and not enough ears to keep track. But the volume of music comes with an advantage: there’s something for everybody. Fittingly, our list of the 25 Best Songs of 2018 represents the multi-genre mayhem that is in everyone’s playlists this year.

Some of the entries on our list, like cuts by Drake, Travis Scott and Childish Gambino, were at the forefront of the conversation in 2018, dominating streaming services and radio around the country. Indie darling Saba made waves, and he’s included here as well. Jazz wizard Kamasi Washington dropped some of the best protest music of the year. But there are also some songs on this year’s list that spoke to the VIBE Tribe in a different way. Cardi B had hits all year, but an album cut impressed us most; Usher and Zaytoven’s new album didn’t make a huge splash commercially, but one of its songs appears here. And Beyonce appears on one of the best songs of the year that never even saw an official release–but that didn’t stop us from including it here.

Music broke the rules this year, and so did we. Read below, and tell us what surprise choices are making your songs of the year list.

READ MORE: Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

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A look back at the collaborator's up and down relationship.
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Remember The Time: 10 Times Drake And Kanye West Were Stronger Together

Kanye West and Drake aren’t exactly in the best place at the moment. West’s Dec. 13 Twitter rant detailed their issues, in which he accuses Drake of “sneak dissing” and threatening him.

“You sneak dissing on [Travis Scott] records and texting Kris [Jenner] talking about how’s the family.” he wrote among many other tweets and allegations against the Scorpion MC.

While this is a bump in the road, the two haven’t always been enemies. Despite the shenanigans surrounding them, Kanye West and Drake have had a very fruitful relationship. All drama aside, the duo have created many memorable moments in hip-hop and pop culture. They’ve written and recorded some incredible songs and shared countless stages during concerts and tours.

To abstain from dwelling on the negativity, VIBE has collected a list of moments taking you through the high points in the rappers’ relationship. Check it out below.

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Drake's Freestyles Over Many Beats By 'Ye

Before he was one of the most sought-after rappers in the world, Drizzy has looked up to Kanye West and sampled his work. For “Say What’s Real,” a single off his mixtape So Far Gone, the “In My Feelings” MC sampled Yeezy’s “Say You Will” off of his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak. The admiration continued throughout the years, resulting in more freestyles over songs like “Swagga Like Us” and “Barry Bonds.” Both tracks feature beats created by the Chi-town native. 

‘Thank Me Later’ Proves Their Shared Power 

After meeting in 2009, the duo came together to bring Drake's Thank Me Later album to the next level. They collaborated on two tracks- the futuristic love songs “Show Me A Good Time,” and “Find Your Love.” With West holding down production, deep-pocketed 808’s and table-top scratch sounds were highlighted. The accolades for the latter song resulted in the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts as they created their own lane.

Drake Calls Kanye “The Most Influential Person”

In a 2009 interview, the then-industry rookie had some nice words for West. Speaking specifically about the 41-year-old’s 808’s and Heartbreak album, the Toronto rapper described ‘Ye as "the most influential person” who was important to young emcees in the game.

"Before I ever got the chance to meet him, Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes," Drake said. He knows how to utilize great sounds and great music. So before I met him, I had the utmost respect for Kanye West. I'd even go as far as to say he's the most influential person as far as a musician that I'd ever had in my life."

Their Collaborations On Wax 

The pair has been making music together for nearly 10 years, with some standout tracks including “Forever,” the remix to “All Of The Lights,” and “Pop Style.” On their 2017 song “Glow” off of Drake’s playlist More Life, both rappers discuss their growing, limitless success. West was rumored to initially appear on Drizzy’s smash-hit “Nice For What.” He reportedly had a verse on the critically-acclaimed track until the beef between Drake and his G.O.O.D. Music cohort Pusha T became lethal.

The Joint Mixtape That Never Happened

Drake and Kanye are no strangers when it comes to making joint albums with other artists. Drake worked with Future on the platinum-selling album What A Time To Be Alive, while Kanye released Watch The Throne with JAY-Z to critical acclaim. However, it has been hinted for the longest time that the two were working on a full-length album of their own.

Kanye confirmed the plan to release an album with Drake to Vogue in 2016, shortly after hinting at a joint project during OVO Fest. The Take Care rapper co-signed the announcement, saying "What my brother was asking before was, are you ready if we make an album?"

Drake Writing For Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’

Drake wrote a song for Kanye’s 2016 effort, The Life of Pablo. The Canadian hip-hop star helped pen the Isaac Hayes and Nelly-sampled “30 Hours.” Drizzy was also reportedly on the original, unreleased version of Pablo’s “Wolves,” which featured Icelandic artist Bjork (the album version features Vic Mensa and Sia).

The Duo Become Friendly, Competitive Neighbors

By the time of their initial meeting in 2009, Kanye already clocked in nearly a decade of music industry knowledge, and Drake was making the transition from teen TV star to full-time rapper. But who would have thought the duo would have eventually become actual neighbors?

Drake eventually moved to Calabasas, Calif.- a neighborhood in Los Angeles many celebrities call home- around the same time West began publicly dating his now-wife, Kim Kardashian. In the 2016 bop “Summer Sixteen,” Drizzy jokes, “Now I got a house in LA, now I got a bigger pool than Ye / And look man, Ye’s pool is nice, mine's just bigger's what I’m saying.”

 

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There goes the neighborhood

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Kanye Supports OVO Fest

Drake created a hip-hop festival called OVO Fest in 2010. Not only does it feature notable acts in urban music, but it also gave a platform to upcoming artists from Canada who might not have gotten a platform back home. Kanye West was one of the first supports of the music event, performing at three of the festivals.

He also admitted that Drake inspired him and JAY-Z to record Watch The Throne during 2013’s OVO Fest, stating, "Me and Hov would've never made Watch the Throne if this ni**a wasn't putting pressure on us like that, so I just wanna pay my respects.”

Kanye Apologizes To Drake Over G.O.O.D. Music Album Rollouts

Earlier this fall, Kanye West apologized to Drake in a series of tweets for planning the rollout of albums by artists under his G.O.O.D music roster around the proposed release of Scorpion.

In one of the tweets, Kanye wrote “Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place. We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.” In another tweet, ‘Ye revealed that he never listened to the diss tracks between him and Pusha, and didn’t have conversations regarding Drake’s child with him.

Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place … We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.

— ye (@kanyewest) September 5, 2018

They Shared Laughs Over Meek Mill Memes

Drake and Meek Mill were in an infamous feud back in 2015. After performing his diss track aimed at Meek- "Back to Back”- at the 2015 OVO Fest, Drizzy, Kanye, and Will Smith enjoyed a laugh over the countless memes mocking the Philly MC.

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Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

What a year 2018 has been for music lovers.

Listeners enjoyed a buffet of diverse melodies, savoring in the choice of curating the tunes they craved as opposed to consuming more than they can digest. Rumored albums from veterans like Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V and The Carters' first joint project battled its way to the top of our personal charts alongside music's innovators like Noname, The Internet, Buddy, and Janelle Monae.

Within that aforementioned list of artists, a new generation of lyricists and vocalists found their footing with fans and critics alike. The rising crop of talent released projects that should motivate each of them to carve out space for forthcoming awards. While we took into account the albums released from Dec. 1, 2017 to Nov. 20, 2018, that moved us emotionally, we also checked off a list of requirements like replay value, overall production, critical reception, and cultural impact.

Here are the 30 albums (in alphabetical order, not ranked), that instilled pride in our culture, made us take a look within, and encouraged us to appreciate music all over again.

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