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Cuban Duo Gente de Zona Are Transforming Urbano And Making Latinx Music History

Their roses might've arrived 15 years later, but Gente de Zona want to spread the power of reggaetón cubano. 

Gente de Zona is revolutionizing Latinx music like no other Cuban artist has in modern history.

The Grammy award-winning Havana duo, made up of director Alexander Delgado and Randy Malcom, captured international attention in 2014 with the release of their mega-hit “Bailando” with Enrique Iglesias, a tropical earworm that landed at the No. 12 spot of Billboard’s Top 100 chart, signaling the return of Latin urban music three years before Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” guaranteed the explosive comeback.

Since then, the group, which was the first act signed to Marc Anthony’s entertainment company Magnus Media, has continued to churn out massive successes. There’s “La Gozadera,” the Anthony-assisted, upbeat love letter to Latin America that picked up an award for "La Combinación Perfecta" at the 2016 Premios Juventud; the Latin AMAs-nominated “Traidora,” also featuring the Puerto Rican salsero; the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart-landing "3 A.M," another banger collaboration, this time with Mexican duo Jesse & Joy; and the Latin pop jam “Ni Tú Ni Yo" with Jennifer Lopez– just to name a few.

With each global hit, Gente de Zona has helped introduce new audiences to reggaetón cubano, a style of the urban genre that’s unique from the more popular riddims of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Panama and now Colombia. Cubatón, as it has been dubbed on the Caribbean island, blends classic reggaetón beats with Cuba's traditional musical styles, like son, timba and guaguancó, and pairs the joyous soundscapes with more family-friendly lyrics than the grime of old-school reggaetón and new-wave Latin trap.

Gente de Zona’s addictive strains, recorded and performed with a live band, has torn through geographical and political barriers in ways previously unseen. While Latinxs and Latin Americans alike agree that cubanas Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan are reinas of salsa and Latin pop, respectively, both women reached worldwide renown after their exile from Fidel Castro-controlled Cuba to the U.S.

But with easing political tensions between the two nations and talent capable of energizing the planet whole, Gente de Zona has been able to achieve superstardom that extended outside of the Antilles, into the 50 states and beyond– all while initially residing in Cuba. The feat, alone exceptional, is made all the more astounding for fellas creating music in the oft-condemned and devalued urbano genres.

VIBE VIVA chatted with Delgado and Malcom at the Sony Music Entertainment office in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the pair was preparing to give their first solo concert on the island. Walking in singing Gomba Jahbari's reggae en español knockout "Acho Puñeta," just like every other Boricua this fall, we had a lively conversation on the duo’s rise to global fame, creating space for cubatón in the urbano musical takeover, gaining inspiration from the genuine joy that lives in the pulse of the Cuban people and their forthcoming album, Otra Cosa, among so much more.


Gente de Zona has been around for more than 15 years, but you really started gaining global success in about 2014, with the smash hit “Bailando.” How do you think you were able to break into the international scene in a way many Cuban artists haven’t been able to in the past?

Randy Malcom: “Bailando” is a really good song, but I think what it did was give us the opportunity to really express what Gente de Zona is, right? It helped us get out of anonymity because it was a great song and it showed the identity of who is Gente de Zona. Our magic, the sealing of our style of music with our distinct voices, is what attracted an international audience.

I had the pleasure of visiting Cuba several times this year and was immediately drawn to the style of reggaetón being made there because it's much different from what we hear coming out of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Panama and now Colombia. It’s been described as cubatón, but what exactly is that? How would you describe it?

Alexander Delgado: When reggaetón came to Cuba from Panama, back when El General was making music, we called what we were creating cubatón because we maintained our roots. Cuban artists mixed Cuban music with the reggaetón base and created something organic.

Randy: We mixed urban elements with Cuban rhythms, like son, the timba and the guaguancó, and that's where the cubatón identity is.

I loved the artists I heard while in Cuba, but unfortunately, they’re not getting the same mainstream, international attention as other reggaetóneros. Who are some of your favorite less-known cubatón artists and acts that you think people should keep on their radar?

Randy: Many! Well, from our generation, I believe that El Micha is now expanding to the rest of the world. El Chacal and Jacob Forever, too. There are a lot of us from this generation doing it.

Alexander: I think that Gente de Zona entering the international market has allowed other artists to create a space for themselves there, too. For example, in Miami, there is now a radio station that promotes reggaetón from Cuba. Through that, we have been able to participate in a lot of events and shows, and I think in the next year we will have a bigger position in the international audience.

You were recently the focus of an HBO special, Gente de Zona: En Letra de Otro, where you had the opportunity to return to Alamar, a community in Havana where you grew up, to perform classic Latin hits. What was this like for you, being back where everything started?

Randy: Oh, it was incredible. It was a lot of songs we heard as kids. And the good thing is that HBO and Sony allowed us to choose the songs we wanted. It wasn't strict. It was very free: we pick the songs and perform them in the manner that we want. Alexander chose five songs and I chose five songs, and we brought these classics to 2018.

But it was still very cubano, with us putting in all of the elements that we just talked about, the son, the guaguancó, the bolero, and it was an incredible experience. And to film it in Cuba with HBO made it even better. That made it everything, all the memories we had there in that place growing up.

I know when you first started off in Havana, some people were confused about your style, rapping over classic Cuban rhythms. Why did you keep doing this style of music despite the pushback?

Alexander: The early critics showed us that we were capable of doing this but that it was just a matter of time. When we first started, we didn’t have a lot of time to work and only had about three or four songs, and I never felt that was sufficient for the people to understand the potency of the artists that we were.

I think that with time, well, really, I think that because of the first initial experience where no one had faith in us, we had the opportunity of time, to sit in the studio and dedicate our time to this. We always maintained the faith in our chemistry and that we can do this, and we did.

And being back recently, how is it received there now?

Alexander: It’s a huge difference. Everyone who said no to us is feeling it. [Laughs]

Randy: You can really feel the change, and we felt it, too. We made our music, and in the past, it was just Cubans singing along to it, but now in every concert we have people in every country who are singing, dancing and enjoying it, too. It’s incredible.

Being in Cuba, I witnessed joy as I had never seen it before, and I also feel and see it in your music. Where do you think this genuine happiness and zest for life comes from?

Alexander: This is just our culture. We have a culture that is very family-oriented, very traditional, very much about living together. That idea where children leave the home at 18 years old doesn’t exist in Cuba. You stay living there until you die. [Laughs] It’s true even in relationships.

You can get a divorce and still live together. [Laughs] So that’s our culture. We can say these things and laugh at ourselves for them. And it’s very difficult to be Cuban. It’s not like how it is in other parts of the world. Everywhere has its problems, but in Cuba, we know problems and we know how short life is, so you have to enjoy yourself. If you’re not laughing, life will slip by you without you even realizing it.

Last year, you embarked on your first U.S. tour. While Cuban exiles have done this in the past, it’s definitely not as common for expats like yourselves. What does this mean to you, understanding the history of political conflict between these two nations and yet the vast Latinx community in the U.S. that loves you?

Randy: It was incredible. We knew there were a lot of Cubans in the U.S. When we did shows, we’d go to where we knew Cubans had arrived, mostly Florida or New Jersey or New York, areas where there were already established Cuban communities. But after our album Visualízate won a Grammy and “La Gozadera” became one of the most-listened-to songs in the world in 2016, we went on a tour around the U.S. I think we went to more than 20 cities, and it was an amazing feeling. I didn’t know there were so many people in the U.S. who listened to Gente de Zona, that it was more than just Cubans.

In your wildest dreams, did you anticipate touring the U.S.?

Randy: I think so. We knew that the people were aware of who Gente de Zona was and we knew people wanted to see this tour. They were writing us letting us know this is what they wanted. So it was finally time to do this.

And now you'll soon hit the stage in Puerto Rico. As the saying goes, “Cuba y Puerto Rico, de un pajaro las dos alas” (“Cuba and Puerto Rico, from one bird the two wings”). Why did you want to perform here?

Alexander: First, we weren’t satisfied with the three times we were here previously because we were invited for special events with our performances lasting about 10 to 15 minutes, and fans can’t receive the full Gente de Zona experience within that time.

Time is really important to our shows. For an island where people are familiar with our music and who we are, but aren’t familiar with how we can put on a show, we thought it was time for that. And we wanted to be in Puerto Rico because we know that Puerto Rico is one of the strongest countries in music of all Latin America, so we thought it was the moment for them to see us live and really see what we are capable of doing.

I want to switch back to music. You recently dropped “Te Duele,” a song about an ex who hurt you and is now attempting to come back into your life. What do you do when you are in this situation: entertain or ignore her?

Randy: It depends on the person and the situation, and it's a situation that can happen to anyone. It's part of life. It's happened to me, it's happened to him and I'm sure it's happened to you. And what we like to do is convey the stuff that happens in real life in our music, so that people can identify with it and feel good about it, whichever part resonates with them.

Along with “Te Duele,” you also recently released “Lento” with Thalia and “Nadie Como Yo” with Malu Trevejo. What can you tell us about what you are currently working on?

Randy: We just released a song and music video with El Micha, who I consider as one of the best Cuban urban artists right now, called “Hazle Completo el Cuento.” This song is going to be a part of our next album, which is called Otra Cosa.

I can't say much more about it other than it's something we are working on, and there will be more reggaetón and maybe trap, because this is where the industry is right now.

Exciting! Talking about reggaetón and Latin trap, we see a lot of collaborations among these genres. We can have six artists on one song or remix. You’ve worked in the past with a lot of major pop stars and salseros. You just noted that you recently worked with El Micha, but can we expect more of this, collaborations with other reggeatóneros?

Alexander: Yes, yes, definitely! What I think is that we can adapt to what they do, but I sometimes see it’s a little difficult to adapt to what we do, because it’s a little more complicated. But we can do trap or reggaetón. That’s the advantage of having live music.

Urbano music has exploded in recent years, but trends, as we know, often come and go. In 10 to 20 years from now, where do you see Gente de Zona and what do you hope the people are saying about this group?

Randy: In 20 years, I’ll look a lot older and I hope to leave a legacy in music, in Cuban music for the world. I hope they’ll talk about Gente de Zona as something that revolutionized music and the entire world.

Twenty years, that’s a lot of time. My kids will be older, and maybe they’ll be the ones taking over this. I’ll just sit back and drink my coffee while telling them the history of what was and what is Gente de Zona.

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Ozuna performs on stage during Univision's 'Premios Juventud' 2017 Celebrates The Hottest Musical Artists And Young Latinos Change-Makers at Watsco Center on July 6, 2017 in Coral Gables, Florida. (Photo by Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images for Univision)

Ozuna Makes History With 23 Billboard Latin Music Awards Nominations

Ozuna's back to back albums and monster collaborations have paid off in a major way. The 26-year-old is up for 23 nominations for the 2019 Billboard Latin Music Awards, setting a new record for the ceremony.

Announced Tuesday (Feb. 12), the singer-songwriter leads the diverse list of nominations including Hot Latin Songs Artist of the year, Male, Songwriter of the Year and Artist of the Year. His dominating work ethic also has him listed several times in the same category like Hot Latin Song (Casper Mágico, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna & Bad Bunny's, “Te Boté” and DJ Snake featuring Selena Gomez, Ozuna & Cardi B, “Taki Taki”) and Top Latin Album of the Year for his back to back projects Aura and Odisea.

Other leading contenders include J Balvin and Nicky Jam, with 13 each, Bad Bunny with 12, Daddy Yankee with eight and Cardi B with four. Other history-making moments include the increase of female nominees and the presence of women like Karol G and Natti Natasha in the Best New Artist category. Karol is also competing against Latin Trap sensation and boyfriend Anuel AA in the same category.

See the full list below.

Artist of the Year


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A post shared by J Balvin (@jbalvin) on Feb 5, 2019 at 5:10pm PST

Bad Bunny Daddy Yankee J Balvin Ozuna

New Artist of the Year

Anuel AA Karol G Natti Natasha Raymix

Tour of the Year

Jennifer Lopez Luis Miguel Romeo Santos Shakira

Social Artist of the Year


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A post shared by anitta 🎤 (@anitta) on Jan 23, 2019 at 11:18am PST

Anitta Anuel AA Bad Bunny Lali

Crossover Artist of the Year

Cardi B Demi Lovato DJ Snake Drake

Hot Latin Song of the Year

Casper Mágico, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna & Bad Bunny, “Te Boté” Daddy Yankee, “Dura” DJ Snake featuring Selena Gomez, Ozuna & Cardi B, “Taki Taki” Nicky Jam & J Balvin, “X”

Hot Latin Song of the Year, Vocal Event

Bad Bunny featuring Drake, “MIA” Casper Mágico, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna & Bad Bunny, “Te Boté” DJ Snake featuring Selena Gomez, Ozuna & Cardi B, “Taki Taki”

Nicky Jam & J Balvin, “X”

Hot Latin Songs Artist of the Year, Male

Bad Bunny Daddy Yankee J Balvin Ozuna

Hot Latin Songs Artist of the Year, Female


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A post shared by Becky G (@iambeckyg) on Jan 11, 2019 at 1:10pm PST

Becky G Jennifer Lopez Karol G Natti Natasha

Hot Latin Songs Artist of the Year, Duo or Group

Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga Calibre 50 T3r Elemento Zion & Lennox

Hot Latin Songs Label of the Year

Flow La Movie Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment Warner Latina

Hot Latin Songs Imprint of the Year

El Cartel La Industria Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latino

Airplay Song of the Year

Casper Mágico, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna & Bad Bunny, “Te Boté” Daddy Yankee, “Dura” Nicky Jam & J Balvin, “X” Reik featuring Ozuna & Wisin, “Me Niego”

Airplay Label of the Year

Flow La Movie Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment Warner Latina

Airplay Imprint of the Year

Fonovisa La Industria Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latino

Digital Song of the Year

Casper Mágico, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna & Bad Bunny, “Te Boté” Daddy Yankee, “Dura” DJ Snake featuring Selena Gomez, Ozuna & Cardi B, “Taki Taki” Nicky Jam & J Balvin, “X”

Streaming Song of the Year

Casper Mágico, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna & Bad Bunny, “Te Boté” Daddy Yankee, “Dura” Nicky Jam & J Balvin, “X” Ozuna & Romeo Santos, “El Farsante”

Top Latin Album of the Year

Anuel AA, Real Hasta La Muerte J Balvin, Vibras Ozuna, Aura Ozuna, Odisea

Top Latin Albums Artist of the Year, Male

J Balvin Maluma Ozuna Romeo Santos

Top Latin Albums Artist of the Year, Female

Karol G Mon Laferte Rosalía Shakira

Top Latin Albums Artist of the Year, Duo or Group

Aventura Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho T3r Elemento

Top Latin Albums Label of the Year

Glad Empire Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment Warner Latina

Top Latin Albums Imprint of the Year

DimeloVi Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latino VP Entertainment

Latin Pop Song of the Year

Enrique Iglesias featuring Bad Bunny, “El Baño” Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato, “Echáme La Culpa” Reik featuring Ozuna & Wisin, “Me Niego” Shakira & Maluma, “Clandestino”

Latin Pop Artist of the Year, Solo

Enrique Iglesias Marco Antonio Solís Sebastián Yatra Shakira

Latin Pop Artist of the Year, Duo or Group


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CNCO Maná Piso 21 Reik

Latin Pop Airplay Label of the Year

Flow La Movie Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment Warner Latina

Latin Pop Airplay Imprint of the Year

La Industria Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latino Warner Latina

Latin Pop Album of the Year


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ESTAMOS NOMINADOS A DOS @latinbillboards 🥳🥳🥳😭😭🙃🙃🔥🔥🔥🏆🏆🎼🎼🎼🎹🎹🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻 GRACIAS 🙂 Diosito te amo #ArtistaLatinPopDelAño #ÁlbumLatinPopDelAño #Mantra

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CNCO, CNCO Piso 21, Ubuntu Rosalía, El Mal Querer Sebastián Yatra, Mantra

Latin Pop Albums Label of the Year

Gateway Music Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment Warner Latina

Latin Pop Albums Imprint of the Year

Capitol Latin Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latino Warner Latina

Tropical Song of the Year

Carlos Vives, “Hoy Tengo Tiempo (Pinta Sensual)” Romeo Santos featuring Ozuna, “Sobredosis” Romeo Santos, “Centavito” Silvestre Dangond & Nicky Jam, “Cásate Conmigo”

Tropical Artist of the Year, Solo

Carlos Vives Marc Anthony Prince Royce Romeo Santos

Tropical Artist of the Year, Duo or Group

Aventura Buena Vista Social Club Gente de Zona La Sonora Dinamita

Tropical Songs Airplay Label of the Year

LP Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment Warner Latina

Tropical Songs Airplay Imprint of the Year

Kiyavi Sony Music Latin Warner Latina WK

Tropical Album of the Year

Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor García & La Sonora Sanjuanera, En Buena Compañía La Sonora Dinamita, Súper Éxitos Vol. 1 Orquesta Akokán, Orquesta Akokán Canta: José “Pepito” Gómez Victor Manuelle, 25/7

Tropical Albums Label of the Year

Sony Music Latin The Orchard Universal Music Latin Entertainment World Circuit

Tropical Albums Imprint of the Year

Norte Sony Music Latin The Orchard Top Stop

Regional Mexican Song of the Year

Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga, “Mejor Me Alejo” Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga, “Tu Postura” La Adictiva Banda San José de Mesillas, “En Peligro de Extinción” Raymix, “Oye Mujer”

Regional Mexican Artist of the Year, Solo

Christian Nodal El Fantasma Gerardo Ortiz Raymix

Regional Mexican Artist of the Year, Duo or Group

Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga Calibre 50 Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho T3r Elemento

Regional Mexican Airplay Label of the Year

DEL Lizos Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Regional Mexican Airplay Imprint of the Year

DEL Disa Fonovisa Lizos

Regional Mexican Album of the Year

Arsenal Efectivo, En La Fuga Legado 7, Pura Lumbre Lenin Ramírez, Bendecido Raymix, Oye Mujer

Regional Mexican Albums Label of the Year

DEL Lizos Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Regional Mexican Albums Imprint of the Year

DEL Disa Fonovisa Lizos

Latin Rhythm Song of the Year

Casper Mágico, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna & Bad Bunny, “Te Boté” Daddy Yankee “Dura” Nicky Jam & J Balvin “X” Reik, featuring Ozuna & Wisin, “Me Niego”

Latin Rhythm Artist of the Year, Solo


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Bad Bunny J Balvin Maluma Ozuna

Latin Rhythm Artist of the Year, Duo or Group

CNCO Piso 21 Wisin & Yandel Zion & Lennox

Latin Rhythm Airplay Label of the Year

Flow La Movie Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment Warner Latina

Latin Rhythm Airplay Imprint of the Year

La Industria Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latino Warner Latina

Latin Rhythm Album of the Year

Anuel AA, Real Hasta La Muerte J Balvin, Vibras Ozuna, Aura Ozuna, Odisea

Latin Rhythm Albums Label of the Year

Glad Empire Rimas Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Latin Rhythm Albums Imprint of the Year

DimeloVi (tie) Sony Music Latin Universal Music Latino VP Entertainment (tie)

Songwriter of the Year


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#23 #Nominaciones @latinbillboards @billboardlatin 🇵🇷🇩🇴🐻 @dimelovi @sonymusiclatin

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Daddy Yankee J Balvin Juan Rivera Vazquez Ozuna

Publisher of the Year

Ozuna Worldwide, BMI SONY/ATV Discos Publishing LLC, ASCAP Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., BMI WB Music Corp. ASCAP

Publishing Corporation of the Year

Kobalt Music Sony/ATV Music Universal Music Warner/Chappell Music

Producer of the Year

Andrés Torres/ Mauricio Rengifo Chris Jeday DJ Snake José Martin Velázquez

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El Chapo Found Guilty On All 10 Criminal Charges

Infamous Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera was found guilty of all criminal counts against him, CNN reports. Now, he may face life in prison. The decision spanned the course of six days.

The 61-year-old is guilty of charges like international distribution of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, continuing criminal enterprise, and conspiracy to launder profits made off of narcotics. What made the deliberation extraneous was the amount of evidence presented during the trial. Reportedly, there were 200 hours of testimony since mid-November.

Last December, reports revealed that El Chapo approached the sister of a Colombian drug lord to purchase methamphetamine for his Sinaloa drug empire. Witness Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa admitted during trial that he was present during the transaction.

Villa revealed El Chapo went behind his back and made business deals with his siblings regarding the meth merchandise. According to The Wall Street Journal, the jurors were informed about how Guzman smuggled drugs into the U.S. and Mexico, which included various modes of transportation like tunnels, cars, planes, trucks, and trains.

Additionally, a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant testified and revealed that he took hold of a submarine filled with 13,000 pounds of cocaine off the coast of Guatemala. There was also other anecdotal evidence from those close to Guzman.

“One of Mr. Guzmán’s former mistresses testified about sleeping next to him in 2014 when they heard law enforcement agents outside,” writes Nicole Hong and Katie Honan. “They lifted the bathtub, which was a trap door, and fled through the underground sewage system for over an hour — all while Mr. Guzmán was completely naked.”

El Chapo is expected to be transferred to a high-security prison in Florence, Colo. The correctional facility is where some of the world’s most dangerous criminals are held, including 1993 World Trade Center terrorist Ramzi Yousef. When sentenced, El Chapo might face life in prison.

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How Latin Trap Helped Me Heal From The Biggest Heartbreak Of My Life

At a crowded hookah lounge in Downtown Orlando, where my girlfriends briefly whisk me away from post-breakup anguish, an opening G note played on a piano pulsates through the speakers. Immediately, I blow mango-mint smoke into the hazy room and pass the hose off, ready to replace pain with perreo.

Paso mucha' noches pensándote/Yo no sé ni cómo, ni cuándo fue

The keys lift me up from the seat I made for myself on a large window sill at the back of the bar.

Pero sólo sé que yo recordé/cómo te lo hacía yo aquella vez.

I shout each word passionately to my homegirls who yell them back, our acrylic nails pointing at each other like handguns as we ignite the dancefloor with each heated blast.

Y yo no puedo seguir solo pero sé/ que te boté

Throwing my hips back with my derrière perched in the air, Ozuna’s voice booms.

De mi vida te boté, y te boté/ Te di banda y te solté, yo te solté/ Pa'l carajo usté' se fue, y usté' se fue/De mi vida te boté, yo te boté

I bend, sway, bounce, clap, squat, shake and repeat.

I’ve experienced this same moment numerous times in the last year: in Cuba, where I got my groove back grinding to the breakup hit at a Havana nightclub; at a Bad Bunny concert in New York, when my friend recorded and sent a clip of me shaking my a** to the Latin trap king himself while he performed it onstage; in Puerto Rico, during an actual “perreo sucio en La Placita;” and in my bedroom, where I spent the most time dancing through grief and healing through music.

In the year since my ex-boyfriend of eight years and I parted ways, music, particularly the rhythms and rhymes of Latin trap and reggaeton jams, have supported me. Songs like the energetic Nio Garcia and Casper Magico's "Te Bote" remix, featuring Bad Bunny, Ozuna and Nicky Jam, offered me an escape when the agony felt overwhelming. But El Conejo Malo’s emo refrains and Karol G’s self-assured hooks also helped me confront my oscillating emotions when I was ready, comforted me when I needed to cry, thumped my chest when I was angry, returned my confidence when I felt worthless and, ultimately, helped heal my shattered heart.

The resurgence of urbano music to the mainstream, by way of 2017 bangers like Natti Natasha and Ozuna's "Criminal," Karol G and Bad Bunny's "Ahora Me Llama" and, of course, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito," has coincided with my own returning.

This was the year my tumultuous relationship reached its end. The healthy and happy bond my ex and I created started chipping away two years earlier, but love, and perhaps habit, kept us fighting an unwinnable, destructive battle. We were both to blame. One’s infidelity, the other’s selfishness, one’s depression, the other’s lack of support, our mutual loss of respect. We kissed and said goodbye July 4, my very own Independence Day.

It was cordial, with us laughing in a rented car he drove from our apartment in Washington, D.C., to my new home on my best friend’s couch in Queens, but rage and despair still pulsated in both of our bodies. “Why couldn’t you love me enough to change,” he roared through text messages or late-night phones calls. “Why couldn’t you love me enough to stay,” I’d fire back. Away from each other, where we were no longer able to physically comfort one another through the pain we were guilty of causing, anger brewed, boiled and erupted.

Irate one summer morning, I put my headphones on and started jogging at a neighborhood park.

Salí jodido la última vez que en alguien yo confié/Me compré una forty, y a Cupido se la vacié

Bad Bunny’s baritone pounded into my ears, both fueling and validating my wrath.

No me vuelvo a enamorar, no/No me vuelvo a enamorar

In my feelings, I shouted with the Puerto Rican rapper-singer, prompting stares from Little Leaguers at baseball practice and a group of senior Asian women performing their morning Tai Chi.

Sigue tu camino que sin ti me va mejor/Ahora tengo a otras que me lo hacen mejor/Si antes yo era un hijo de puta, ahora soy peor/Ahora soy peor, ahora soy peor, por ti

The truth: I didn’t have other lovers, and I preferred the heartbreak to turn me into a better partner, not a worse one, but El Conejo Malo’s 2017 salty breakup jam “Soy Peor” allowed me to experience, vicariously, all the irrational, not-so-healthy post-separation episodes that outrage leads to without actually doing them and regretting it later.

Even more, songs like Chris Jeday’s lovers-turned-foes beef track “Ahora Dice,” featuring J. Balvin, Ozuna and Arcángel, and Bunny’s f**k love anthem “Amorfoda” legitimized my feelings. I was angry, at myself, at him, and at all the promises we made to each other and plans we had for the future. I was regretful, for the ways I didn’t show up for him that I should have, for accepting behaviors and situations that I wasn’t OK with, for subscribing to bulls**t societal standards of romantic relationships. I was done, over trying to make something work that wasn’t serving either of us, over romantic love and over ruminating on all of it.

Truthfully, I wasn’t well at all — and I needed, for my own physical safety and mental stability, to feel whole again, to feel like me again, to feel loved again. So I left my job and industry opportunities to head back home to Orlando, Fla., where I found comfort, understanding, and warmth in family and lifelong friends. Surrounding myself with the unconditional love of a nephew’s laugh, a niece's begs to play, a mother’s midnight head massages and a father’s weekly pep talks, it was hard to be angry. For a while, that ire transformed into longing, a yearning for the good ol’ times, before disappointment turned to rage and led to betrayal.

High off some kush in the backseat of a car, I’m in my feelings.

Tal vez no te pienso pero no te olvido/Tal vez yo te extraño pero no lo digo

Bryant Myers’ tenor has me on a long-avoided trip down memory lane.

Tal vez no cumplí nada de lo que juré/Tal vez tus heridas nunca las curé

Once traveling on this slippery road, it’s difficult to steer back to the path. Myers’ not-quite-over-you banger “Triste” featuring Bad Bunny has me in my head, unable to focus on the present because I realize I’m not yet over the past. I create a sad girl urbano playlist, with Ozuna’s “Farsante” forcing me to reconsider if the freedom that comes from singlehood really is as appealing as Bunny told me it was, and Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio’s own “Dime Si Te Acuerdas” reminding me of “to’ lo que hacíamos hasta que saliera el sol.”

My mood is heavy again, and my girlfriends take notice. They see me prioritizing my healing – journaling and meditating to identify where I, too, contributed to the demise of this relationship, trying to understand why, holding myself accountable, forgiving us both and trying to become a stronger and better me at the end — but they stress that I also need to make space for joy during this emotional journey.

I heed their advice.

Yo la conozco a ella es reservá'/Nunca ha salío' con un extraño/Pero esta noche está revelada/por culpa de un bobo que le hizo daño

Real Hasta La Muerte blares from my bestie’s car speakers as we head downtown, eager to dance away our woes for a night.

Ella quiere beber, ella quiere bailar/Su novio la dejó y lo quiere olvidar/Ella se entregó y el tipo le falló y por eso se va a rumbear

Tonight, smutty trapero Anuel AA is encouraging me to bust out of my timid confines and let the champagne and club beats help me forget the one who broke my heart, even if just for a few hours. Next week, when I’m in Miami for a five-day getaway with two other homegirls who are fresh out of relationships, it’s Ozuna’s “Se Preparó” urging us to dry our tears and doll ourselves up for a night on the dancefloor.

These frequent reggaeton parties aren’t mending my broken heart alone  — my ongoing self-analyzation and self-care practices are doing most of that work — but they are helping me regain a confidence in myself that I thought was gone forever and allowing me to discover a sexy that I never even knew I possessed.

Pero tú 'ta grande, 'ta madura/Pasan los años y te pones más dura

I take a sip of champagne between laughs as Bad Bunny sings through a speaker in my hotel room, where I celebrate my 28th birthday last July.

Baby, cómo te cura/Mientras me tortura

Cosculluela’s “Madura,” which features Benito, feels like it was recorded with me and this day in mind. Here I am, another year older and feeling badder than ever in my low-cut, skin-tight, thunder thighs-baring little black dress, and one year out of the most important romantic relationship, and friendship, of my life, maturing and healing in ways that were unimaginable 365 days prior.

That, I think, has been Latin trap and reggaeton’s greatest gift to me throughout my heartbreak: reminding me of who tf I am. When I hear Melii rap, “Tú me tienes tema / Cuida'o, si me tocas, te quemas” in her bilingual bop “Icey,” my insecurities trickle away and are replaced with self-assuredness. When Natti Natasha sings, “Cuidao, las mujeres tienen poder” in Daddy Yankee’s “Dura” remix, featuring la baby de urbano, Bad Bunny and Becky G, I’m reminded of my own enduring power. When Anitta croons, “En las noches soy yo la que define / todo a lo que vá a pasar. / A mí no me tienes que mandar” in her tantalizing Spanish-language hit “Downtown” featuring J Balvin, I, too, feel sexy and comfortable making demands in the bedroom.

With this renewed confidence, I’m now able to recognize, for the first time, the treasures that come with a single life.

Ahora me llama/diciendo que le hago falta en su cama

My phone rings. It’s yet another FaceTime call from my ex, the third this week.

Sabiendo que eso conmigo no va, ya no va/Ahora solo quiero salir con mi propia squad

I pick up. It’s all love, always and forever, but that doesn’t mean either of us want to rekindle this flame.

Es porque la noche es mía/La voy a disfrutar sin tu compañía

Life is the best it’s been in months, probably years. I’m not as stressed these days, so my skin is clear and my hair can easily land a spot in a shampoo commercial. I do what I want to do when I want to do it, whether that’s cozy solo nights in watching Netflix or catching a last-minute arena game with a homegirl. My money is mine, and I spend it traveling the globe and investing in my future. As Karol G sings in her chart-topper “Ahora Me Llama,” “Yo soy dueña de mi vida. A mi nadie me manda.”

After spending eight years with someone who I still consider the love of my life, many of them jovial and adoring yet others agonizing and lamentable, I’m at a place, post-anger and post-despair, where I’m learning what it’s like to be alone, particularly as an adult, an opportunity I never had before, and I’m surprisingly enjoying it. But I’m aware that this solitude won’t last forever. My “Amorfoda” “f**k love” stage is behind me. My heart isn’t cold. Instead, I’m excited to love and care again. After all, that’s when my cancer spirit feels its best. But before that day comes, I’m savoring and being intentional about these moments — my time with and for me.

Today, at the start of a new year and almost two years single, I’m feeling a bit like the trapero who has been with me throughout my heartbreak, Bad Bunny, in his newly-released, debut album X100PRE: “Ni Bien Ni Mal.”

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