Anuel AA, Karol G, Raquel Reichard
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How Latin Trap Helped Me Heal From The Biggest Heartbreak Of My Life

Latin trap and reggaeton’s greatest gift to me throughout my heartbreak was reminding me of who tf I am.

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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A new trailer for Netflix’s upcoming series on Tejano singing legend, Selena, has arrived. The streaming giant unveiled the teaser and official release for the highly anticipated Selena: The Series on Tuesday (Oct. 6).

The Grammy winner is portrayed by actress Christian Serratos, best known for her role on The Walking Dead. Standing at just over a minute-long, the teaser shows Serratos on stage while Selena’s “Como La Flor” plays in the background.

A native of Texas, the Latin singer sold approximately 30 million records world wide and remains a music icon decades after her death. Having already found success in the Latin arena, the 23 year old was on the brink of crossing over into the American music market when she was shot to death by Yolanda Saldivar, a friend and former manager of her Selena Etq. boutique. Saldivar, 60, will be eligible for parole in 2025.

Since her passing, Selena has received several accolades and honors including a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Madame Tussauds wax figure, and a MAC lipstick collection honoring her memory.

Selena: The Series debuts on Netflix on Dec. 4.

Watch the trailer below.

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Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration’s Attempt To End DACA

The Supreme Court voted to block the Trump Administration's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program on Thursday (June 18). The decision, handed down in a 5-4 vote, protects 800,000 DACA recipients who came to the U.S. as children, from being deported.

The SCOTUS vote delays the Administration’s potential efforts to rescind DACA versus blocking it indefinitely. The court ruling determined that a DACA reversal is not unconstitutional.

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Justice John Roberts wrote.

Roberts, the swing voter, joined Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer. The remaining Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorusch, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh, voted to rescind.

Sotomayor was the only Justice who acknowledged the argument that ending DACA was motivated by discrimination against Latinos, who make up a large percentage of DREAMers.

Former President Barack Obama, who created DACA in 2012, reacted to the SCOTUS decision on Twitter. “Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation. Today, I’m happy for them, their families, and all of us.

“We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals. And now to stand up for those ideals, we have to move forward and elect @JoeBiden and a Democratic Congress that does its job, protects DREAMers, and finally creates a system that truly worthy of this nation of immigrants once and for all.”

...and now to stand up for those ideals, we have to move forward and elect @JoeBiden and a Democratic Congress that does its job, protects DREAMers, and finally creates a system that’s truly worthy of this nation of immigrants once and for all.

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 18, 2020

Thursday's SCOTUS ruling hands a second blow to the Trump Administration in a matter of days. Earlier in the week, the SCOTUS voted to add a provision to the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that bans employers from discrimination based on sexual orientation of gender identity.

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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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