2009 American Music Awards - Arrivals
Jason Merritt

What Toronto's Music Scene Thinks Of Drake’s 2009 Breakout Mixtape “So Far Gone”

A decade after the release of Drake's So Far Gone, VIBE spoke to contributors to the Toronto music scene about its impact.

One of hip-hop's foundational principles is repping your city, but it means something more when you have a hometown that is rarely recognized in the landscape. When Drake released his breakout mixtape So Far Gone in 2009, his hometown of Toronto had already been a hotbed for hip-hop talent, but despite the success of acts like Kardinal Offishall and K'naan, no acts had reached true superstardom in the United States. That all ended with Drake: "Best I Ever Had" peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and he had star power from Lil Wayne  in his corner. Just like that, Drake had become the most popular rapper in Canada's history.

"Best I Ever Had" launched a record-breaking, unprecedented streak of 431 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. Since his 2009 classic, Drake has become the biggest international hip-hop star ever - and with his annual OVO Fest, a nickname like 6 God (Toronto is often referred to as "The Six," because of the city's 416 area code and the six municipalities that combined to make up Toronto in 1998), and the success of other Torontonians, he's brought his city with him.

VIBE spoke to six people involved in, or who evolved with, Toronto’s music scene about what the project means for the city a decade later.

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When they ask for free beats 🤨

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T-Minus

Producer of Nicki Minaj’s “Moment For Life,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools,” and Drake’s “HYFR”
“I remember appreciating the sonic value of the project. Everything felt like a solid body of work. The records felt seamless. Records on that album even inspired my production, even a couple years later. There was definitely something special about the album. It's really one of the first tapes that brought a lot of attention to Toronto. It really molded an identity that the city still holds.”

 

Gavin Sheppard

Founder of The Remix Project, a Toronto-based program to help level the playing field for young people from disadvantaged, marginalized and underserved communities who are trying to enter into the creative industries or further their formal education

“I feel like So Far Gone was received with open arms by the city. People were looking for something to rally behind and identify with. Everything was changing. Methods of distribution and sharing information were further opening up and people were trying to find/describe an identity for Toronto. So Far Gone helped do that in a way that was inclusive.

I feel the entire city was listening to that project when it dropped. Anyone that knew music, knew that that body of work was special, because it was special as a body of work. It was a cohesive project that welcomed people into an intimate world that hadn’t yet been explored in pop culture.

“Best I Ever Had” helped propel Drake to stardom. The ease and fun of the record had such an irrepressible energy. Production was brilliant and Drake was flawless there in delivering vulnerability with an unfiltered confidence. That said, to me, “Brand New” is really what opened the floodgates for Drake and changed everything, though. That’s the record I remember Toronto first really truly embracing and championing, then “Best I Ever Had” took it global. That speaks to Drake’s career a lot since. Confidently walking a line between brutal honesty and tongue in cheek fun, dominating pop culture while maintaining just enough “outsider” status and incisive personal commentary to remain cool and stay relevant.

Drake’s music has always felt very human to me. And that’s about the highest compliment I can pay an artist. ‘Cause what are we doing if not trying to express who we are, what we are doing here and explain the maelstrom or emotions we all have to navigate without a real map? Music is our compass and Drake’s courage allowed for us to honestly examine ourselves, and we love him for that.

It expanded Toronto’s urban cultural identity from being heavily Caribbean-influenced to encompassing the Caribbean identity while also becoming inclusive of so many different experiences. And that allowed so many new voices to participate authentically in this new emerging movement that before were trying to find their footing. It allowed for a city to stop rocking NY fitteds and to start rocking Blue Jays or the Owl. So Far Gone helped give identity and pride. It made people from here, proud to be Torontonian. It made others want to visit and see what the city was all about. Musically it influenced so many of North America’s top creatives today. Culturally, it put Toronto on the map and cracked America (and the world’s) curiosity enough to start a trickle and then a flood of deserving Canadian talent streaming into the global market today.”

 

 

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Something from Nothing. Appreciate all the love and support from everyone I love and support ✨

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Neenyo

Producer of PARTYNEXTDOOR’s “Sex On The Beach,” “Things And Such / Kehlani’s Freestyle,” “Freak In You,” and Drake and Future’s “Plastic Bag” 

“I’d met and known Drake a little earlier from when he had just left Degrassi and that’s when we started working together. So, for me, I was always eager for people to discover how great he is, I just had no idea how big and monumental that intro would be. The hour it dropped I remember Solange and Kid Cudi tweeting it and that’s when I knew his reach and path. We all knew it was special, the world knew it was special. He took risks singing and making songs like no one was to stand out and prove he was creatively more forward than everyone. Before this project, I felt like he was proving he could out rap everyone at a time when everyone was listening to Little Brother. Now he was just proving he could make songs at the level of the best out and have fun while doing it.

Fortunately, our city isn’t swayed by how popular or how much money someone makes; it’s just about how good you are. Everyone took notice very quick that a shift just happened. He also skipped past all the politics and did everything outside the traditional industry system which was a big deal. Drake was the first big artist that might not need a label, which was unheard of at the time.

I remember Boi-1da hitting me on MSN messenger the first week “Best I Ever Had” entered the Top 200 Billboard charts. It must’ve been around No. 80, same time I had a my first No. 1 album on the charts. We were so young and just so hyped and congratulating each other for these “milestones.” Seems crazy now to think of Drake not on the charts.

I feel like what has it done for music, for how people put together rollouts, for songwriting and storytelling? It was pivotal in giving way to Partynextdoor and The Weeknd, and what would music sound like without those three?”

 

 

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Jazz Cartier

Recording artist
“I remember being in school in Connecticut when it dropped, refreshing OVO’s Blogspot and it was late by like an hour or something. Had me trippin’. (Laughs) The cover alone let me know this was gonna be something different. “Love and Money” was almost like you can’t have both and find happiness. The moment I heard “Lust for Life,” it felt like Toronto.

If you had any sense in your body you knew what was about to happen. For a lot of people So Far Gone was their introduction to Drake. For me, seeing the growth from Room For Improvement to Comeback Season then So Far Gone, it just felt like he honed in on his sound. N***as were putting out mixtapes, but Drake presented a mixtape that sounded better than any album out. What he did is bridged all sides of the blog era on one project—Lykke Li, Santigold, Lil Wayne, Omarion, Lloyd and Bun B. (Laughs) Like, how does that happen and not come off forced? That’s also Toronto in nutshell.

I can’t speak for everybody, but as an aspiring artist I think it meant the world to a lot of us. When I finally went back in March you couldn’t escape it. So Far Gone is the blueprint to the Toronto sound. I modeled my first mixtape, Marauding in Paradise, after it. It gave kids like myself hope that somebody who did the same sh*t as us can take things to the next level. We always had it harder coming from Toronto and breaking into America. Fast forward 10 years later and a lot of the biggest records, artists and producers have come from Toronto. It was bound to happen eventually, but SFG changed the way the world saw Toronto as a city.”

 

 

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Lola Plaku

Owner of Lola Media Group, a full service digital, artist management, and artist marketing agency
“I think we all live in bubbles at times, work, school, family, etc. and the Toronto music industry was its own bubble. People made music and moves within that bubble and that felt like enough. Drake burst that bubble. So speaking strictly from the perspective of someone who was not just a fan or a regular consumer, I saw it both ways. I saw the dismay it caused among people who were not expecting this type of support for him, but I also saw how excited people were of the ceilings Drake was about to break. Once the tape dropped, it engulfed Toronto and music fans everywhere really. Everyone became a Drake fan.

From 2004 until about 2009 I used to write for HipHopCanada. I was the editor during that time as well, so I was very much aware of all the music coming out of the city and other parts of Canada. There were a few artists that had already created a wave for Canadian rap, ones that we all respected and admired. Then was a new group of artists; we were all in the scene together, coming up together in a way. Drake was just coming up then (2005-2007). He was focusing on his music career outside of his TV work, and he was a part of this new group as well. By the time So Far Gone dropped, he had already gained the support of local media, radio, tastemakers, but the drop of that project was like a tsunami hit the city (musically) and changed the landscape forever. What was coming across my desk at that point was mainly rap, just rap. Artists imitating the sound of what was coming out of New York or Atlanta or whatever, which didn’t really break south of the border. Drake offered something different, something everyone could bop their heads to, or relate to. He wasn’t just a “Toronto rapper.” I remember traveling outside of the country and hearing songs like “Houstalantavegas” or “Uptown,” or “Best I Ever Had” or “Successful” and thinking, “this is someone from my city these people are all listening to.” It felt like an extension of all of us. Honestly, it was an unparalleled feeling.

There was something special about it. People were playing the project in its entirety, not just one song or two songs. Kids everywhere wanted to be a part of the movement, wear the gear, etc. That’s when you know someone is not just making great music, they are creating a legacy.

This project allowed Drake to soar. Drake not only as an individual, but as a business, created incredible opportunities for Canadian artists. He sparked a conversation, and that conversation was, “Where did this sound come from? Who was a part of it? Are there others like him? Who else have we overlooked from this city?” And so, Toronto got on the map. People were checking for our artists and it felt good. Because now, Canadian artists can finally direct the conversation not just aspire to be a part of it.

This is not about So Far Gone but about “Replacement Girl,” the song Drake dropped with Trey Songz in 2007 from Comeback Season. I remember I was in Atlanta with a few other friends from Toronto when the video dropped. And I remember it came on BET in the middle of the day, I think it was Joint of the Day or something like that. And we all screamed like it was our video on TV. We recognized the people in the video. My friend Neeks was a dancer in it, we were like, “Yooooo, that’s our people!” It was the first time a Canadian artist of my era had been on BET, or just any U.S. media platform, and I was in the U.S. watching this, with my Canadian friends. I think we all called our friends like, “Oh my God, you’re on TV in America!!” How crazy is that? Now Canadian artists make up for a huge percentage of Billboard and Top 40 charts and No. 1 hits.”

 

 

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Jessie Reyez

Recording artist
“A lot of people f**ked with it but there were also a lot of haters that underestimated Drake because of his career as an actor. Screwface capital. It was something that was coming out of the city that was able to achieve global attention. I remember hearing “Best I Ever Had” on the radio when I was living out in Florida and thinking, “Damn, a Toronto kid on the radio out here. Dope.”

I think it’s done a lot [for the city]. The Drake effect is something that’s very real. There were artists before him that laid down the foundation in the city; artists that were and are incredibly talented, that built this early hip-hop culture in Toronto. I think what Drake did was be able to grow beyond that and solidify a foundation for a long career, not just in Canada, but worldwide. A career that’s obviously stood the test of time. So Far Gone was the beginning in many ways for the rest of the world to embrace a part of our culture and city.”

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J Stone Talks Touring, Nipsey Hussle, New Music And More

It was all good just two weeks ago. On Thursday (March 12), I headed downtown to meet with West Coast rapper J Stone, who was set to make a comeback performance at the legendary SOB’s. Little did we know, COVID-19 was on the cusp of shutting the entire country down, let alone the city that never sleeps. Earlier that day, New York City Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his decision to ban gatherings of 500 people or more.

I enter the doors of the popular music venue a little after 6 pm and see J Stone on stage for soundcheck. Twenty minutes later, he greets me with a hug and we head downstairs to the green room. He asks me if I want anything to drink and I reply, “Vodka with a splash of cranberry, please.” He kindly comes back with drinks in hand and our interview begins.

I curiously ask him if the Coronavirus has affected his #LoyaltyOverRoyalty Tour and he immediately responds, “Not until today. It’s starting to affect me today. They’re telling me only a certain amount of people can come into buildings.

"They already canceled one of my L.A. meet-and-greets," he adds. "Yeah, it’s serious.” We continued our conversation talking about The Marathon Continues (TMC) and Puma collaboration, Nipsey Hussle, new music and much more.

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Afro Nation

Women Of Afro Nation On Evolving Dancehall and Afro-Pop Connections

Last summer, thousands of music lovers of African descent gathered on the sands of Portimao, Portugal, waved their beloved countries’ flags and witnessed performances from the best in afro-pop, reggae, and hip-hop at Afro Nation, the premier traveling beach festival unifying music of the African diaspora. This was a euphoric scene for acts who had never performed for a large Black festival crowd, Afro Nation co-founder and U.K. music industry veteran Obi Asika tells VIBE. Nigerian promoter Adesegun Adeosun Jr., aka SMADE, and business partner Asika saw a need for a space to celebrate African music in Europe and created a globetrotting festival as the answer. Most of the featured acts have been from Nigeria, where the music industry is rapidly growing, the U.K., and Jamaica. As the festival evolves, Afro Nation will feature more artists of African descent from Europe, Central Africa, Latin America, and more.

“I want this event to be reflective of all African people,” Afro Nation co-founder and U.K. music industry veteran Obi Asika tells VIBE. “I also want it to pay homage to the countries that the events are in,” he adds. Afro Nation is expanding to reach fans of the diaspora in more regions. In December 2019, the festival was held in Accra, Ghana. In March, Afro Nation was scheduled for San Juan, Puerto Rico, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The four-day line-up would have featured 30 artists representing afro-pop, dancehall, soca, and hip-hop. Afro Nation still has festivals scheduled in Portimao, Portugal, in July, and Baja California, Mexico, in September. There are plans for at least one more location in the future, Osika says.

Afro Nation’s platform thus far reflects a global moment in which musicians across the African diaspora are blending sounds in new ways that are changing popular music. Connections between Afro-pop and Jamaican dancehall are especially evolving according to artists on Afro Nation’s line-ups, such as Jamaican dancehall artist Shenseesa, South African rapper Sho Madjozi, and Nigerian pop artist Teni the Entertainer. “Afro Nation is major for the continent, the culture, and the commonality that we share no matter how far we have all drifted into different parts of the world,” Teni, who performed at previous Afro Nation events, wrote in an email.

For Women’s History Month, VIBE spoke to the three sensations about their latest music, why Afro Nation is a game-changing platform, the evolving musical connections between Jamaican and African artists, and their women inspirations in music.

SHENSEEA

Shenseea, a versatile singjay, deejay, rapper, and singer, grew up in Jamaica’s capital city Kingston. The 23-year-old broke out as dancehall’s most promising star in 2016 with the flirty “Loodi” featuring Vybez Kartel. Since then, she has released a steady stream of energetic records, showering each riddim with conviction and lyrics of self-reliance that speak to women and girls like “Shen Yeng Anthem,” “Trending Gyal” and “Blessed.” Shenseea is inspired by fellow Jamaican dancehall artist Spice, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna, who she calls “a complete boss.”

Thus far, Shenseea has collaborated with dancehall veterans like Sean Paul, and internationally with Trinidadian soca star Nailah Blackman and American rappers Swae Lee and Tyga. American hip-hop and Jamaican dancehall artists are common cross-cultural link-ups. But now Shenseea says there are more musical connections between popular Jamaican dancehall artists and African-based artists too. “I feel like it has been going on, but more so between the reggae artists,” she says. “Now it's evolving more between dancehall artists and African artists.”

Here is a quick history. Popular music in the Americas, including Jamaica’s biggest musical export reggae, is rooted in West African music. Reggae has several influences including Jamaican folk music mento and American R&B, and its predecessors ska and rocksteady. During the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, enslaved West Africans brought their rhythms to Jamaica and subsequent generations reimagined the sounds that circled back to Africa. Late reggae legend Bob Marley, a Pan-Africanist, and The Wailers toured the continent in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this era, artists like Ivorian musician Alpha Blondy created a marriage of their traditional sounds and stories of home with the socially-conscious riddims birthing African reggae.

As technology digitized music production, dancehall music evolved out of reggae and dub music and  defined a younger generation in Jamaica. It would also inspire African artists, too. In the 2000s and 2010s, dancehall influenced “Afro-dancehall” artists Shatta Wale and AK Songstress of Ghana, and Patoranking and Wizkid of Nigeria. Ghanaian hiplife’s soft synths and dancehall’s percussion are said to have influenced the popular Nigerian sound “pon pon,” in 2017, according to OkayAfrica. DaVido’s inescapable “If,” is the most commercially successful “pon pon” track. Mr Eazi’s “Banku” style also borrows from Nigerian and Ghanaian pop and dancehall. With this has come more collaborations across the genres. Like Jamaican dancehall hitmaker Popcaan enlisting DaVido for “Dun Rich” in 2018, and Burna Boy collaborating with Serani and Jeremih on “Secret” in 2019.

The marriage between these sounds is impacting how Black fans experience music worldwide, which is especially pushed by second and third generations of people who migrated from Africa and the Caribbean to the Americas and Europe. In major cities, you’ll find Afro-Caribbean parties, where DJs play music across the diaspora. Afro Nation takes it to the next level by bringing these artists together on a bill.

The innovation of this sound is a diaspora-wide project. In the mid-to-late 2010s, UK, British artists J Hus and Afro B popularized the fusion of Afro-pop, dancehall, American and British hip-hop, and R&B music, in new genres known as “afro bashment” or “afroswing.” In 2019, Jamaican-American DJ Walshy Fire’s 2019 Abeng brought together afro-pop, with soca, and dancehall artists. Shenseea has some diaspora link-ups on the horizon. She already worked with Shatta Wale, the African dancehall king, on “The Way I Move” in 2018. Recently, she recorded an unreleased track with Mr Eazi and is in talks to work with Patoranking and Davido, she tells Vibe.

TENI THE ENTERTAINER

Teni is also tuned into these evolving connections between the Caribbean and Africa. “You can hear it in the drums and melodies,” the 27-year-old singer and songwriter says. “We love to have fun and dance and that extends into our music.” In 2019, the New York Times dubbed Teni a member of the new guard of Nigerian musicians. In October, she released her Billionaire EP which showcases her afrobeat fusion. The title was inspired by her time in Los Angeles. "I saw all these great cars and I just imagined a world where we can all afford things we like no matter the price," she says. On the Pheelz-produced afrobeat, she croons her wealthy ambitions. On the earnest “Complain” she singraps over JaySynths' afroswing beat.

Teni’s entertainment career began with her comedic viral videos. Her breakout hit was the 2017 “Fargin,” which spoke out about the harms of rape culture. Teni admires African music legends Brenda Fassi, Angelique Kidjo, and Mariam Makeba. Them "using the power of their music to influence governments and shape economies is beyond incredible,” she says.

In the future, Teni wants to experiment with more Caribbean artists. “I have gotten into the studio with Kranium and I'd like to still do a lot [more] with him,” she said of the Jamaican singjay who fuses dancehall and R&B. “I'd love to do something with Koffee. Her music is amazing,” she added.

SHO MADJOZI

Koffee, a Jamaican reggae artist who won over the world with “Toast” last year, and is the first woman to win a Grammy for best reggae album, is on South African rapper Sho Madjozi’s wishlist too. For generations, South African artists like Lucky Dube and NC Dread have embraced reggae and dancehall. The 27-year-old wants to contribute to this tradition by recording with Koffee and rising reggae singer Lila Ike. "The song would be about the fact that our joy does not come from having no problems,” she wrote via email. “It comes despite going through tough things.” Bringing her pain to the studio has proven to be viable for Madjozi.

On her biggest hit, the viral “John Cena,” named after her favorite WWE wrestler, she raps over a hard-hitting gqom beat, the popular South African electronic dance music, about heartbreak. On her 2018 debut album Limpopo Champions League, which is dedicated to the northern province she hails from in South Africa, you can hear more of her sonic influences which include the high-energy gqom on "Wakanda Forever," trap on “Wa Penga Na?” and R&B samples on “Going Down.”

Although Sho Madjozi and fellow artists are fusing the diaspora sounds in their music, she sees the Afro Nation platform as a necessary space for people of African descent to share these cultures in person. In these moments, “we notice how strong we really are" and "how powerful this gift of culture is,” she says. Hip-hop queen Lauryn Hill is her icon and inspired her to stand firm in her truth. Madjozi’s realness shapes her assertive lyrics and her vibrant style. She performs in “xibelani” skirts to pay homage to her Tsonga heritage, a group of people native to Mozambique and South Africa. She adorns her hair with her signature colorful Fulani braids. “My whole statement is to be free,” she says. “I hope it shows Black girls everywhere to not be shy or small. This world is ours as much as anyone else’s.”

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Courtesy of Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Karol G On The Magic Of "Tusa," Working With Nicki Minaj And New Album

Karol G's devoted intentions have kept her ahead of the history books.

As Women's History Month comes to a close, the reggaeton titan solidified her position just weeks prior on Internation Women's Day as Spotify included her in their list of the Top 10 Most-Streamed Female Artists. Others included were Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande in addition to iconic women of color like Nicki Minaj. But Karol's presence on the list proves just how she's been able to bridge the gap between Latin and pop music as the only woman on the list who primarily performs in Spanish.

It's something Karol, born Carolina Giraldo Navarro, has done since coming up in the male-dominated reggaeton scene. While plenty of her hits over the years have earned a coveted spot in the hearts of millions, it was her recent recording with Nicki Minaj that reminded everyone of her power.

"I grew up listening to her and we were sitting at the table across from each other," Karol says of "Tusa" and its insanely popular video that has 669 million views and counting on YouTube. "That was an iconic moment for me."

The song's title is Colombian slang for heartache after a breakup. On the regal reggaeton bop, Karol has Minaj rapping in Spanish as they promise to one another to eliminate those feels on the dance floor. The Tusa-terminators made history in late 2019 with the release as the song is the first collaboration by women to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart.

On the all-genre Hot 100 chart, "Tusa" impressively peaked at No. 42. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, self-quarantines in Panama were recently singing the song together from their balconies.

¿Cómo lleva el #ToqueDeQueda Panamá? Pues que más que con @karolg y #Tusa #COVIDー19 #PTY #QuedateEnCasa pic.twitter.com/jSNsEeaoUW

— errol (@erscr) March 23, 2020

For Karol, success like this has been over a decade in the making since signing her first contract in 2006 under her G stage name. At that time, reggaeton music was reigning over the globe thanks to Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" setting the movement ablaze in 2004.

The música urbana genre was very much a man's world with a few women who were able to rise to the level of Yankee like Ivy Queen, someone Karol cites as an influence. "With the urbano music I wanted to do, there were not a lot of women," she says. "I love urbano rhythms. They've always fascinated me."

In the early steps of her career, Karol took advantage of the art of collaboration with Nicky Jam on 2013's "Amour de Dos," Ozuna on "Hello" in 2016 and a budding rapper by the name of Bad Bunny on 2017's "Ahora Me Llama." Her method was mindful and direct as she gained new fans in every pocket of reggaeton's wide-ranging cloth.

"They had a big audience and following," she says. "The way I got my opportunity as an artist and was able to be heard more was, in part, thanks to them." Later that year, Karol's debut album Unstoppable landed at No. 2 on the Top Latin Albums chart.

As she became the feature queen in her own right, Karol dropped "Mi Cama" in 2018 which led to her winning the gramophone for Best New Artist at the Latin Grammy Awards that year. "I love to sing in reggaeton, but it's not the only thing I do," she says about her diverse palette. The spirited 2019 release of Ocean showcased the vastness of her artistry with urbano, reggae, and pop influences.

With "Tusa" previewing her third album, VIBE VIVA spoke with Karol about her musical journey so far and what's coming next.

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VIBE: On physical copies of Unstoppable, there's the #GirlPower stamp. What inspired you to include it? 

Karol G: I have that tattooed on one of my arms as well because for me, it was a frustration that people in the media were telling me, "You're a woman. You don't have anything to do here. You can't enter here." There are women that can achieve things around the world. That's where my motivation comes from: to show that we, and myself as a woman, can do it. That was important for me to put on the album to show my support for this movement.

"Mi Cama" became one of your biggest hits without a featured artist. What's the story behind that song?

I loved that song because it has the attitude that I feel right now. It's a song about a woman talking to her ex-boyfriend who left her for someone else. It has the attitude to keep going, to keep dancing, or perrear (a twerk-like dance associated with reggaeton). In Mexico, I was in a press conference and a female reporter said, "I don't respect how you as a woman are singing about your bed making noise. You have to think about the children." I said, "This isn't music for children." It's a song that's exaggerated. I'm not swearing on it. I always tell that story at my shows and people love it.

How did you feel to win the Latin Grammy for Best New Artist?

That's one of the top five moments in my career. I dreamed of that moment since I was a little girl. When I was nominated, that was huge. I didn't think I was going to win. When I won, my mind went blank. I took my dad on stage with me because he's been supporting me since the beginning. After winning the grammy, my mindset has been what else I can do in my career that's even bigger.

You have recorded a lot of music with your fiancé Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA. How do you like working with him?

We're a super team. We complement each other well. We understand each other well because we've enjoyed many great moments together. We've gotten to travel together. We did a tour together. It's a beautiful thing. We keep each other focused and motivated with our feet on the ground.

What do you think about the reaction and all the memes around "Tusa"?

I felt in my heart the song would be successful, but I never thought that it would be a global hit. It opened doors for me in markets where I've never had songs hit before. It's charting in countries that don't speak Spanish like France, Italy, and Sweden. Seeing all the memes from the people has been muy brutal (Puerto Rican slang for "beyond awesome"). It's been incredible to see so many men connecting with it. To see all the people dancing and singing to it has been a surprise. I hope my next single will be like that, but for now, it's nice to enjoy what's happening with "Tusa."

Speaking of men, many gay men been bumping "Tusa" too. I was wondering if you had a message for your fans in the LGBTQ+ community.

I love having part of my following from that community. I love people who can go out into the world and be fearless. I'm very proud of that because the world really lacks people like that: people with personality, attitude, and a strong will. That's something I admire very much from that community. They have a beautiful energy.

What are your plans for the rest of this year?

I'm happy because I'm working on a lot of music. I've gotten great invitations to work on projects with other artists. Right now I'm collaborating with artists in the Latin and Anglo markets. There are songs that are coming out very soon. It's a year for expanding and globalizing my name. We have a tour in Latin America and one in Europe again. We're going to end the second semester of the tour in the US with the release of my next album.

What do you see for the future of women in reggaeton music?

There's things I hope to evolve a little more, but I feel like we knocked over the door. That we've come through and people are hearing us. People are coming to our concerts. Artists are inviting us to their shows. We're here. I try to stick up for myself more as a human being. We're all talented in our own ways. I feel like women are demonstrating that. It's an era where women are taking chances and going for bigger things.

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