Bad Bunny ‘Baby’: The Rise to Stardom

By Melodie Vaval, Correspondent

Puerto Rican musician Bad Bunny prompted confusion and pride alike as his unexpected rise to stardom quickly made him the face of reggaeton. Topping his musical strides, he’s reformed societal stigmas concerning the queer Latino community by being a source of support and representation.

Bad Bunny rocked the Latino and American music industries, shattering world records, following the drop of his latest, acutely-praised album “Un Verano Sin Ti.” 

In the span of mere five years, Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio — more famously known as Bad Bunny — has created a persona many Latino people carry around with them. 

“To my [Puerto Rican] friends living in the US, he’s like a piece of home,” freshman Cherie Laroche said. “He gives representation where there isn’t any.”

Bad Bunny embarked on a whirlwind journey when his single “Dakiti,” featuring Jhay Cortez, overwhelmed every radio station and music-producing platform known to man. 

The widely renowned reggaeton song skyrocketed Bad Bunny from small-town rapper to international superstar. Having amassed an audience of over 63 million people as reported by Spotify, this boricua has “changed the game.” 

Such an inconceivable rise to stardom prompts the questions: Who is Benito, and how on earth has he come this far in such a short period of time?

The reggaeton genre quickly shifted from being categorized as “dirty” and “womanizing” to becoming a source of pride for the Latino community. During this time, Benito was but a mere niño whose ambitions would soon turn into irrefutable talent. 

It’s no secret to his fans that the artist has drawn immense inspiration from the founding fathers of reggaeton, such as Nicky Jam and Daddy Yankee. 

In an interview with GQ, Benito said he would often “steal [his] father’s big t-shirts and snag a Yankees baseball cap to wear it sideways only to emulate reggaeton legend Daddy Yankee.”

“I think he borrows [their] styles and modernizes them which is why his music is so enthralling,” Laroche said.

At the start of what would become a staggering career, Benito’s audience was strictly Latino. Since then, he’s immersed himself in an English-speaking demographic. 

“He’s done it by being famous enough to spark curiosity from white people,” said Journalism Professor Mark Leccese – whose music taste is quite diverse.

Bad Bunny recognizes this infiltration of English-speaking listeners, saying  he’s “cracked the gringo market without surrendering his mother tongue.” That can be partly attributed to his features with particularly prominent American artists like Drake and Cardi B in songs “MIA” and “I Like It.”

Benito’s passion for music started from a young age and grew further during his adolescence. He made it a priority to upload his below-average rap songs onto SoundCloud after long days of bagging groceries at a local supermercado in his native town of Vega Baja. This 

perseverance would prove a vital element of his evolution from SoundCloud rapper to record-breaking musician. 

After his short-lived rap era, Bad Bunny made the decision to dip his toes into the world of trap music — a genre where more words are spoken than sung — which ultimately gave him the recognition he so desperately needed to make it into a dog-eat-dog industry.

“I owe my career to trap, really,” Benito said at a 2022 concert in Miami. 

2017 was the turning point in Bad Bunny’s career as he gifted the world with “Soy Peor” — in English,“I’m Worst” — a trap song depicting the loss of trust after a heartbreak. That single turned the heads of big-time producers like Tainy toward the up-and-coming Puerto Rican star. 

Five years later, Bad Bunny is dominating the music industry not only by switching to reggaeton but by revolutionizing the genre itself. 

“I think it was crucial for his career to shift to reggaeton — that’s what everyone listens to these days,” says Aliana Kernisan, an avid Bad Bunny listener and self-proclaimed superfan. 

The drastic nature of Bad Bunny’s growth has made it possible for the artist to gross over 50 number-one hits in the span of seven weeks. That is unheard of for someone whose career started roughly 4 1/2 years ago. 

As well as excelling in the music industry, the star has publicly challenged heteronormative stereotypes by breaking through the conservative gender barriers he grew up behind, which has blown open doors for the queer Hispanic community.

At a recent concert of his in San Juan, Benito invited six small-scale Latino artists — all part of the LGBTQ community — to come onto the stage which overlooked copious amounts of people to share their music with the crowd. 

Bad Bunny’s indisputable charisma, playfulness, and Latino pride have played integral roles in the contagion of his songs. 

“I’m just proud, so very proud,” Kernisan said with a grin. “His music is life-changing for us [Latinos].”