Bad Bunny is off to a great 2019

Bad Bunny is deemed "Latin pop's freaky king" and earns the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart.
Image: Bad Bunny arrives at the Latin American Music Awards in Los Angeles on Oct. 26, 2017.
Bad Bunny arrives at the Latin American Music Awards in Los Angeles on Oct. 26, 2017.Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP file

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By Gwen Aviles and Nicole Acevedo

Bad Bunny seems at once an overnight success and someone who's been around and made a mark on the music scene.

His accomplishments have now earned him the title of "Latin pop's freaky king" in a recent Rolling Stone article, plus landed the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart on the first week of 2019 with his newly released debut album “X100PRE” — a ranking that Billboard considers the "highest ranking debut."

"And that's how my 2019 starts off, my first album debuts #1 in Billboard," Bad Bunny wrote on Twitter. "Thanks to all of you."

Yes, El Conejo Malo has become a staple in Latin music. In a nod to his Latino listeners and in a move reminiscent of queen Beyoncé, Bad Bunny unexpectedly dropped his highly anticipated album right on Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena as it's known in Spanish.

Mostly produced by Puerto Rican music producer Marcos "Tainy" Masís, “X100PRE” includes collaborations with American DJ Diplo, rapper Drake, Dominican dembow artist El Alfa, Puerto Rico’s original pop king Ricky Martin and others.

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The Latin trap and reggaeton artist has an ability to mix the personal with the political; he uses his music to celebrate his Puerto Rican roots but also calls out serious issues such as abusive relationships and machismo — as he does in his song “Solo de Mi.”

“X100PRE,” which translates to “por siempre,” has resonated with many young Puerto Ricans in particular, who like Bad Bunny, grew up on the island when reggaeton was transforming from an underground genre into a mainstream one, as NBC News previously reported.

But Latin pop’s newly crowned king was culturally significant even before his latest album.

Born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, the artist began posting music on SoundCloud — his 2016 song “Diles” ("Tell Them") earned him millions of listeners. From there, he went on to release a steady stream of popular singles, including those that appear on his 2017 mixtape El Conejo Malo and collaborations with world-renowned artists like Marc Anthony, Jennifer López, Nicky Jam and many others in over a dozen songs and remixes.

The singer became one of the top 10 most streamed artists worldwide before dropping an album of his own, scored 7 billion views in 2018 alone, according to YouTube, and landed a 2019 Grammy nomination alongside Cardi B and J Balvin for “Record Of The Year” with hit “I Like It.”

Bad Bunny may be royalty, but he’s not the only Latin artist who’s had a breakthrough year in 2018.

Cardi B scored five Grammy nominations, including "Album of the Year" for her debut studio album "Invasion Of Privacy," and ended 2018 as part of Spotify’s top 5 most streamed female artists of the year. Colombian reggaeton artist J Balvin earned a Latin Grammy in November for "Best Urban Music Album” for his album “Vibras” and finished off 2018 as one of Spotify's top 5 most streamed artists in the world. Puerto Rican-Dominican reggaeton Latin trap artist Ozuna and Cuban-American pop goddess Camila Cabello were also among the most streamed artists in 2018.

Though Bad Bunny is routinely full of surprises, his swagger remains consistent, as he tells "Rolling Stone."

"I don’t want to be fake. I’m just being me. And I have the power to break stereotypes and whatever useless rules that society puts on us,” Bad Bunny told the magazine.

Bad Bunny is set to start a new tour this year, and it will include New York, Miami and Puerto Rico.

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