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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — No one in Puerto Rico can go anywhere without listening to a song from Bad Bunny’s debut album “X100PRE,” a play in letters and numbers that reads “por siempre,” Spanish for forever.
After a successful 2018, Puerto Rican Latin trap and reggaeton singer Bad Bunny — born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio — gave fans an early Christmas present when he dropped his 15-track album on Dec. 24 at midnight.
“Bad Bunny is releasing his album on the 24th of December. So La Nueva Religión will have almost the same birthday as Jesus,” wrote Frances Solá-Santiago on Twitter, referencing the artist’s 2018 tour titled “La Nueva Religión.”
He rose to the top of the charts by collaborating with world-renowned artists like Marc Anthony, Jennifer López, Nicky Jam and many others in over a dozen songs and remixes. Apple Music included him in its ‘Up Next Class of 2018’ list, which aims to highlight music’s next generation of artists.
“X100PRE” was mainly produced by renowned Puerto Rican music producer Marcos "Tainy" Masís and includes collaborations with American DJ Diplo, rapper Drake, Dominican dembow artist El Alfa, icon Ricky Martin and others.
Bad Bunny, 24, took to Twitter to dedicate his new album to “all my real fans! Those who follow me from the heart. Those who believe in me and in what I do! For people sure of themselves!”
But intentionally or not, the album spotlights the experiences of a generation of young Puerto Ricans who, like Benito, came of age in the island between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s — a time in which reggaeton was starting to become more prominent as more mainstream radio stations were willing to play the music that for years was considered solely an underground genre.
Songs like “Tenemos Que Hablar,” Spanish for we have to talk, mix the trap and reggaeton beats he's known for with the punk, rock rhythms that characterized the late 1990s and the early 2000s.
“I knew people were going to relate to this song because we’ve all gotten that message that says ‘we have to talk’ and we know how that always makes things tense,” said Bad Bunny during an Instagram livestream on Christmas Day.
However, his track “Cuando Perriabas,” meaning, when you danced reggaeton, jogs the memory of Puerto Rican millennials in a particular way.
The sounds in the song resemble the "perreos" from the early 2000s, mainly sung by reggaeton artists such as Plan B, Alexis y Fido and Jowell y Randy — reminding listeners on the island of the “parties de marquesina,” also known as garage parties, that almost every young person attended while in middle school or high school, which consisted of dancing to the old-school reggaeton songs.
“Everyone my age probably grew up listening to the ‘perreos’ of Plan B...” said Bad Bunny. “Here, I’m talking about the ‘perreos’ from when I was in puberty: 12, 13, 14,15,16,17,18,19, 20. What’s one’s youth.”
For many Puerto Ricans in that same age group, Bad Bunny’s subtle reference to the infamous case of a 5-year-old child that went missing in Puerto Rico in 1999 did not go unnoticed.
In the song “RLNDT,” Bad Bunny alludes to the disappearance of Rolando Salas Jusino, known as Rolandito — especially with the line “And I do not know if they kidnapped me or I'm lost.”
The case shook many parents at the time, since the minor disappeared without a trace and was never found. Even 19 years after his disappearance, the image of Rolandito’s missing poster is still ingrained in the memory of most Puerto Ricans.
Bad Bunny uses the memorable case as a metaphor of how lost he felt after quickly rising to stardom in less than two years and feeling like music and fame were not making him happy.
“People tried to change my concept of what music is. That music is work, but it’s not like that,” said Bad Bunny. “So, in this album I said ‘No, I need to do something that fulfills me and makes me happy.’”
In the album, “RLNDT” is followed by single “Estamos Bien,” which means we’re fine.
“That’s how I felt after those dark times, after that episode of depression, of sadness. I took time for myself to think. I stayed away from what I thought was bad and toxic for me,” said Bad Bunny. “I’m very happy with what’s happening in my life right now, beyond my career.”
A day before dropping “X100PRE,” the singer distributed 30,000 gifts such as musical instruments and balls to children in Puerto Rico through his newly-launched non-profit Fundación Good Bunny, which seeks to empower Puerto Rican youth through arts.
Bad Bunny is set to start off 2019 with a new tour, including cities like New York, Miami and Puerto Rico.