Daddy Knows Best For Reggaeton Bash In Boston…

I took a year of Spanish in college, but really, no hablo espanol. So my immersion into Daddy Yankee’s world of reggaeton at the nearly sold-out Orpheum show Saturday night was, in part, a case of being a stranger in a strange land. On the other hand, if I may be so bold, yo la tengo. Strange is not a bad thing.

What is reggaeton in Daddy Yankee’s hands?

Rhythms - of the big, bassy, pants-fluttering, Godzilla-like kind - are king. Relentless. This is loud ’n’ proud Puerto Rican-styled hip-hop, with a reggae and West Indian-flavor and an electronic overlay. These syncopated rhythms, forged by two percussionists, a turntablist and a bassist, are coupled with energetic, anthemic vocals. In concert, Daddy Yankee sings and raps, often rapid-fire, almost exclusively in Spanish. (He does mostly English versions of some songs for U.S. radio.)

There were 15 songs on the set list, starting with “Talento de Barrio” and climaxing near the end with the 2004 international breakthrough hit “Gasolina.” But there were numerous diversions along the way, some less than a minute long, all of them serving to pump up a crowd already pumped just to be in the building. One song was all about taking pictures with your cell phone, and, boy, did this crowd oblige.

Daddy Yankee, 32 - born Ramon Ayala, nicknamed “The Big Boss” - was called one of “the 100 most influential people” by Time magazine in 2006. (Then again, so was Dane Cook.) The Grammy-winning and bling-draped Daddy Yankee was slick, smooth and sunglassed. He was augmented by two rappers and backed by seven musicians. The result was a series of high-energy bursts, an 80-minute display of sonic fireworks.

The multimedia show had little to do with ebb and flow. It was all about moving from one peak to another. The accompanying video sometimes emphasized body parts and bikinis, and one bilingual fan, Monica Faberman, said Daddy Yankee “was kind of objectifying women.” Did it bother her? “Personally, no.” And she would seem to speak for most. Daddy Yankee, though cocky and aggressive, did not seem belligerent or arrogant. “Rompe,” for instance, was suggestive, certainly, but not sexist - or so the English lyric translation reads.

Everything about Daddy Yankee boasts “I am a star!” But for all his showboating, the music is more about forming a bond with the audience. He is a cheerleader for his own cause, but it’s hard not to party down and want to join the gang for a night.
By Jim Sullivan / Boston Herald