Daddy Yankee reigns over reggaeton

The rhythm of reggaeton has ruled over Latino and Hispanic communities since the early 1990s, and the ruler of reggaeton these days is a worldwide superstar known as Daddy Yankee.
A form of urban music, reggaeton originated in Panama as a blend of West Indian music such as Jamaican reggae and dancehall with the Latin American beat found in salsa, merengue, cumbia and the like. However, reggaeton also combines these potent rhythms with the pulse of hip hop, contemporary R&B and electronica influences, shown in the genre’s characteristic rapping or singing in Spanish. With all these influences, however, reggaeton today is closely associated with Puerto Rico, where the music first became popular and where the majority of its current stars have their roots.
Lyrics in reggaeton tend to resemble more hip hop than dancehall, with universal themes that appeal especially to urban youth. Like hip hop and its “gangsta” or “thug life” identity, reggaeton has its share of controversies involving explicit lyrics extolling violence and demeaning women, as well as “wars” between artists, in which the musicians “diss” one another in their songs.
Reggaeton gained mainstream exposure in 2004, when Daddy Yankee’s megahit, “Gasolina,” from his album “Barrio Fino” flew around the world, drawing in North American, European and Asian audiences. “Barrio Fino” initially sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, making Daddy Yankee the first reggaeton singer to earn a platinum disc. Ultimately, after an international tour that included France, Russia, Poland and most of Latin America, “Barrio Fino” earned its star six platinum discs, signifying global sales of 60 million albums.
Born Raymond Ayala on Feb. 3, 1977 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Daddy Yankee has been the artist most responsible for the globalization of reggaeton. Also known as “El Cangri” (roughly translated as “cool cat” or “sexiest man”), Daddy Yankee today is arguably reggaeton’s “Big Boss,” another of his nicknames and possibly an homage to rock superstar Bruce Springsteen, whose nickname is “The Boss.”
Ayala’s stage name, “Daddy Yankee,” derives partly form his admiration for hip hop artist Big Daddy Kane, and partly from his love of baseball’s New York Yankees. Daddy Yankee rarely performs without his trademark Yankees baseball cap. He planned to be a professional baseball player himself like so many Puerto Rican stars, but a bullet wound in his leg when he was 16 shattered his diamond dreams. Instead Daddy Yankee turned to reggaeton music, a career change that has probably brought him far more success than baseball would have.
From his debut in a 1995 compilation of reggaeton music, Daddy Yankee has risen to the top rank of the global phenomenon that reggaeton has become. Today he is not only a singer, but also a songwriter, actor, producer and composer of film music, broadcaster and businessman. In 2006 he was included in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. In summer 2009 he was wowing audiences in Ecuador and Argentina, where his concerts resulted in a platinum disc for his latest album, “Talento de Barrio,” the soundtrack of his 2008 Paramount Pictures movie of the same name.
Like many a music mogul who worked his way up from poverty to worldwide fame and fortune, Daddy Yankee now uses his wealth and influence to benefit the less fortunate. He created Corazón Guerrero, a foundation dedicated to helping ex-inmates in Puerto Rico to re-enter society. He also has started projects to build schools and youth centers and improve housing for poor people in Colombia, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic.