Few genres have taken the world by storm in recent years quite like reggaeton. The beat is said to have originated in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but it soon became a staple in music throughout Latin America, influencing countless musicians who have become icons of the genre.
Starting today, LOUD, a new Spotify Original podcast, explores the full tapestry of reggaeton music—from its origins in San Juan to the successes of cultural hits like Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” to its prominence in cities like Santiago, Chile, and Medellín, Colombia.
And who better to tell this story but Puerto Rican singer, rapper, and songwriter Ivy Queen?
Follow along over the course of 10 chapters and across five countries as host Ivy Queen weaves a story featuring special guests and Latinx music icons such as Nicky Jam, Zion y Lennox, Sech, and Maluma. They speak about their stories within the history of the genre, one that has generated massive hits, global artists, and the futuristic sound defining the 21st century.
For the Record spoke to creative producer Julio A. Pabón about the series, which was three years in the making.
You’ve been reporting on this topic for years. What prompted the idea for this podcast?
I’ve always wanted to make the definitive audio documentary on reggaeton. There are so many stories, rumors, half-truths, and exaggerated facts out there that I knew someone had to set the record straight and tell as close to a definitive oral history as possible. At the time, our team helped with podcast development, so I took the opportunity to develop the series as an audio-exclusive offering.
The podcast is broken down into three parts. How and why did you pick the themes for these chapters? How do they come together to tell the overarching story?
The three parts are essentially created by watershed moments in reggaeton’s history that most people would describe as “genre defining.” Without giving too much away, the release of Daddy Yankee’s song “Gasolina” was an example of one of those moments.
We followed a chronological approach to telling this story, starting with the roots of reggaeton in the Black communities of Panama. As with most documentary storytelling, the themes revealed themselves as we moved forward and did more research from there.
The podcast features the voices of so many influential artists and creators. Did anyone have thoughts or stories that surprised you?
So many things, and I grew up on reggaeton! I had a great experience learning about the origins of certain rivalries between MCs, Jamaican immigration to Panama, and the true meanings of certain colloquialisms, just to name a few. The one that probably will stand out most is that Daddy Yankee was a baseball prospect before getting shot in the leg and deciding to take music seriously. What would the genre be without him? And yet it almost didn’t happen.
What were the main challenges in putting together a podcast of this scope?
Access was our biggest challenge. The genre is now in its thirties, so there are some people who are no longer with us and others who changed careers and never looked back.
What conversations about reggaeton are you hoping this podcast can spark?
I want this podcast to spark conversations about race, sex, and the politics of the culture. In the end, it’s an inspirational tale of how a marginalized community created a genre of music with universal appeal. The idea behind LOUD is to spark that inspiration many times over. This isn’t exclusive to reggaeton though—we want to explore K-pop, Afrobeat, and Brazilian funk in future seasons.
Stream the first episode of LOUD today.