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Daddy Yankee: The Big Boss

Videographer: Brian MappVideo Editor: Quadre Owens

The thought of being a rapper crosses the minds of many young Hip-Hop listeners. For Daddy Yankee, these thoughts not only manifested as a childhood dream, but exceeded his expectations. Yankee has successfully transformed his love for the culture and created a new genre altogether. Selling two platinum albums since 2004, Daddy Yankee became and still holds the title as the “big boss of reggaeton,” as his new album proclaims.

Daddy Yankee has collaborated with Akon, Will.I.Am, and Fergie on his new album, El Cartel: The Big Boss, which has been released earlier this month through Interscope Records. As Daddy Yankee enjoys a successful music career, he also focuses on other ventures such as the DY clothing line, “Daddy Yankee on Fuego” radio show, and a motion picture debut in Talento de Barrio that he helped produce. Unfortunately, a day following this interview, Daddy Yankee was admitted to the hospital. Ironically enough, he discusses with us his continuous work ethic and how there’s no sleep for the Big Boss.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: There were rumors circulating that you were leaving Interscope. What is your current label situation? Is that just a rumor?

Daddy Yankee: Nah, nah. That’s just rumors. We’re workin’ hand in hand on the album.

AHHA: Is it a distribution deal?

Daddy Yankee: Yeah, I got a distribution deal with Interscope. Right now, I got a partnership with Jimmy Iovine. So I’m my own boss on my label, and Jimmy’s my partner, you know so Cartel and Interscope right now

AHHA: Do you title yourself more of a reggaeton artist or a Hip-Hop artist? How do you view yourself?

Daddy Yankee: Both. Both of them. I am able to do both genres, but actually how I started it in the Latin world, was as a Hip-Hop artist…Latin Hip-Hop artist. Then, Playero, the reggaeton godfather, he introduced me to reggae music and dancehall music. He taught me how to get down [in] the reggae world like 13 years ago, 14 years ago. So thanks to him, I discovered reggaeton music. So I place myself as a Latin Hip-Hop artist and a reggaeton artist.

AHHA: Many have said reggaeton has died out. How do you see the genre now? Do you agree?

Daddy Yankee:

It’s evolving. Those comments [come] I think from the people… from the industry. ‘Cause last year, in 2006, the top selling album was Barrio Fino en Directo, and I sold 1.2 million copies of [the] live album. I don’t represent pop music and rap music. I represent an urban genre. The numbers are there, and the facts are there. We here, you know, we just evolving. The reason that it feel[s] like that for a moment – it felt like that for a moment – was because the leader, which is Daddy Yankee, was in the lab. I was working on my new album. When the leader is not present things are like… [whistles] stop for a moment. Right now, they know I’m launching an album, now you see everybody again ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba!

AHHA: So you feel like you carry the movement behind you?

Daddy Yankee: Right now, it’s like that. It’s real..

AHHA: Your beef, or tiraera, with Don Omar was something known worldwide, but you guys kept it strictly to the music, which is something Hip-Hop still struggles with. As an artist who does both Hip-Hop and Reggaeton, why is it so hard for rappers to keep beef just on record?

Daddy Yankee:

In terms of beef it’s very different in the Latin world than over here in the Anglo market. In Puerto Rico, one thing it’s like, and Puerto Rico is very small. You can’t do dumb s**ts, you know you can’t because Puerto Rico is very small. And when I do things…everybody will know. Here in the states, is a different thing. It’s very big, and sometimes you don’t know nobody. It’s like that. When you’re successful like Daddy Yankee – and as any rappers in the states – everybody wanna…

When you’re in the number one position, everybody wanna sit down in your seat. It’s like that; it’s real. When you’re a successful person, you got to think that with success comes a lot of haters. You gotta be smart, and you gotta make clever moves and that’s Daddy Yankee all the way. I’m a cat that everybody respect me in Puerto Rico in the hood because they know what I’m about. At the same time, they love my attitude because they know how I think, and they know how I move.

AHHA: Ok that’s cool. With a music career, an established clothing and sneaker line, and a budding acting career, how do you find time for Daddy Yankee with all the other stuff that you have going on?

Daddy Yankee: Right now, when you love what you’re doing, you’re enjoying everything. I’m enjoying everything that I’m doing right now. It’s something that I’ve never had before. When you’re in the barrio and you’re in the hood, you have your little things going in the hood, but you have the potential. Like if you’re a cat like Daddy Yankee, and you be in the street like that, and you have the knowledge to get down in the streets you know how to apply all those skills into the business. So it’s all good.

So I learned everything, a lot of things in the barrio, and I learned a lot of things when I went to college. So it’s like that, you have a kid, you know, you have a man – which is Daddy Yankee – I got the best of both worlds. I got the best of the hood, which is Villa Kennedy where I grew up, and La Loma. But also, I went to college, you know what I’m sayin’? I did my Accounting degree. So I got the best of both worlds.

is good, it’s great.

AHHA: What is a typical day in your life?

Daddy Yankee: A typical day in Daddy Yankee’s life is like working every time. Work…I’m working all the time. I don’t stop. If you go out with me just one day, it’s like working all the time. Right now I’m doing this with you, then I’m going to Reebok, then I move forward [to] my clothing line, then I go into DY broadcastin’ to my radio show, then I go into the studio. I’m like that. I’m 24/7 thinkin’ about business and thinkin’ about music.

AHHA: Is there ever a time off?

Daddy Yankee: Nah, you can’t take time off. When you in this position, you have to keep buildin’ and buildin’ and buildin’. You can’t stop. You have to take like one-week vacation, and then that’s it. Then come back and keep buildin’. At the end of the day, you gotta be real. I’m real, and I know that this gotta stop one day. When it stops, I want to look back and say, “Okay, I’m comfortable. I’m good.”

I got my real estate business going on. I’m investing my money in real estate crazy. I got this, and I got that, and I got that. I’m comfortable, and I don’t have that necessity to sing no more right now. I do it because of the love, because I love music and my passion for it. At the end of the day you gotta be real and say, “Okay, this gotta stop one day,” but when it stops, you know I’m good. I’m okay.

AHHA: As the title of your upcoming album El Cartel: The Big Boss suggests, would you consider yourself the big boss of reggaeton?

Daddy Yankee: Oh, no doubt! It’s true. You see the numbers, the records. Who’s the guy that’s the most selling artist? It’s Daddy Yankee.

AHHA: Do you feel like other artists would be intimidated by that, or they look up to you?

Daddy Yankee: Nah, because I don’t try to intimidate nobody. It’s the other way around. I try to work with everybody. That’s Daddy Yankee; it’s a different mentality. I don’t consider myself as an arrogant dude. It’s the other way around. I like to collaborate with everybody.

AHHA: Did you establish relationships with the artists on your new record before you started doing the music, or you wanted to work with a certain artist, and then you end up meeting them and having a good relationship with them?

Daddy Yankee:

Most of them I’ve known before this album, so it helps me to be in the studio with them. Akon is a great dude. He’s real talented, but at the same time he’s one of the coolest guys that I met in the business. He’s a nice guy. When I was in the studio with him, we decided that once I heard the beat, I knew it was gonna be a hit.

Being born and raised in Puerto Rico, when I was growing up, I didn’t know what they were saying in the lyrics. I just liked the beats and the flow. So I have an ear – my ear in the Hip-Hop world – is like the beat has to speak first for me. I have an ear-educated difference than a lot of [other] people. I always have to hear the beat first, because that’s the way that I grew up. Once I heard Akon’s beat, I said, “Okay, that’s the beat that I want.”

AHHA: You have made time for the Corazon Guerrero Foundation helping at risk youths, and being the spokesperson for the Red Cross in Hispanic communities all over the U.S. Why did you choose to be part of these organizations in particular? What are some things you have done with them?

Daddy Yankee: The reason that I was involved in helping my people, is because I love to give back to my community. Well, once you help the other people, you help yourself. At this level that you have, you need to have that kind of spirit ‘cause it keeps you alive man. Honestly, when I help other people, I help my spirit at the same time. It’s like soulful for me. It motivates me every time to keep working, you know? Just like that; it’s a mutual help.

AHHA: That’s hot. Time Magazine has proclaimed you one of the top influential people in the world. How does that title affect you and your place in the world?

Daddy Yankee: I mean that’s…I have won a lot of awards. But that, especially, that was the biggest of all time because there’s 6.6 billion of people in world, and you being nominated and you being in that list is just, man, God is with you. That’s what I can tell [you]. God is with me, and He put me on that list. He put me in with everybody. I was very, very, very happy to be on that list. Being beside so many influential people – being beside the Pope – next to a lot of people that I was watchin’ on TV. Then all of a sudden, I got all those people next to me. It’s like, wow, incredible.

AHHA: As your kids are growing up, how are they adjusting to having a famous father?

Daddy Yankee: They don’t care. It’s as simple as that. They see me as a dad, you know? They don’t care. They say, “Okay my daddy’s there, he’s signing autographs. Let’s go! Let’s play some basketball! Let’s have some fun!” Simple as that.

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