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Daddy Yankee Biography

Daddy Yankee Biography

Ramón (Raymond) Ayala (born February 3, 1977), known artistically as Daddy Yankee, is a Latin Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican reggaeton recording artist. Ayala was born in Río Piedras the largest district of San Juan, where he became interested in music at a young age. In his youth he was interested in baseball, and aspired to become a Major League Baseball player. He was unable to continue this sport when he received an injury to one of his legs, leaving him unable to walk correctly. He then became involved in the underground rap movement that was in its early stages in Puerto Rico, later to be called Reggaeton. After receiving lessons from several artists within the genre, he developed an independent career, first recording in a production titled Playero 37. After this he began to produce independent albums. His first solo album was No Mercy. He subsequently formed a duo with Nicky Jam, and then continued his solo career with the releases of El Cartel and El Cartel II. This led him be one of many pioneers of the reggaeton genre. In 2002 El Cangri.com became Ayala's first album with international success, receiving coverage in the markets of New York and Miami. Barrio Fino was released in 2004, and the album received numerous awards, including a Premio Lo Nuestro and a Latin Billboard, as well as receiving nominations for the Latin Grammy and MTV Video Music Awards. Barrio Fino performed well in the sales charts of the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Japan. On June 5, 2007, El Cartel Records released El Cartel: The Big Boss, which was ranked as the top-selling album in Latin music genres in 2007. He promoted the album with an international tour which began in the United States and continued through Latin America, breaking attendance records in Ecuador and Bolivia. His performances have appeared on more than 70 albums, including compilations such as Mas Flow 2 and Blin Blin Vol. 1.

Ayala was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was influenced by several musicians in his family, including his father, some of his mother's relatives and by his kids sandra, yuri, luis, and bianca. During his childhood he practiced singing and focused on lyrical improvisation. Although Ayala first aspired to join the ranks of baseball’s Major Leagues, he abandoned this goal after being involved in an accident—at age seventeen, he was caught in the crossfire of a barrio gun battle and received two bullet wounds. One bullet grazed his arm and the other, from an AK-47, hit him in the leg and left him with a permanent limp. Following this incident he became interested in the underground rap movement, which at the time was in an early organizational stage. He also took more interest in the events that took place in the neighborhood in which he was raised, a public housing project named Villa Kennedy. Early in his career he attempted to imitate the style of Vico C. He went on to emulate other artists in the genre, including DJ Playero, DJ Nelson, and DJ Goldy, taking elements from their styles in order to develop an original style. In doing so, he eventually abandoned the traditional model of rap and become one of the first artists to perform reggaeton. Ayala first recorded with DJ Playero as a featured artist in a production titled Playero 37, which was released in 1992. His first album, titled No Mercy, was produced in 1995 when Ayala was eighteen years old. The production did not sell well, and he continued his work within the genre for the rest of the decade, eventually forming a duo with Nicky Jam. One of the duo's songs, "Posición", was included in the soundtrack of One Tough Cop, a movie directed by Bruno Barreto, that was released in 1998. Beginning in 2000, Ayala began concentrating more on his solo career, releasing albums produced outside studios. The first production he released was titled El Cartel, featuring elements of the mixtape style. In 2001 El Cartel II was released, a direct sequel to the previous production, and influenced by similar genres. In 2002 El Cangri.com was released, and became the first album in Ayala's career to sell well outside Puerto Rico, mostly in the United States. The album was produced by VI Music, an independent recording studio in Puerto Rico, and was not supported by a major label. The most successful single from the album was "Latigazo", which received significant play on radio stations in New York and Miami. The album reached the #43 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart. Following the release of this disc, Ayala performed at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum before 12,000 fans. The following year VI Music produced Los Homerun-es. The album became the leader in sales in Puerto Rico, during a year in which several other reggaeton artists released significant productions, including Luny Tune's Mas Flow, Don Omar's The Last Don, and Tego Calderón's El Abayarde. The album's success helped Ayala receive the publicity required for a crossover to the United States market, and marked the last album he released with VI music before signing a contract with Universal.

Ayala's next album, Barrio Fino, was released in July 2004 by El Cartel Records. It was the most highly anticipated album in the reggaeton community. Ayala had enjoyed salsa music since he was young, and this led him to include music of genres besides reggaeton in the album. The most prominent of these cross-genre singles was "Melao", in which he performed with Andy Montañez. The album was described as his most complete, and with it he intended to introduce combinations of reggaeton and other genres to the English-speaking market. Barrio Fino was followed up by an international tour with performances in numerous countries including the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, and the United States. The album has sold over 500,000 copies in the United States alone and has sold well throughout Latin America and worldwide. In 2005 Ayala was one of the most recognized reggaeton artists within the music industry, a year where he won several international awards. The first award of the year was a Premio Lo Nuestro within the "Latin music" category, which he received for Barrio Fino. In this event he performed "Gasolina" in a performance that was described as "innovative". Barrio Fino also won the "Reggaeton Album of the Year" award in the Latin Billboard that took place on April 28, 2005, where he performed a mix of three of his songs in a duo with P. Diddy. The album was promoted throughout Latin America, the United States, and Europe, reaching certified gold in Japan. Due to the album's success, Ayala received promotional contracts with radio stations and soda companies, including Pepsi. His single "Gasolina" received the majority of votes cast for the second edition of Premios Juventud, in which it received eight nominations and won seven awards. Ayala also made a live presentation during the award ceremony. "Gasolina" received nominations in the Latin Grammy and MTV Video Music Awards. The successful single, "Gasolina", was covered by artists from different music genres. This led to a controversy when Los Lagos, a Mexican banda group did a cover with the original beat but changed the song's lyrics. Ayala's lawyer, Edwin Prado, said that the artist feels that to have his songs covered is an "honor, but it must be done the right way." Prior to releasing the banda version of the song, the group's label solicited the copyright permission to perform the single and translate it to a different music style, but did not receive the permission to change the lyrics, and legal actions ensued. On April 30, 2006, Ayala was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine. The publication cited Ayala's economic success and ability to merchandise his product as reasons for his influence in the music industry. During this period, Ayala and William Omar Landrón (more commonly known by his artistic name Don Omar) were involved in a rivalry within the genre, dubbed "tiraera". The rivalry received significant press coverage despite being denied early on by both artists. It originated with a lyrical conflict between the artists begun by Ayala's comments in a remix single, where he criticized Landron's common usage of the nickname "King of Kings". Don Omar responded to this in a song titled "Ahora Son Mejor", part of his album Los Rompediscotecas. El Cartel: The Big Boss was released by Interscope on June 5, 2007. Ayala stated that the album marked a return to his hip-hop roots as opposed to being considered a strictly reggaeton album. The album was produced in 2006, and included the participation of will.i.am, Scott Storch, Tainy Tunes, Neli, and personnel from Ayala's label. Singles were produced with Hector El Father, Fergie, Nicole Scherzinger and Akon. The first single from the album was titled "Impacto", and was released prior to the completion of the album. The album was promoted by a tour throughout the United States, which continued throughout Latin America. He performed in Mexico, first in Monterrey, where 10,000 attended the concert, and later at a concert at San Luis Potosí coliseum that sold out, leaving hundreds of fans outside the building. Ayala performed in Chile as well, and established a record for attendance in Ecuador. He also performed in Bolivia, setting an attendance record, with 50,000 fans attending his Santa Cruz de la Sierra concert. This show was later classified as "the best show with the biggest attendance in history" and as "something never seen in our country" by the local media. The show lasted for two hours, and the public was enthusiastic and sang lyrics along with the artist. According to Billboard magazine, El Cartel: The Big Boss was the top-selling album among all Latin music categories in 2007. At the moment of release, the album had sold 500,000 units in the United States and 50,000 in Mexico. In an interview, Ayala said that he was happy that his album had sold more copies than those of Juan Luis Guerra and Juanes, and that this was an "official proof that reggaeton's principal exponent defeated the rest of the genres". Outside of music Ayala has worked on promotional deals with several mainstream companies, releasing merchandise under his name. In 2005, Ayala became the first Latin artist to sign a deal with Reebok, in order to produce several accessories. These include personal apparel such as the licensed clothing line "DY", which was released in 2006. He also teamed up with the company to have his own shoes and sporting goods made, which were first distributed on May 23, 2006. Reebok continued the working relationship with him with the introduction of the Travel Trainer collection in July 2007. Ayala also hosts "Daddy Yankee On Fuego", a syndicated radio show from ABC Radio Networks. In August 2007, Pepsi began an advertising campaign titled "Puertas", in which Ayala is depicted returning to his youth by opening a series of doors. Ayala has also worked in the film industry as both an actor and producer. His acting debut was his performance in the lead role of Vampiros, a film directed by Eduardo Ortiz and filmed in Puerto Rico. The film debuted at the Festival of Latin American Cinema in New York, where it received a positive reaction. This led Image Entertainment to produce a DVD, internationally released in March 2005. As a producer he has worked on Talento de Barrio, which was has not been released yet. The movie was filmed in Puerto Rico and directed by José Iván Santiago, with Ayala starring as "Edgar" in the main role. The film is based on Ayala's experiences during his upbringing, focused on growing up in a poor city sector. While the film is not directly a biography, Ayala has stated that it mirrors his early life. Ayala has been involved in the administration of two organizations, the first being El Cartel Records which he co-owns with Andres Hernandez. He also created the Fundación Corazón Guerrero, a charitable organization in Puerto Rico which works with young incarcerated people. The foundation's purpose is to help troubled youth and ex-convicts by instructing them in computer skills to make them more employable after their release. Daddy Yankee also appears as the DJ for a fictional radio station named "San Juan Sounds" in Grand Theft Auto IV. Ayala married Mireddys González when he was seventeen years old, the couple have three children: Yamilet, Jeremy and Jesairis. Throughout his career Ayala has preferred to keep most of the details of his personal life private, rarely speaking about it in interviews. He says that he avoids doing so because such details are the only aspect of his life that are not public, stating that they are like a "little treasure". He made an exception to this in 2006 in an interview with María Celeste Arrarás in Al Rojo Vivo, when he spoke about his relationship with his wife and their children. When asked about his marriage in this interview, Ayala said that his marriage is strong because he and his wife are "friends above anything," noting that he has been tempted several times in his career but tried to ignore this because "weakness is the reason for the downfall of several artists." When questioned about their children, he stated that he maintains "very close" communication with them, trying to offer advice against drugs and negative influences, and noted that his first daughter was born when he was eighteen years old. Ayala has said that when she was born he was confused at first, and that raising a daughter at that age was a hard experience.

Daddy Yankee did more than anyone to establish reggaeton as a marketable music style. His success was so phenomenal in the wake of his 2004 mainstream breakthrough, Barrio Fino -- and in particular the international hit "Gasolina" -- he transcended cultural boundaries and genre trappings. He became more than just a reggaetonero; he transformed himself into an international name brand. By the time of his 2007 follow-up album, El Cartel: The Big Boss, for example, his name, image, and music were used to sell soft drinks for Pepsi and footwear for Reebok, as well as a syndicated show for ABC Radio Networks (Daddy Yankee on Fuego) and a feature film for Paramount Pictures (Talento de Barrio). Daddy Yankee indeed had become a business empire, of which the primary asset, his music, remained independent from major-label control: he keenly operated his own independent label, El Cartel Records, and chose to partner with labels such as Interscope only for purposes of marketing and distribution, rather than sign himself and his publishing to them outright. The business side of Daddy Yankee was so remarkable, it often overshadowed his music, which admittedly is often most noteworthy for its commercial viability. The music is noteworthy on its own terms nonetheless, with Barrio Fino in particular standing tall as the definitive reggaeton album of its time. Boasting a pair of fantastic hits, "Gasolina" and "Lo Que Pasó, Pasó," the album was a standard-bearer, influencing a legion of followers and establishing the production duo Luny Tunes as reggaeton's hottest hitmakers. Barrio Fino was also the first reggaeton album to reach number one on the Top Latin Album chart, a position it held for roughly a year's time while selling over a million copies in the United States alone. Born Ramón Ayala (aka Raymond) on February 3, 1977, in Río Piedras, the largest district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Daddy Yankee grew up in a musical family. His father was a bongosero (i.e., a salsa percussionist), his mother's family included numerous musicians, and he himself sang from an early age, with a knack for improvisation. As Daddy Yankee grew older, he took an interest in Spanish-language hip-hop, especially the socially aware raps of Vico C, and he became increasingly drawn into the street life of his neighborhood, the Villa Kennedy housing project in San Juan. The "Yankee" moniker arose from the Puerto Rican slang for "someone tall, who is big in what he does" (according to a 2005 interview with Billboard magazine); "Big Daddy" is thus the rough English translation of Daddy Yankee. He got into reggaeton just as it was taking shape in the early '90s, when San Juan DJs would spin hip-hop alongside dancehall reggae while vocalists would freestyle over the beats. This convergence of hip-hop, dancehall, and freestyling proved popular in San Juan, most notably at the Noise, a long-running club night that spawned a collective of DJs and rappers. Besides the Noise, the other key proprietor of proto-reggaeton was Playero, a mixtape DJ/producer with whom Daddy Yankee got his start, debuting as a featured guest on Playero 37 (1992). A few years later, at age 18, Daddy Yankee made his full-length album debut, No Mercy (1995), again working with Playero. Little came of No Mercy, however, and he continued to work the reggaeton underground for the remainder of the '90s. Toward the end the decade, he began performing alongside Nicky Jam as a duo and had one of his songs, "Posición," a collaboration with Alberto Stylee, featured on the 1998 One Tough Cop soundtrack. Beginning in 2000, Daddy Yankee furthered his career significantly with independently released albums. El Cartel (2000) and El Cartel, Vol. 2 (2001) came first, each laden with featured guests in mixtape fashion; however, El Cangri.com (2002) was the one that really gave his career the boost it needed to break outside Puerto Rico. Driven by "Latigazo," a single that found airplay in Miami and New York, El Cangri.com climbed all the way to number 43 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart despite no major-label backing whatsoever (released instead by VI Music, a Puerto Rican indie). In the wake of this success, Daddy Yankee assembled Los Homerun-es (2003), a Top Ten album comprised of odds and ends, including a newly recorded hit single, "Segurosqui," as well as some old Playero tracks from a decade prior. Reggaeton was on the cusp of breaking big-time at this point; touchstone albums such as Don Omar's The Last Don (2003), Tego Calderón's El Abayarde (2003), and Luny Tunes' Mas Flow (2003) were making significant impacts in Miami and New York, in addition to Puerto Rico, and a wave of lesser albums were being released also. The stage was well set for Daddy Yankee's mainstream breakthrough, Barrio Fino (2004), which was released in July 2004 (by VI Music in conjunction with Universal Music Group Distribution) and debuted at number one on the Top Latin Albums chart. The first reggaeton album to reach the number one spot, Barrio Fino would dominate the top of the Latin albums chart for roughly a year's time, lodged there well into 2005. It sold over a million copies in the U.S. alone during this chart reign. The long shelf life of Barrio Fino was partly on account of "Gasolina," a party-oriented single whose appeal was so phenomenal that the song itself became synonymous with reggaeton in the minds of many (and perhaps remains so), especially English-speakers who were unacquainted with the music style. The appeal of "Gasolina" was such that it's been compared to "Macarena," another Latin party song that broke through cultural boundaries to become a dance club staple internationally. It took "Gasolina" awhile to become a craze, several months after the release of Barrio Fino, in fact, yet by November 2004 it had broken into the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually made it all the way to number 32 a couple months later (a genuine Top 40 hit, albeit a novel one). On the Latin charts, though, "Gasolina" didn't even break the Top Ten, only reaching number 17. Rather, "Lo Que Pasó, Pasó" was the album's big hit on the Latin scene, charting at number two. Barrio Fino spawned a few other singles as well: "Sabor a Melao" (featuring salsa superstar Andy Montañez), "No Me Dejes Solo" (featuring Wisin & Yandel), and "Like You" (an English-language song). The success of the album was such that it catapulted Luny Tunes -- an industrious duo who'd produced half the album, and all the key hits -- to stardom of their own, as they became widely recognized as reggaeton undisputed go-to hitmakers. The success of the album also drew significant major-label attention. Machete Music, a Universal company specializing in Latin urban, signed a deal with Daddy Yankee to re-release Los Homerun-es in March 2005 (and later Barrio Fino in December 2006). Meanwhile, VI Music cashed in with Ahora le Toca al Cangri (2005), a live CD/DVD recorded in Puerto Rico in 2003. In 2005, while the major labels were courting Daddy Yankee, the president of Interscope, Jimmy Iovine, whose roster includes Eminem, 50 Cent, and Dr. Dre, actually flew down to Puerto Rico to discuss business in person. A joint venture deal resulted between Interscope and Daddy Yankee's own label, El Cartel Records. The first release under this partnership was Barrio Fino en Directo (2005), a CD/DVD comprised of live in-concert and newly recorded material. "Rompe," one of the newly recorded songs, was issued as the lead single and charted even better than "Gasolina" had, reaching number 24 on the Hot 100. Moreover, it spent 15 weeks atop the Hot Latin Tracks chart. The Interscope deal was only one of many struck by Daddy Yankee at this point. He began lending his name, image, and music to everything from footwear (Reebok) and soft drinks (Pepsi), to automobiles (Citroën) and radio (ABC); he founded his own charity, Corazón Guerrero, to help ex-convicts; and he teamed with CMN (Cardenas Marketing Network, an event marketing and sponsorship agency) to mount an international tour throughout North, Central, and South America. All the while, he worked intermittently on his next album, El Cartel: The Big Boss (2007), a big-budget affair bringing together an ensemble cast of marquee-name collaborators, including pop-rap hitmakers Will.I.Am, Akon, and Scott Storch. The buildup to the album was well-planned and pervasive, with "Impacto" (and its bilingual remix featuring Fergie) released as the lead single well in advance of the eagerly anticipated June release date.


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