By Lucas Villa Photographs By Javi Neris
“I’m a brilliant fan,” Anuel AA says of the Goku and Vegeta tattoos on his left arm. “All people that has lived that road life is a fan of ‘Dragon Ball Z.’ They’re like troopers and that’s why I establish with them.” In 2018, Latin music turned the fifth-most consumed style of music within the U.S., putting forward of nation music. Because the style continues to do spectacular numbers, the superheroes of the Latin motion are the reggaetoneros, or reggaetón music artists. This yr, Anuel was one in every of two Latin artists to realize the Herculean feat of debuting inside the highest 10 of the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. For Anuel to soar to such heights along with his “Emmanuel” LP, he needed to come again from all-time low.
Emmanuel Gazmey Santiago grew up in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the place reggaetón music was cultivated. Within the early 2000s, reggaetoneros like Daddy Yankee, Tego Caulderón and Don Omar helped popularize the once-underground style on a world scale. “If it wasn’t for them, like, all they did in reggaetón, there can be no Anuel,” he says. On the time, his father, José Gazmey, was the vp of Sony Music Puerto Rico’s A&R division, so a younger Anuel was capable of join with these icons. “Thank God I met them once I was a bit of child,” he says. “It was meant to be. I see it like that.”
When Anuel was 15 years outdated, his father misplaced his job at Sony Music so their household struggled financially. The rapper moved out to the initiatives to work on his personal music. “One thing all the time occurs, however I saved knocking on doorways, and I made it,” he says. The “it” that Anuel is referring to was being found by hip-hop producer Spiff TV, who introduced him to the eye of Rick Ross and his Maybach Music label. “No person within the Spanish music business believed in my music to start with,” Anuel says. “They had been the primary ones, so I’m all the time going to be grateful.” As Anuel was turning into a rising star in Latin entice music, he was arrested in April 2016 exterior of a nightclub in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, for unlawful possession of firearms. The choose sentenced him to 30 months in federal jail.
“Shit, I fucked up,” Anuel remembers. “I used to be considering, I’m going to have to return to the streets once I come out as a result of individuals ain’t gonna be ready for me.” Whereas Anuel was behind bars, the group he constructed with Daddy Yankee and Caulderón alongside along with his contemporaries got here by way of for him. “Ozuna, J Balvin, Dangerous Bunny, everybody, they held it down for me,” he says. “They shouted me out of their exhibits and recorded on my songs once I was in jail. Like my music ‘Sola’ with Daddy Yankee, Farruko and Wisin, that helped me so much.” Anuel’s workforce dropped his “Actual Hasta La Muerte,” or “Actual Till Dying,” mixtape on the peak of the #FreeAnuel motion. That mixtape made him one to look at in each Latin entice and reggaetón. “It was like a film,” he remembers. “My profession saved going as if I used to be within the streets.”
When Anuel was launched from jail on July 17, 2018, he independently launched his debut album, “Actual Hasta La Muerte,” which opened at No. 1 on Billboard’s Prime Latin Albums chart. Not solely did Anuel step out to the success of a platinum album but additionally to some sudden romance. Tattooed on his again is a photograph of him linking tongues with Colombian reggaetonera Karol G. The frostiest character in reggaetón when it comes to his signature “BRRRR!” tagline and his iced-out neck and grill, warmed as much as one of many greatest feminine artists within the style. “That was the primary image we took kissing one another,” he says. “After I met her, it modified my life for good. One thing in my thoughts and my coronary heart instructed me she was the one. That she was going to be the woman I spend all my life with.”
The reggaetón energy couple went public with their relationship in early 2019 on their single “Secreto,” or “Secret.” The music video that includes Anuel and Karol G’s intimate moments collectively broke the Latino web and now has over a billion views on YouTube. “Individuals assume that simply since you’re an artist otherwise you’re well-known that every little thing’s good,” he says. “They see you shining. They see the digital camera flashes. In fact, life is nice, however it comes with lots of stress too. Having Karol, she lives that very same life. She understands it. She’s actually a giant fan of mine and I’m a brilliant fan of her music. She helps me so much and I assist her too.” He even has his fiancée’s title tattooed on his finger. “After I confirmed her, I used to be like, ‘Yo, if it’s actual, tat my title then,’” Anuel laughs. “Yeah, she obtained it too.”
Final summer time, Anuel assembled the Avengers of reggaetón for his greatest hit single, “China.” The music turned a pattern of Shaggy’s 2000 smash “It Wasn’t Me” right into a refreshing reggaetón banger that includes Daddy Yankee, J Balvin, Ozuna and Karol G. “That music, I used to be going to drop it on my own, however I used to be like, nah,” he says. “Any person performed a type of reggaetón classics that had all of the legends on it and I used to be like, ‘Yo, that is what I wish to do.’ If that music wouldn’t have gone No. 1, I might’ve retired. With all these huge artists, it was not possible for ‘China’ to not be huge.”
“China” was one of many songs that led as much as Anuel’s second album, the self-titled “Emmanuel.” “That is the primary album I dropped since I got here out [of prison], mainly,” he says. “The opposite one was executed already. That is the primary album that I might sit down and work on. I might pay extra consideration to it.” Among the many shock options on the album is Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker on “No Llores Mujer,” a Spanish transforming of Bob Marley’s “No Girl, No Cry.” “He’s actually humble,” Anuel says. “He’s a brilliant legend and he likes my music, so we’re in all probability going to maintain working collectively.” Rap icon Lil Wayne options on “Ferrari.” “For me, that was a dream come true,” he says. “I didn’t know he was going to know who I used to be as a result of that’s how huge he’s. He handled me like household.”
On having Daddy Yankee and Caulderón on “Emmanuel,” Anuel says, “I see them as my huge brothers as a result of we work collectively.” It’s an particularly uncommon event for Caulderón to be on “Rifles Russos,” or “Russian Rifles.” “He’s like household,” Anuel says. “After I was in jail, he paid for my lawyer. I wished individuals on the album who’re very near me, so I hit him up. Despite the fact that he’s on one other part in life, he liked the music. I used to be like, ‘Bro, no person else matches on this.’” The album opened at No. 8 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, making Anuel the second Latin artist (the primary being Dangerous Bunny) this yr to have a prime 10 debut on that chart.
Anuel featured on Dangerous Bunny’s “YHLQMDLG” and Dangerous Bunny returned the favor on “Emmanuel.” Due to their related profession trajectories and successes, the 2 are sometimes pitted towards one another. “There’s all the time going to be respect between us,” he says. “It’s a contest for the individuals probably the most. Proper now I’m in a part of life the place I solely gotta be higher than myself. Each time I do one thing, it’s gotta be higher than the very last thing I did.” Rappers like him and Dangerous Bunny are broadening reggaetón’s attraction. “Reggaetón is the kind of music within the Latin business that used to get criticized so much,” Anuel says. “Reggaetón got here from the streets. The streets had so much to do with reggaetón’s success to start with, so seeing [Shakira], Enrique Iglesias, Drake, all people doing reggaetón, for us it’s tremendous legendary seeing the way it has grown a lot.”
“My greatest fan base is the streets all world wide,” Anuel says of his personal legacy. “After I grew up, my solely position fashions for actual had been the drug sellers, so for me, making it like this and being one of many greatest artists within the Latin business is sort of a dream come true. It’s lots of accountability, so I gotta preserve making the best selections and making the best music. Probably the most that anyone can say about me is: ‘He got here from the streets and he made it. He is aware of what’s falling down and getting up.’ I’m tremendous happy with that.”