Daddy Yankee Sticks To His Roots, Won’t Lean On Snoop

Reggaetón artist has collaborated with hip-hop's finest but goes with his own sound for next single.

SANTA MONICA, California — Daddy Yankee, who scorched up dancehalls around the globe with the reggaetón hit “Gasolina,” could have easily milked his recent collaborations with Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams for all they are worth.

Instead, the Puerto Rican artist wanted to rely on his own talents to sell his music. The infectious club anthem “Rompe” (sans Snoop or Pharrell) serves as the first single off his forthcoming release, Barrio Fino en Directo, a CD/DVD compilation featuring footage from his latest world tour.

“Doing [things] with my colleagues in the hip-hop game is big, but I won’t lose my fanbase and what has got me here,” Daddy Yankee said. “Why fix [something] that is not broken?”

Yankee (born Raymond Ayala) picked up the torch as the frontrunner of the reggaetón movement after his 2004 release, Barrio Fino, became the first reggaetón LP to go platinum. The album, which was Yankee’s third solo effort, is also the first reggaetón release to debut at #1 on Billboard‘s Latin chart.

His upcoming CD/DVD, which includes live renditions of Yankee’s hits, is due December 13. The 16-track release will also boast five new tracks produced by Urba y Monserrate and the Latin Grammy-nominated Luny Tunes. “Rompe,” “Machucando” and “El Truco” all feature the Daddy Yankee style that won over fans, while “Gangsta Zone,” featuring Snoop Dogg, is on deck to be the next single. Snoop and Daddy Yankee will be shooting the video for the song in Puerto Rico to “capture the real essence of the song and to show the real way we live on the island,” he said. Yankee also worked with Peoples Champ Paul Wall on the remix “Machete Reloaded,” which puts a twist on the performer’s original track.

“I think the industry needs new sounds, and that sound is reggaetón right now,” Yankee said of the genre that blends dancehall rhythms with Spanish lyrics. “It’s bringing the new flavor to the industry. Even though you don’t understand the language, you will dance to it and you feel it because it’s real. Music is a universal language, and we’re unifying the cultures.”

Daddy Yankee’s DVD, directed by Carlos Perez, contains concert footage from his extensive world tour, behind-the-scenes footage and an in-depth documentary in which Yankee discusses racism and war and opens up about personal matters like growing up on the streets, his rise to fame and his role as a reggaetón ambassador thanks to the global impact of “Gasolina.”

“I have the responsibility to educate the people out there and teach them what reggaetón is about, so with this DVD I hope people will understand us more,” Yankee explained, adding that he hopes to serve as an example to youth that a person can become a success without forfeiting his values.

“As a Latino, a lot of people are looking at me as a leader, and I’m opening the door for a lot of kids who felt just like me when I was a kid. I know that five or 10 years from now, people will say, ‘Yo, thanks to Daddy Yankee,’ and I’ll be sitting proud of that because what I’m doing now is history.”

Daddy Yankee is also hard at work on Cartel, the follow-up to Barrio Fino. Pharrell, Luny Tunes and Dr. Dre are already on board to help helm tracks for the disc, due out in 2006.

Yankee and Pharrell also teamed up for the hip-hop-tinged “Mamacita,” which will appear on Williams’ first solo effort, In My Mind (see “Pharrell Had To Be Sneaky To Record His Solo Album” ).

“I’m like a diamond in the industry,” Yankee said. “I’m doing the crossover [thing] right now without sacrificing who I am, and for me that’s the treasure right there. I don’t sell my soul. The Daddy Yankee that you hear now is the same one you’ll have for a long time. I’m going to show the world what Latino is about.”