The Puerto Rican reggaetonero has become one of music's biggest global stars and has barely scratched the surface of his success. With hits like "Taki Taki," "Te Boté," "Me Niego," and "El Farsante," Ozuna, 27, didn’t think he would find success until the first time someone recognized him while working at his grandmother’s store.
"I saw music as a big career opportunity but I still thought it was out of reach and I had to keep working," he tells Billboard in a new interview published on Thursday. "While I was working, a girl approached me and said, 'Aren't you the guy that sings such and such song? Can I get a photo with you, please?' That’s when I said things are starting to work out now."
And things did. His debut album, Odisea, spent 46 weeks at No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart, the second-longest run ever, behind Gloria Estefan's Mi Tierra in 1993, per the magazine. Last year, he was also YouTube’s most-viewed artist globally in any genre, surpassing Justin Bieber. He also leads the 2019 Billboard Latin Music Awards nominations with 23 nods in 15 categories, including Artist of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year. While he’s racked up many awards and has broken records, his main mission is to continue to spread Latino culture and its diverse music.
"I want Latino culture to truly break into the United States, because it really hasn't yet," he expresses. "There isn't enough mainstream art that centers on Latino identity. All the time it’s 'English, English, English.' If I have the opportunity of having so many followers, and helping to take Latino artists and culture to the mainstream, I'm not going to selfishly throw it away because I learned English and can 'cross over'"
Paving the wave for many other reggaeton singers -- J Balvin and Bad Bunny came after him -- Ozuna didn't get mainstream attention until his collab "La Modelo" with Cardi B and DJ Snake’s "Taki Taki," which also features Cardi and Selena Gomez.
"After that song, North Americans went wild, and started paying attention to Latinos more," Ozuna proudly notes. "Before, it was all surface-level. It was like, 'Let's see what these Latinos have going on,' cautiously. Now all the North Americans want to record with Latinos."
For Ozuna, it’s also about continuing to bring other Latinx artists to the forefront. "Elevating Latinos is my responsibility," he states, explaining that he’s also worked with many talented Latina urban singers like Karol G and Natti Natasha. "There’s so much new young talent. Lunay, Rauw Alejandro and Lyanno are some of the artists who I gave a break to the same way that Farruko and Arcangel gave me my big break on 'Si No Te Quiere.'"
Ozuna is definitely making his mark, and people are noticing. This week, the artist was also featured in Time’s 100 Most Influential People’s list, with Daddy Yankee penning an inspiring essay dedicated to the "chamaquito."
"I still clearly remember the chamaquito who came to my recording studio to ask me to be on a remix to his song 'No Quiere Enamorarse.' His name was Ozuna, and what got my attention was his tenacity, his sublime and unique voice, and his drive," Yankee writes. "He shows kids that anything is possible—that you can become a global star if you work hard enough. He is a great competitor, a good friend, and he never hesitates to give back to his community."
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