Miami Activities: Bad Bunny at FTX Arena April 1-3, 2022

Even the most gringo of Miami gringos knows precisely when to shout.”culo phenomenal” if “Dakiti” happens in a club. The most cultured sometimes join “if you novio no you mama el culo, pa’ eso que no mame” in “Safara”, too. But when I – a redhead with freckles and green eyes – am spotted by local Latinos spitting out full verses of Bad Bunny songs to the perfect beat of the DJ, I know it’s a little startling.

In addition to teaching me how to say “ass” in Spanish, Bad Bunny shaped my musical tastes and in doing so inspired me to embrace a language and culture that was not my own.

Although I feel like I saw Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio go from stardom to global phenomenon, I won’t claim to have been there from the start. Before moving to Miami in 2019, Bad Bunny wasn’t on my radar.

With a ton of family in Miami and extended members from Cuba, Peru and Spain, I felt a tangible if distant connection to Latin culture growing up in Vero Beach. My initial interest in learning Spanish was sparked by the music of the late Selena when my eighth grade language teacher asked our class to watch the biopic starring Jennifer Lopez (I cried in my office ) and memorize the words of “Come La Flor” in the form of a quiz. Neither of these felt like schoolwork to me.

But since I started college several years ago and took Spanish classes in high school later, my speaking skills were lacking. At that time, probably like many Americans, the only time I heard Bad Bunny was when “I like it” with him, Cardi B and J Balvin topped the charts in 2018.

That changed when I went to an orientation program at the University of Miami in July 2019. It was a weekend of activities specifically for suburban and transfer students, most of whom were Miami locals and Cuban-Americans.

It was from them – playing reggaeton as the background music to our first icebreaker activity at the last day’s DJ party – that I learned that perreo and Bad Bunny were the first lesson in my 305 Survival Guide. “Te Bote” and “Soy Peor” were fundamentals, corporate lingo in Miami business, terms I just needed to know to survive.

And then I was hooked.

I immediately created a new playlist called “ALatinx” – the “A” to force my phone to push it to the top of the alphabetical list, above all other playlists. It would have taken too long to scroll down to access the music. There were highlights of El Conejo Malo X 100pre and Oasis albums, as well as other artists like J Balvin, Anuel AA and Ozuna that I had discovered.

Reggaeton – and Bad Bunny’s in particular – became like the soundtrack to my life as I moved and adjusted to Miami.

It was a bonding topic with my roommate, an international student from Ecuador, who also loved his music. When I saw him live for the first time in 2019 at Viva Latino! at FTX Arena, I lost my voice from to scry. I exploded “Callaita” in my dorm shower – it made me feel like a main character in a coming-of-age montage, thriving in my new life in Miami despite the crude communal bathrooms and the chaos of college life that surrounds me.

As I developed a stronger connection with the music, it became more than just memorizing words to sing along to. I wanted to tell about my new favorite artists in their work. And just like with Selena years earlier, just listening to reggaeton taught me things about the language that I would never have learned from a textbook or a classroom. Knowing and understanding what the lyrics meant made me feel more connected to the rich culture of the city I now called home.

Describing the cross-cultural influence of Bad Bunny through my own experience is one thing. But I am not unique in this experience. I know many non-Spanish speakers who have Bad Bunny in their Spotify Wrapped every year and “YHLQMDLG” tattooed on their bodies.

Collin Miller, a student at the University of Miami in New Jersey, said he had never listened to Latin music (apart from “Feliz Navidad”) before discovering Bad Bunny through friends when he moved here.

“I’m still learning the lyrics,” Miller says. “But honestly, it didn’t matter to me. It was more the feeling of the music and the times I spent with friends listening to it. He has such an ability to move people. I always feel like dancing when I hear it.”

“I think it’s so popular because of its unique style and great beats,” says Karan Prasad, an Indian UM student who had never heard reggaeton before listening to the YHLQMDLG album. “I also think he’s just a really good person.”

His music is undeniably an anthem – to this day, it’s the only genre that gets me a workout. And I can’t think of another artist who plays Miami clubs more. But it’s more than that. His music is intelligent and varied.

Sometimes he flaunts his fame and fortune (“Está Cabrón Ser Yo”) but other times he becomes sentimental (“If Veo a Tu Mamá”). On his latest album, El Ultimo Tour del Mundohe incorporated rock sounds (“Yo Visto Asi”) with serenades (“Ante Que Se Acabe”) and even traditional boleros (“Cantares de Navidad”) without ever giving up his mastery of the trap (“Booker T”).

His personal style has always been quirky too. For one, he wore masks before a global pandemic made them fashionable. And unlike nearly every mainstream reggatonero before him, Bad Bunny often embraces the genre, going all out for his “Yo Perreo Sola” music video and regularly sporting heavy jewelry, skirts and manicures.

From 2018 to 2022, around the same time I was in college, he went from releasing his debut album to selling out in stadiums around the world. (I spent more money on El Ultimo Tour del Mundo tickets than I care to admit on the internet.)

Even though it seems like an overnight success for fans like me, it almost never is for the artists. Like many musicians, he debuted on SoundCloud in 2013. While attending college and grocery shopping in his hometown of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, “Diles” got him signed to the label Hear This Music. In 2016, he released his first breakthrough song, “Soy Peor”, and soon began working with established artists like Farukko and Karol G. The rest – between a guest performance at the Super Bowl, Grammy Awards and five albums the most popular – belongs to history. .

Other Latin artists have successfully crossed the barriers of different linguistic musical markets (the hips of Shakira Absolutely do not lie). But unlike others before him, Bad Bunny didn’t have to record a single song in English to do so. And despite the retirement rumors, I’m sure that in ten years Bad Bunny will be an even bigger global phenomenon than it is today. He’ll be the one to do it, to make the music so popular that no matter if you understand the lyrics, you’re going to listen.

Bad bunny. 8 p.m. Friday, April 1, Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3, at FTX Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; Tickets cost between $61 and $231 via

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