“I know what it is to be a normal kid, I know what life is like for young people.”
— Bad Bunny, The Fader Fashion Issue —
“Two years ago he was a bagger at Econo, Amalia, if he made it, there are no excuses for us not to make it,” said my brother. It’s true. Benito’s mom was a teacher, his dad was a trucker, he graduated with honors from high school and was attending the University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo campus for radio communications. He supported himself by working for a local grocery store chain, Econo, and in his spare time he wrote songs and uploaded them to SoundCloud. What excuse did we have?
At the age of 5, he was heavily influenced by rap and reggaeton artists such as Vico C and Hector ‘El Father’. At the age of 13 he was already writing and producing his own songs and at 22 he had already made a name for himself on the island. At 24, he has hit the Top Ten on the Billboard charts back to back, collaborating with artists such as Drake, 21 Savage, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Travis Scott, Will Smith, Marc Anthony, J Balvin, Karol G, Prince Royce, Jennifer Lopez and has been seen recently working with Pharrell. Did I mention he has yet to release his own studio album? He has been nominated for dozens of awards, two of which are Latin Grammys. The most exciting part, in less than two hours he Sold Out his concert in the largest concert venue in his native island of Puerto Rico.
Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio grew up in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico a small town in the northern coast of the island. He was a normal kid, with his ride or die group of friends and a big dream. He came up with his stage name when he found a photo of himself dressed up as a bunny for Easter. He posted it on Twitter as a #TBT and his friends said that in the picture he looks extremely annoyed and unhappy. Therefore, the name Bad Bunny came about.
“Life does not have a remote control, get up and change it yourself.”
— Bad Bunny —
For the young people of Puerto Rico, Bad Bunny is an icon on the rise. For a while, he was made fun of for his eccentric style but his ability to break down stereotypical Hispanic male standards to be on the forefront of fashion trends is unheard of in our island. Now, everybody wants to add a dash of Bad Bunny in their everyday wardrobe. However, there is a vast majority of millennials and gen-z’s that look up to Bad Bunny for more than his fashion eccentricity and that is that… he made it. His story is so relatable to many of us that grew up on the island. More importantly, the fact that he made it during this particular moment in our island’s history gives us hope for our own future.
In the name of change, Bad Bunny along with less than a handful of local rap, trap and reggaeton artists have dared to tackle the political issues of the island. One of the most iconic performances he has made has been on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show with his single, ‘Estamos Bien’. During his national TV debut, he took the opportunity to state the conditions the island was in, a year after the hurricane, and to denounce Trump’s denial of what happened in the island after the natural disaster. Having personally been affected by the Hurricane Maria, this performance brought me to tears, not only because of the the meaning of the song, not only because of the powerful images of the hurricane’s destruction but because he went on national television, with broken English, with his heart on his sleeve and represented an island in despair, reminding all mainlanders that we must not be forgotten.
More recently, Benito, very respectfully went head to head with the governor of Puerto Rico over education. Everything happened when the Governor of Puerto Rico tweeted Bad Bunny to open a new concert function in the island after his first function sold out immediately. Bad Bunny responded with an open letter, telling the Governor that there are more pressing issues on the island and he will not open another function when schools are closing down. A couple of weeks later he made a surprise appearance at one of Mayagüez most famous Halloween parties, whose attendees are mostly college students from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus. He said the following. “I was a young man just like all of you. I was a young dreamer, studious, hard worker who is fulfilling his dream today and is traveling the world with what he loves to do and you can do the same. He who does not believe in you, he who does not believe in this generation, look, they could go screw themselves.” Needless to say, the crowd went wild.
I have family members who make fun of my brother and I for having such deep admiration for Bad Bunny. People who don’t look beyond his persona bucket him as a stereotypical rapper with sometimes explicit rhymes and lyrics. I get it. It’s easier to do that than to get to know Benito A. Martinez. This young man, at 24 years old, has done way more for our island than our own political figures. He has lifted the hopes and dreams of a generation who was becoming hopeless and was deeply in despair.
“Estamos Bien, y vamos a estar mejor Puerto Rico”
— Bad Bunny —