Any visitor clicking on a link on Daddy Yankee's website, daddyyankee.com, is greeted with the jingle of a cash register ringing up sales. There couldn't be a better metaphor for the meteoric success of Puerto Rico's supreme ambassador of reggaeton, Latin music's latest thing. Yankee has sold 2 million copies of his album Barrio Fino in the U.S. He has a $20 million record contract with Interscope and a lucrative endorsement deal with Pepsi. And hewith his many diamonds has graced various U.S. magazine covers, from the Source to Latina.
It's an impressive resume for a kid raised in the rough-and-tumble barrios outside San Juan. Born Raymond Ayala at some point in the 1970s (he refuses to reveal his age), Yankee has been at the forefront of a two-decades-long musical movement that is a stew of Jamaican, Panamanian and Puerto Rican styles. The music is hardly subtle (sample lyric: "My (woman) doesn't stop when it's time to work her bum bum"). But it's infectiously danceable. And Yankee's rapid-fire rapping, boyish good looks and exceptional work ethic have helped turn what is basically club music into an international phenomenon. Although some critics have already heralded the end of the reggaeton craze, Yankee believes that it's a form that is just being born. Other stars in the genre, such as Tego Calderon and Ivy Queen, have also attracted the attention of the major labels. Expect a lot more registers to be ringing.