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Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez (born February 3, 1977), known by his stage name Daddy Yankee, is a Puerto Rican reggaeton singer, songwriter, producer and actor. Ayala was born in Río Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was raised in the neighborhood of Villa Kennedy Housing Projects.
Ayala aspired to be a professional baseball player, and tried out for the Seattle Mariners Major League baseball team. Before he could be officially signed, he was hit by a stray round from an AK-47 rifle while taking a break from a studio recording session with reggaeton mix tape icon DJ Playero. Ayala spent roughly one and a half years recovering from the wound; the bullet was never removed from his hip, and he credits the shooting incident with allowing him to focus entirely on a music career. Since then, he has sold over 18 million albums.
1992-2003: Early music career:
Daddy Yankee first appeared on the 1992 DJ Playero's Mixtape, Playero 34, with the song "So' Persigueme, No Te Detengas". Ayala was originally going to become a professional baseball player but he was shot in his leg while taking a break from a studio recording session. The bullet was never removed and he credits this incident with allowing him to pursue a musical career. He made a few songs talking about the shooting incident, but his most "complete" song about it was "6 De Enero", released in 2012. His first official studio project as a solo artist was No Mercy, which was released on April 2, 1995 through White Lion Records and BM Records in Puerto Rico. Early in his career he attempted to imitate the style of Vico C. He went on to emulate other artists in the genre, including DJ Playero, DJ Nelson, and DJ Drako, taking elements from their styles in order to develop an original style. In doing so, he eventually abandoned the traditional model of rap and became one of the first artists to perform reggaeton.
In 1997, Daddy Yankee collaborated with the rapper Nas, who was an inspiration for Ayala, in the song "The Profecy", for the album Boricua Guerrero. He released two compilation albums: El Cartel and El Cartel II, in 1997 and 2001, respectively. Both albums were very famous around Puerto Rico, but were not very successful around Latin America. Between those years, Ayala released a total of nine music videos, including "Posición" featuring Alberto Stylee, "Tu Cuerpo En La Cama" featuring Nicky Jam and "Muévete Y Perrea".
In 2002, El Cangri.com became Ayala's first album with international success, receiving coverage in the markets of New York and Miami with hits including "Latigazo", "Son Las Doce", "Guayando" and other songs like "Enciende", which talks about different social problems of the era, mentioning 9/11, corruption and religion. In 2003, Ayala collaborated for the first time with the prestigious reggaeton producers Luny Tunes in the album Mas Flow, with his commercial success song "Cógela Que Va Sin Jockey" (a.k.a. "Métele Con Candela"). In 2003, Daddy Yankee released a compilation album named Los Homerun-es, which contains his first charted single ("Segurosqui"), five new songs and 12 remakes of DJ Playero's albums songs. that was later charted, "Seguroski", being his first charted single after six of them. Barrio Fino was released in 2004, and the album received numerous awards, including Lo Nuestro Awards and a Latin Billboard, as well as receiving nominations for the Latin Grammy and MTV Video Music Awards. Barrio Fino performed well in the sales charts of the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Japan, and it is one of the most important reggaeton albums in the history of the genre.
2004-06: Barrio Fino and "Gasolina":
Ayala's next album, Barrio Fino, was produced by Luny Tunes and DJ Nelson among others and released in July 2004 by El Cartel Records and VI Music. It was the most highly anticipated album in the reggaeton community. Ayala had enjoyed Salsa music since he was young, and this led him to include music of genres besides reggaeton in the album. The most prominent of these cross-genre singles was "Melao", in which he performed with Andy Montañez. The album was described as his most complete, and with it he intended to introduce combinations of reggaeton and other genres to the English-speaking market.Barrio Fino was followed up by an international tour with performances in numerous countries including the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Honduras, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, and the United States. The album has sold over 500,000 copies in the United States alone and has sold well throughout Latin America and worldwide. He also performed in Rio Grande City, Texas before hitting the big stage in 2004.
In 2005, Ayala won several international awards, making him one of the most recognized reggaeton artists within the music industry. The first award of the year was Lo Nuestro Awards within the "Album of the Year" category, which he received for Barrio Fino. In this event he performed "Gasolina" in a performance that was described as "innovative".Barrio Fino also won the "Reggaeton Album of the Year" award in the Latin Billboard that took place on April 28, 2005, where he performed a mix of three of his songs in a duo with P. Diddy. The album was promoted throughout Latin America, the United States, and Europe, reaching certified gold in Japan. Due to the album's success, Ayala received promotional contracts with radio stations and soda companies, including Pepsi. His hit single, "Gasolina", received the majority of votes cast for the second edition of Premios Juventud, in which it received eight nominations and won seven awards. Ayala also made a live presentation during the award ceremony. "Gasolina" received nominations in the Latin Grammy and MTV Video Music Awards.
The successful single, "Gasolina", was covered by artists from different music genres. This led to a controversy when "Los Lagos", a Mexican banda group, did a cover with the original beat but changed the song's lyrics. The group's label had solicited the copyright permission to perform the single and translate it to a different music style, but did not receive consent to change the lyrics; legal action followed. Speaking for the artist, Ayala's lawyer stated that having his song covered was an "honor, but it must be done the right way."
On April 30, 2006, Ayala was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time, which cited the 2 million copies of Barrio Fino sold, Ayala's $20 million contract with Interscope Records, and his Pepsi endorsement. During this period, Ayala and William Omar Landrón (more commonly known by his artistic name Don Omar) were involved in a rivalry within the genre, dubbed "tiraera". The rivalry received significant press coverage despite being denied early on by both artists. It originated with a lyrical conflict between the artists begun by Ayala's comments in a remix single, where he criticized Landron's common usage of the nickname "King of Kings". Don Omar responded to this in a song titled "Ahora Son Mejor", part of his album Los Rompediscotecas.
2007-10: El Cartel: The Big Boss, Talento De Barrio and Mundial:
El Cartel: The Big Boss was released by Interscope on June 5, 2007. Ayala stated that the album marked a return to his hip-hop roots as opposed to being considered a strictly reggaeton album. The album was produced in 2006, and included the participation of will.i.am, Scott Storch, Tainy Tunes, Neli, and personnel from Ayala's label. Singles were produced with Héctor Delgado, Fergie, Nicole Scherzinger and Akon. The first single from the album was titled "Impacto", and was released prior to the completion of the album. The album was promoted by a tour throughout the United States, which continued throughout Latin America. He performed in Mexico, first in Monterrey, where 10,000 attended the concert, and later at San Luis Potosí coliseum, where the concert sold out, leaving hundreds of fans outside the building. Ayala performed in Chile as well, and established a record for attendance in Ecuador. He also performed in Bolivia, setting another record when 50,000 fans attended his Santa Cruz de la Sierra concert. This show was later described as "the best show with the biggest attendance in history" and as "somehappy that his album had sold more than those of Juan Luis Guerra and Juanes, and that this was an "official proof that reggaeton's principal exponent defeated the rest of the genres". Ayala made a guest appearance in Bounty Killer, Elephant Man and Wayne Wonder.
He appeared on the 2008 Rockstar Games' videogame Grand Theft Auto IV as the DJ of Radio San Juan Sounds, with spanglish lines. The radio includes reggaeton songs from Ayala's colleges, like Wisin & Yandel, Hector "El Father", Tito El Bambino and Jowell & Randy. San Juan Sounds also featured Daddy Yankee's hit "Impacto".
In July 2008, Ayala announced that as part of his work, he would produce a cover version of Thalía's song, "Ten Paciencia". On 17 August 2008 was released his soundtrack album Talento De Barrio for the eponymous film. Prior to the album's release, Ayala scheduled several activities, including an in-store contract signing. The album was awarded as Multi-Platinum by RIAA on 17 April 2009. On February 27, 2009, he performed at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival in Chile. In this event, the artists receive awards based on the public's reaction. After performing "Rompe", "Llamado de emergencia", "Ella Me Levantó", "Gasolina", "Limpia Parabrisas" and "Lo Que Pasó, Pasó" over the course of two hours, Ayala received the "Silver Torch", "Gold Torch" and "Silver Seagull" recognitions. On April 24, 2009, he received the Spirit of Hope Award as part of the Latin Billboard Music Awards ceremony. The recognition is given to the artists that participate in their community or social efforts throughout the year.
The single, "Grito Mundial", was released on October 8, 2009, in order to promote his ninth album, Mundial. The song was going to be the official theme for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but Ayala rejected the FIFA offer, which gave them 100% of the rights. Despite releasing "El Ritmo No Perdona (Prende)" more than a month before, that single was not considered the first official promotional single. The second single, "Descontrol", was released on January 12, 2010, and topped the Billboard Latin Rhythm Airplay. The music video was filmed in New York and was released on May 17, 2010. "La Despedida" was the third single, released on August 4, 2010. The song reached #4 in both Billboard Top Latin Songs and Latin Pop Songs. Other songs, like "Bailando Fue" (featuring Jowell & Randy) and "Échale Pique" (featuring Yomo) were not included in Mundial.
Daddy Yankee's 6th studio album, Prestige was released on September 11, 2012. It was scheduled to be released on November or December 2011, but a hurricane damaged El Cartel Records and half of the album was lost. The lost tracks had to be reworked and was finally released nine months later. The first single, "Ven Conmigo," featuring bachata singer Prince Royce, was released on April 12, 2011 and peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Latin Charts. The second single, "Lovumba," was released on October 4, 2011 and was a number one hit on the Billboard Latin Charts and the Latin Songs chart. It was also nominated for Best Urban Song at the 2012 Latin Grammy Awards. The third single, "Pasarela," was released on June 20, 2012. The album peaked at number 39 on the Billboard 200, number one on both the Billboard Latin Albums and Latin Rhythm Albums charts. It also peaked at number five on the Billboard Rap Albums chart. The fourth and last single, Limbo, was released with the album. The song had a great success, reaching three #1 Billboard charts (Hot Latin Song, Latin Pop Song and Latin Rhythm Airplay) and having more than 200 million views on YouTube. The album was certified as Gold by the RIAA on March 8, 2013.
The year 2012 had one of the most importants genre events of the year: the reconciliation between Daddy Yankee and Wisin & Yandel, after some years of rivalry. After 6 years of his last collaboration, Daddy Yankee appeared on the duo's remix song "Hipnotízame", with possitive acclaim of fans. Two months later, on February 16, 2013, Wisin & Yandel collaborated in the remix of "Limbo". Later in 2013, the three artists performed songs like "Hipnotízame", "Mayor Que Yo" and "Noche De Entierro" in two concerts (one in Puerto Rico and another in Colombia).
On February 25, 2013, Daddy Yankee performed in the 2013 Viña del Mar International Song Festival, to a sold-out audience. He performed hits like "Limbo", "Gasolina", "Pose", "Ella Me Levantó" and "Descontrol". He won the Silver and Golden Torch and the Silver and Golden Seagull recognitions.
In 2013, Daddy Yankee performed on his Prestige World Tour, touring several countries in Europe including, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. He has also toured in Colombia, Peru, Chile in to sold out audiences. In 2013 he released music videos of "El Amante" featuring J Alvarez, "Summertime" and "Noche de los Dos" featuring Natalia Jimenez, with millions of views on YouTube.
2013-15: King Daddy:
On October 29, 2013, Daddy Yankee released a mixtape entitled "King Daddy", produced by Los De La Nazza (Musicologo & Menes), as part the Imperio Nazza Mixtapes series and was released as a digital-format only. The mixtape was made because of the high demand from the fans and is a return to his original reggaeton roots. It includes 11 tracks with collaborations from J Alvarez, Arcángel, Yandel, Farruko, and Divino. According to Ayala, "King Daddy" was recorded in two and a half weeks, because there was "a lot of inspiration". The song "La Rompe Carros" has garnered popularity among the public, but his hit single was "La Nueva y La Ex" which has been widely received all over South America, Europe, and North America. During a press conference earlier this year, Daddy Yankee announced the physical release of King Daddy scheduled for later this year with 3 or 4 bonus tracks for a total of 14 or 15 songs included.
From May 13 to June 22, 2014, Ayala performed on his King Daddy Tour, touring several cities in Europe. He has also toured in South and North American cities. In Spain, his concerts were on the 4º position in the box-office ranking, being the first Latin artist on the top 5 on this country, underneath Iron Maiden and The Rolling Stones, and over artists like Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus and Michael Bublé.
On June 17, 2014 the single "Ora Por Mí" (Spanish for "Pray For Me") was released as part of the King Daddy's bonus tracks and uses the Scorpions' "Send Me An Angel" instrumental, with a rap sampler. The official video for "Ora Por Mí" was released on June 24, 2014. It was filmed in many locations in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and talks about Ayala's life and the dark side of fame. According to Ayala, it is the most personal song of his career. On September 2, 2014, it was released another single called "Palabras Con Sentido" (Spanish for "Words With Sense"), which defends reggaeton and urban music of all the accusations of being a "society poison". Daddy Yankee expressed that all music has something good to give, and if his music is wrong, all them have to be censured, because people like Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, Hitler, Timothy McVeigh and "the murderer of the famous Beatle" listened to another genres and made horrible things to society. On his single, he also says that urban music gives work and also save lives, like his own, and the solution would be that churches have to remain, journalists have to tell the truth, artists have to have more inspiration, and the rich people have to help the poor ones. On September 9, 2014 he released his first totally English single called "This Is Not A Love Song" featuring new rapper Duncan.
Film and other career projects:
Ayala has negotiated promotional deals with several companies outside of the music industry, releasing merchandise under his name. In 2005, he became the first Latin artist to sign a deal with Reebok, in order to produce accessories, including the licensed clothing line "DY", which was released in 2006. He also teamed up with the company to have his own shoes and sporting goods made, which were first distributed on May 23, 2006. Reebok continued the partnership with the introduction of the Travel Trainer collection in July 2007. In August 2007, Pepsi began an advertising campaign titled "Puertas", in which Ayala is depicted returning to his youth by opening a series of doors.
Ayala has worked in the film industry as both an actor and producer. His acting debut was as an extra in the 2004 film Vampiros, directed by Eduardo Ortiz and filmed in Puerto Rico. The film premiered at the Festival of Latin American Cinema in New York, where it received a positive reaction. This led Image Entertainment to produce a DVD, internationally released in March 2005. Ayala played the main role, "Edgar Dinero", in Talento de Barrio, which was filmed in Puerto Rico and directed by José Iván Santiago. Ayala produced the film, which is based on his experience of growing up in a poor city neighborhood. While the film is not directly a biography, Ayala has stated that it mirrors his early life.Talento de Barrio's debut was scheduled for July 23, 2008, in New York's Latino Film Festival. After the premier, Ayala expressed satisfaction, saying that he had been invited to audition for other producers. On release, Talento de Barrio broke the record held by Maldeamores for the most tickets to a Puerto Rican movie sold in a single day in Caribbean Cinemas.
Ayala has been involved in the administration of three organizations, the first being El Cartel Records which he co-owns with Andres Hernandez. He also created the Fundación Corazón Guerrero, a charitable organization in Puerto Rico which works with young incarcerated people. On April 26, 2008, he was presented with a "Latino of the Year Award" by the student organization Presencia Latina of Harvard College, receiving it for his work with Puerto Rican youth and creating Corazón Guerrero. On February 6, 2008, Ayala announced in a Baloncesto Superior Nacional press conference that he had bought part of the Criollos de Caguas' ownership. He has also been active with Cruz Roja Puerto Rico in several media campaigns.
In March 2013, Daddy Yankee talked about a new movie production during an interview in Las Vegas. During an interview in a radio station in January 2014, Ayala announced the film, but he only mentioned that many reggaeton exponents would take part of it. In February 2014 it was confirmed that the movie will be about the boxer Macho Camacho's life. According to Ayala, he had the boxer's support to film the movie, but it remained in nothing after Camacho's death on November 24, 2012. The film is due for release in 2015.
The most recent Daddy Yankee's out-music project was the release of his game Trylogy, a 3D video game based in Tower Defense games. The game was successfully presented at the New York Comic Con and both young and old people were impressed by the 3D action video game. It was released on November 29, 2013 and also features Ayala's songs like "Gasolina" and "Limbo".
In 2008, Ayala participated in a campaign to promote voting in the 2008 general elections in Puerto Rico. This initiative included a concert titled "Vota o quédate callado" (Vote or Remain Silent).
On August 25, 2008, Ayala endorsed Republican John McCain's candidacy for President of the United States, stating that McCain is a "fighter for the Hispanic community". As part of this campaign, Ayala moderated a debate titled "Vota o quédate callado: los candidatos responden a los jóvenes", which was aired on October 9, 2008.
In 2007, Daddy Yankee became the spokesperson of the environmental organization "Yo Limpio a Puerto Rico (I Clean Puerto Rico) founded by Ignacio Barsottelli.
Yo Limpio a Puerto Rico, PepsiCo and Wal-Mart announced a joint effort to promote recycling in Puerto Rico among the general public and schools across the Island with the campaign "Tómatelo en Serio, Recicla por Puerto Rico (Take it seriously, recycle for Puerto Rico), in which Daddy Yankee became the main spokesperson. This campaign incorporated a recycling contest among public and private schools from around the island in the elementary, junior high, and high school categories. The program established 16 recycling centers located at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores across the Island, where consumers were able to deposit recyclable items.
Ramón has kept most of his personal life private, rarely speaking about it in interviews. He has said that he avoids doing so because such details are the only aspect of his life that are not public and that they are like a "little treasure". He made an exception in 2006 when he spoke about his relationship with his wife and children in an interview with María Celeste Arrarás in Al Rojo Vivo. He stated that his marriage is strong because he and his wife are "friends above anything", adding that he has tried to ignore other temptations because "weakness is the reason for the downfall of several artists." His first daughter was born when he was seventeen years old, which he has described as confusing at first, adding that raising a daughter at that age was a hard experience.