The Rise of Bad Bunny: From Superstore Bagger to King of Trap Music (Exclusive)

By
Orli Arias

His hits have garnered over one billion views on YouTube. He’s collaborated with over 30 artists in just two years. And, he was recently nominated for five Latin American Music Awards without having released an album. He is the most eccentric Latin rapper in the music scene. Meet Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio also known as Bad Bunny. 

The 24-year-old Puerto Rican singer has grown in popularity in a short period of time thanks to high-profile collaborations and a successful U.S. tour. ET spoke with Ocasio in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month to discuss his rise to fame and that hit single with Cardi B and J Balvin that has us all dancing and saying, we definitely like it. 

“I still feel like the same little kid I used to be working hard,” Ocasio said, remembering his days working as a bagger at ECONO, his local grocery store in Puerto Rico while attending the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo as an audiovisual communication student. 

“I am very grateful for those moments,” he continued. “That experience was part of my growth, working to contribute to my family and be able to support myself. [Those moments helped me get] to where I am today.”

Ocasio’s interest in music began at a young age. He was five years old when he realized his true passion. While in high school, he was known for his effervescent freestyling, as he worked on solidifying his voice -- one that would become one of the most recognizable in Latin music. And, when it came to his stage name, Bad Bunny seemed like the obvious choice. 

“I felt that I had to do something different and creative,” he told ET. “When I was a little boy in school I had to dress up as a bunny and there’s a picture of me with an annoyed face, and when I saw it, I thought I should name myself ‘Bad Bunny.’ It’s a name I knew would market well. A bunny is something so common that I thought to myself, every time someone sees one, they’ll remember my music.”

Known for his diverse collection of colorful tiny sunglasses, Ocasio shared his first singles via SoundCloud. What was to come is something he never imagined. He’s been featured on hit tracks with some of the biggest names in the Latin music industry, including Cardi B, J Balvin, Becky G, Ozuna, Arcangel, Farruko, Alexis y Fido, Daddy Yankee, Nicki Minaj and most recently Drake. 

Ocasio, who recently partnered with Buchanan’s Whisky, is in the process of finishing his debut album, La Nueva Religión, which will feature “MIA,” a new song with Drake that debuted on Thursday with an epic music video. 

Ocasio says working with the "In My Feelings" rapper was a dream collaboration.
 
“Being in the studio with him was an achievement in itself,” he said. “[I can’t believe] that collaboration became a reality.”

One track that is making waves is “I Like It,” which Ocasio performed on Tuesday at the American Music Awards with Cardi B and J Balvin. The song, which climbed to No. 1 in the U.S., is a blend of trap and salsa, and samples the 1960’s classic "I Like It Like That.” Ocasio is featured on the song, singing in both English and Spanish.

“I remember when they called me to collaborate on the song. It was a surprise for Cardi. She didn’t know yet that we were going to do it,” he said. “I got into the studio with Balvin and everything came out organically. The chemistry and vibe of Balvin and mine always flows super well.”

“I think it was a track that showed union between Latinos and between different cultures,” he continued. ”It's nice to see it grow globally and have such a positive message. It’s an exciting time for Latinos because our culture keeps crossing boundaries. It’s cool to see more people embracing our culture.” 

Ocasio, like J Balvin, Luis Fonsi, Karol G and Daddy Yankee, is proving that Latinx musicians can have successful crossover careers in the U.S. without having to record in English.  

“Music has the power to inspire the world,” Ocasio said. “The music we do is for people to enjoy, dance and sing to it. Dreamers -- keep on dreaming and keep working hard to achieve your goals. There are many difficulties, but what matters is to stay focused and have perseverance.”

“We’re impacting the world like never before and now is our time,” he concluded.

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