Home Business & Ventures Wisin is helping guide Latin hip-hop’s next generation of innovators

Wisin is helping guide Latin hip-hop’s next generation of innovators

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Wisin might not be your favorite reggaetonero. But chances are he’s one of your favorite reggaetonero’s favorite reggaetoneros.

For more than two decades, the Puerto Rican rapper has been one of the most recognizable voices in Latin hip-hop. Delightfully, Wisin’s delivery is as infectious and exuberant on a Zoom call as it is his on collaborations with the likes of Bad Bunny, Tego Calderón and, most famously, his longtime musical partner Yandel.

At 45, he occupies a unique place in a genre he has helped nurture since the early aughts, when reggaeton found burgeoning commercial success. As performer and mentor, Wisin straddles the old and new schools of the genre and offshoots Latin trap and urbano, evoking the classic days of the once-underground genre while making space for a new generation of artists and innovators.

“It’s a gigantic privilege to still be here,” said Wisin, more formally known as Juan Luis Morera Luna. “There are so many things we learn in music. There is still so much to do.”

Wisin’s popularity and contributions to the Latin hip-hop landscape have spanned several eras in reggaeton history, and his discography has kept pace with the genre’s evolution. He released his fifth solo effort, “Mr. W,” in April. Collaboration, he said, has been key to “el movimiento” — as he lovingly refers to reggaeton and the urbano movement — and it’s equally central to “Mr. W,” which features appearances by reggaeton veteran Don Omar, seasoned duo Jowell y Randy, and Latin pop star Pedro Capó.

Wisin, one of the reggaeton’s most sought-after artists, talked to The Post about his new album and his decades in Latin music. (Video: The Washington Post)

“Fusion is what represents me,” he said. “It’s what I have dared to do for 25 years in music.”

Wisin has long been intentional about working with a wide range of collaborators, and that’s especially true on “Mr. W.” On the flirtatious club anthem “Señorita,” Wisin teams with Young Miko, whose breakout has been particularly exciting in a genre that has been criticized for misogynistic and homophobic lyrics. “Señorita, yo te quiero ver perrear” (“Miss, I want to see you twerk”), the lesbian artist sings as she trades verses with Wisin.

“They are the true protagonists of this project,” Wisin said of his collaborators. “There are many generations on my album, and that’s the richness of making music.”

Also known by his nickname, Doble U, Wisin came to prominence in the early aughts as half of the reggaeton duo Wisin and Yandel. Before the pair became a reggaeton staple, they were rivals. Wisin had teamed up with Alexis and Yandel with Fido, and they often faced off in high school rap battles.

After graduation, their makeshift groups disbanded and Yandel approached Wisin about joining forces. “W is by himself, and he’s a rapper. I’m a chorister. It’s the perfect duo,” Yandel said in a 2022 interview with Molusco TV. And, in fact, they were perfect for each other.

They started meeting at Wisin’s house to compose and produce music. In the late ’90s, the duo appeared on “No Fear 3” and “La Misión 1,” compilations in the style known as “underground,” which featured chopped-up and reassembled samples of dancehall and hip-hop tunes. The success of both songs led Wisin and Yandel to a record deal and their first album, “Los Reyes del Nuevo Milenio” (“The Kings of the New Millennium”), which peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart in April 2000 and set them on the path to becoming one of the genre’s most iconic duos.

A sought-after artist in his own right, Wisin has been a tireless collaborator since his first solo album, “El Sobreviviente” (“The Survivor”). Released in 2004, it featured “Saoco,” a now-classic collaboration with Daddy Yankee that was recently covered by Catalan pop star Rosalía on her Grammy-winning 2022 album, “Motomami.”

On virtually any collab, Wisin is the go-to for boastful ad-libs and production shout-outs that exude a meme-worthy, outsize presence.

In an appearance last year on Billboard’s “Growing Up” series, Wisin recalled being a trovador as a child, crooning décimas — poetry — at lechoneras, popular street markets where vendors sell roasted pork and other delicacies. That foundation has never left his music. Wisin is adept as harmonizer and hype man, switching between smooth vocals and confident, pace-setting raps that can feel like the secular equivalent of a pastor supporting the gospel choir.

After he and Yandel initially put their partnership on hiatus in 2013 — “el divorcio,” as those close to the duo call the separation — Wisin recruited pop stars Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin for “Adrenalina,” a sexy dance track from the rapper’s second solo album, “El Regreso del Sobreviviente” (“The Return of the Survivor”) that topped charts across Latin America and landed on Billboard’s Hot 100. He went on to produce the award-winning debut album of Latin boy band CNCO, and he served as a judge on “La Banda,” a talent competition series created by Martin and British TV personality Simon Cowell.

Wisin and Yandel officially disbanded in 2022 and have pursued solo careers. Yandel, currently on his eponymous tour, called Wisin his “brother of numerous battles” via email. “God and the fans have blessed us with so much.”

Although Wisin is best known to fans as an artist, it’s a different story within the industry, where he is widely respected as a hitmaker. “Everyone knows how Doble U is when it comes to producing,” said producer Hyde El Quimico (“Hyde The Chemist”). “It’s like second nature to him.”

Thanks to La Base Music — the record label Hyde and Wisin co-founded in 2020 as an incubator for emerging talent — more fans “are becoming aware of what a great producer he is and everything he has brought to his music outside the microphone,” Hyde said.

Filmmaker Jessy Terrero, who has shot dozens of music videos for Wisin and other prominent reggaetoneros, said Wisin is especially adept at recognizing and nurturing young talent. Terrero recalled that when he helmed the music video for “Escápate Conmigo” — Wisin’s 2017 collab with Ozuna — someone in the rising star’s camp thought Wisin overshadowed the new artist in the video. Although Terrero disagreed, he recalled, Wisin was adamant that he didn’t want Ozuna or his team to feel that way and paid the director to reshoot Ozuna’s parts.

Terrero recalled Wisin telling him that Ozuna was poised to become “the biggest star in reggaeton.” “Escápate Conmigo” became Ozuna’s first hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and landed Wisin a producer of the year nomination at the magazine’s annual Latin Music Awards in 2018.

“I think people judge him sometimes solely as a rapper,” Terrero said. “He doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a producer.”

Reggaeton is a young genre, and as its pioneers approach middle age, some have turned toward business ventures. Several of Wisin’s peers, including Héctor El Father, Vico C and most recently Daddy Yankee, have publicly embraced religion, changing their music accordingly, or retiring after lengthy careers in a genre not exactly known for its wholesome themes. But Doble U — who often credits God for his career longevity — isn’t taking that path just yet.

“The relationship with God — or with whatever you believe — it’s really individual,” Wisin said. “In my case, what I’m looking for is peace, it’s love, it’s being quiet, it’s enjoying my family.” (He has been married to Yomaira Ortiz Feliciano since 2008; the couple share three children.) “At this stage of my life, I need to be balanced, full of peace, calm, doing what I love but without hurting anyone.

With La Base, Wisin is ensuring a legacy that reflects the full breadth of his career. He wants the label to “continue to be a tool for millions of fans, for millions of artists, for dreamers who want to be great in music.”

The Latin hip-hop landscape has exploded, giving Wisin and his fellow pioneers a platform they never expected to have. “I listen to how many songs come out — 80, 90 a week — and I’m able to do what I love,” Wisin said. “After so many years, almost 30 now, it’s like wow, what a blessing.”

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