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Anuel AA

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Anuel AA
Anuel AA in July 2018
Anuel AA in July 2018
Background information
Birth nameEmmanuel Gazmey Santiago
Born (1992-11-26) 26 November 1992 (age 27)[1]
Carolina, Puerto Rico
  • Rapper
  • singer
Years active2009–present
Associated acts

Emmanuel Gazmey Santiago (born 26 November 1992), known professionally as Anuel AA, is a Puerto Rican rapper and singer. He is considered a pioneer of the Latin trap movement.[2] He won the 2019 Billboard Latin Music Award for New Artist of the Year. He is also seen as a controversial figure in the Latin music scene for his legal troubles and feuds with fellow Puerto Rican rappers Cosculluela and Ivy Queen.

Raised in Carolina, Puerto Rico, he began recording music at age fourteen and posting it online four years later in 2010, eventually signing to the Latin division of American rapper Rick Ross's Maybach Music Group. His 2016 mixtape Real Hasta la Muerte was well-received but his success was put on hold by a 30-month prison sentence beginning in 2016 for illegal firearm possession in Puerto Rico. He then recorded the entirety of his debut album while incarcerated.

Anuel AA released his debut album, also titled Real Hasta la Muerte, on July 17, 2018, the day he was released from prison. The album was a critical and commercial success. In the coming six months, he appeared on Billboard Hot Latin Songs-charting singles, solidifying his position as one of the top Latino artists. In August 2019, he released the song "China", a collaboration with Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna, and J Balvin, which was a global success. He has since released the hit song "Me Gusta" with Shakira, and his second album, Emmanuel, was released on May 29, 2020.

Biography[edit source | edit]

1992–2016: Early life and career beginnings[edit source | edit]

Anuel AA grew up in a housing project in Carolina, Puerto Rico.[3] His father, José Gazmey, was the vice president of the Puerto Rican division of Sony Music Entertainment's A&R department.[1] When Anuel AA was a child, his father worked in the studio with salsa artists such as Héctor Lavoe and Fania All-Stars. While he does not identify as a fan of the salsa genre, he recalls that seeing his father interact with these artists inspired an interest in the recording industry.[3] He idolized Tupac Shakur while growing up and hoped to emulate his style of dress, particularly his emphasis on jewelry.[3] Speaking about how his upbringing in the projects influenced his music, Anuel AA stated, “My music is my soul speaking, literally. It’s spiritual. It has a lot of feelings, a lot of pain. It’s my experiences growing up en la calle [in the streets].”[3]

Anuel AA is childhood friends with Puerto Rican rapper Casper, who co-wrote and performed on the track "Te Boté".[4] He began recording music at age fourteen, and started posting music online at age 18 in 2010.[3][1] His music garnered millions of streams and views and eventually caught the attention of American rapper Rick Ross, who signed him to the Latin division of Maybach Music Group.[1] His mixtape Real Hasta La Muerte was released in February 2016 and received positive reviews from critics.[1] The success of this mixtape lead to Anuel AA landing a guest feature on Ozuna's 2017 album Odisea.[5]

2016–2018: Incarceration and Real Hasta la Muerte album[edit source | edit]

Anuel AA performing in October 2018

In April 2016, Anuel AA was arrested in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for illegal possession of three firearms.[6] Billboard noted that Latin trap surged in popularity while Anuel AA was in prison, writing, "Anuel remained behind bars, while outside, his music flourished."[7] After being arrested and imprisoned, he recorded his debut album while incarcerated.[5] He did this by primarily recording his vocals over the phone and taking advantage of his mandatory stay at a Miami halfway house to complete the album.[5]

He released his debut album Real Hasta la Muerte on July 17, 2018, the day he was released from prison.[6] Rolling Stone included the album on its list of Best Latin Albums of 2018, noting that the artist "demonstrates impressive pop instincts" and further commented, "As Anuel keeps one foot in trap, he’s also looking toward Latin pop’s mainstream".[8] Real Hasta la Muerte peaked at number 42 on the Billboard 200 and topped the US Top Latin Albums chart.[9][10] The release of the album along with the artist's release from prison garnered significant media attention; the rapper was surprised by the public response and stated that he "didn't even know how to talk in interviews" after being incarcerated for more than two years.[11] He achieved his first Billboard Hot 100 hit in August 2018 with his collaboration with American rapper 6ix9ine on the song "Bebe".[11]

In the six months following the release of Real Hasta la Muerte, Anuel AA contributed vocals to eleven Billboard Hot Latin Songs-charting singles, including "Ella Quiere Beber" featuring Dominican-American bachata singer Romeo Santos.[12] He also collaborated with Nicki Minaj on the song "Familia" for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, released in December 2018.[13] In January 2019, the rapper released the single "Secreto" with Colombian singer Karol G confirming the romantic relationship between the two artists in the song's accompanying music video.[14] The single reached number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number five on the US Hot Latin Songs charts.[15][16] The song was inspired by the period of time in which Anuel AA and Karol G were dating but had not yet publicly discussed their relationship. The video's "power couple" aesthetic garnered comparisons to Beyoncé and Jay-Z as well as Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony.[12]

2019–present: "China" success and Emmanuel[edit source | edit]

In July 2019, Anuel AA released "China", a collaboration with Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna, and J Balvin. The song heavily samples Shaggy's 2000 single, "It Wasn't Me".[17] With the song, Anuel AA "hoped to revive a classic", and started listening to old songs and remembered Shaggy's track from his childhood.[18] He told XXL that "when [he] used to go with the big boys in [his] hood to the club, they put that song on and everybody used to go crazy".[18] "China" debuted at number two on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart on the issue dated August 3, 2019, and topped both the Latin Digital Songs and Latin Streaming Songs charts with 1,000 downloads sold and 14.1 million streams.[17] "China" was included on the Rolling Stone list of the 10 Best Latin Music Videos of July.[19]

In January 2020, Anuel AA collaborated with Shakira on the song "Me Gusta", which interpolates Jamaican reggae band Inner Circle's 1992 hit "Sweat (A La La La La Long)".[20] Rolling Stone called the song "an unhurried lover’s rock number with a delicate touch of dembow".[20] He featured on Bad Bunny's 2020 album YHLQMDLG on the song "Está Cabrón Ser Yo".[21] On April 3, 2020, Anuel AA released "3 De Abril" which commemorates the day that the artist was arrested, leading to prison time.[6] The song reflects on his troubled youth and the challenges he faced while incarcerated. Suzy Exposito of Rolling Stone called the track a "sobering commemoration".[6] Also in April 2020, Anuel AA released the single and video for "Follow" with Karol G, recording its entirety while in quarantine in Miami due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[22]

On May 27, 2020, he announced and revealed the tracklist for his second album, Emmanuel, which was released on May 29.[23] Anuel AA had originally planned to release the album in April, but postponed the date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[24] The 22-track double album features collaborations from Bad Bunny, Enrique Iglesias, Travis Barker, Tego Calderón, Karol G, Lil Wayne, Farruko, Yandel and Ñengo Flow.[24][23] Regarding the title of the album, the artist explained, "It's my name and it means 'God with us'. I wanted the album to have that good vibe. It's my life, made into music."[24]

Musical style and influences[edit source | edit]

According to XXL, Anuel AA is considered "one of the founding fathers of Latin trap music".[18] He is noted for his signature "BRRR" adlib, which is meant to mimic the sound of an automatic firearm.[3] Anuel AA's lyrics often discuss sex, crime, and life on the streets.[1] Paul Simpson of Allmusic described his lyrics as "too risqué to be played on the radio" and highlighted that his success has instead stemmed from streaming services and the artist's highly active social media presence.[1] Gary Suarez of Vice viewed his 2018 album Real Hasta la Muerte to be a collection of both "gleaming trap bangers" and "reggaeton crowd pleasers".[5] Despite his "bad guy image", Suarez wrote that the relationship-themed songs "Culpables" and "Secreto" represent "a softening of his hardened trapero persona".[11] Anuel AA is additionally noted for his use of the word "bebecita" ("baby") in songs and on social media, and the word has become associated with the reggaeton genre as well as Anuel AA and Karol G's relationship.[25][26]

Anuel AA's introduction to hip-hop occurred upon listening to rapper Tupac Shakur.[18] His songs frequently pay homage to both U.S. and Latin artists that influenced him in his youth. Examples include his songs "China" which samples both "It Wasn't Me" by Shaggy and "Ella Me Levantó" by Daddy Yankee, and "Delincuente" which interpolates "Bandoleros" by Don Omar and Tego Calderón.[27] He is influenced by and has collaborated with American hip-hop artists Meek Mill and Gucci Mane. Anuel AA has also been compared to the two rappers for gaining notoriety for serving time in prison.[5] Describing Meek Mill's impact on his music, Anuel AA explained, "I listen to what people say in the songs, not just the melodies. With rappers you gotta listen to what they say. And, Meek be talking some real shit. That’s why I look up to him."[18] In an interview with Vice, he expressed admiration for the music of bachata artist Zacarías Ferreíra, Dominican dembow rapper El Alfa, and English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.[3] He has also indicated an interest in collaborating with rapper Post Malone.[18]

Controversies[edit source | edit]

On September 15, 2018, Anuel AA released a diss track called "Intocable" aimed at fellow rapper Cosculluela. The track was widely criticized due to its profanity and remarks about homosexuality and HIV/AIDS patients.[28] In the song, he refers to a transgender model and a television host La Taína as a "pig" for her HIV-positive status.[29] Due to the public backlash, Anuel AA's concert at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico venue scheduled for October 12 of that year was canceled by his production staff and main producer Paco López. Anuel AA later issued an apology for the song.[12][28] He explained, "It is the worst mistake of my career. I do not need this and I apologize to all the people I offended. To homosexuals, to people with AIDS, to La Taina [the model] and to those who lost everything after Hurricane Maria ... My fans deserve from me to be a better person, and I apologize to everyone in Puerto Rico."[28]

In early April 2019, Anuel AA and Ivy Queen engaged in an argument on Instagram after Anuel AA questioned how Ivy Queen could be still considered the "Queen of Reggaeton." Anuel argued she hadn't had a hit song in more than 7 years, and further questioned if Karol G should be considered another "Queen of Reggaeton."[30] Followers on Instagram speculated about why he made the comments. Ivy Queen responded with comments about where she came from and how she was a pioneer, paving the way for other women to follow.[31][32]

Personal life[edit source | edit]

Relationships[edit source | edit]

Anuel AA's frequent collaborator and fiancée, Colombian singer Karol G

Anuel AA has a son named Pablo Anuel from his former spouse, Astrid Cuevas.[33] Anuel AA met Colombian singer Karol G in August 2018 on the set of the music video for their song "Culpables", a month after his release from prison.[34] In January 2019, Anuel AA and Karol G confirmed their relationship.[12] On April 25, 2019, Karol G arrived at the Billboard Latin Music Awards wearing a diamond wedding ring, confirming the couple's engagement.[34]

Legal issues[edit source | edit]

Anuel AA was arrested and held in the Metropolitan Detention Center, Guaynabo on April 3, 2016, with three companions when police found three pistols including one stolen, nine magazines, and 152 bullets. He signed a plea deal for 30 months in federal prison for gun possession charges.[35] Following his arrest, the #FreeAnuel movement became popular among his fans as he continued to release tracks from prison.[1] Being able to record his voice over the phone, Anuel AA mostly participated in collaborations with other artists such as Nicky Jam, Cosculluela, Bad Bunny and J Balvin.

While incarcerated, Anuel AA spent 90 days in solitary confinement following an incident with another inmate.[7] During his trial, he stated that the lyrics in his music did not represent his true character. The presiding judge Aida Delgado-Colon said she had never heard any of his songs.[36] On March 2018, Anuel AA was released from federal prison into a state prison in Miami. During this time, he told Billboard that while imprisoned, he kept listening to the radio and what was happening in the streets, to draw inspiration for his songwriting.[37]

Discography[edit source | edit]

Awards and nominations[edit source | edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
2019 Billboard Latin Music Awards New Artist of the Year Himself Won
Heat Latin Music Awards Won
Billboard Music Awards Top Latin Artist Nominated
Top Latin Album Real Hasta la Muerte Nominated

References[edit source | edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Simpson, Paul. "Anuel AA - Artist Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  2. Leight, Elias; Leight, Elias (7 November 2017). "Inside Latin Trap, the Viral Sound Too Hot for American Radio".
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Leandra, Victoria (August 20, 2019). "Why Latin Trap Pioneer Anuel AA Is Currently Obsessed with Ed Sheeran". Vice. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  4. Flores, Griselda (April 16, 2020). "Anuel AA & Casper Magico Make Magic With New Collab 'Sola & Vacía': Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Suarez, Gary (July 27, 2018). "The Return of Latin Trap's Most Notorious Star, Anuel AA". Vice. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Exposito, Suzy (April 3, 2020). "Anuel AA Commemorates Jailversary on New Track '3 de Abril'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Billboard Staff (August 23, 2019). "Anuel AA Talks Love, Fame & Prison in New Billboard Podcast 'El Factor Latino'". Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  8. "10 Best Latin Albums of 2018". Rolling Stone. December 20, 2018. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  9. "Anuel AA Chart History (Billboard 200)". Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  10. "Anuel AA Chart History (Top Latin Albums)". Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Suarez, Gary (July 17, 2019). "An Independent Latin Trap Success Story, Anuel AA Rehabs His Bad Guy Image". Forbes. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Leight, Elias (January 24, 2019). "Anuel AA and Karol G's Relationship Wasn't Secret, But 'Secreto' Blew Up Anyway". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  13. Fernandez, Suzette (December 9, 2019). "Anuel AA Talks About His Tour, 6ix9ine, Nicki Minaj and More: Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  14. "Anuel AA & Karol G Open Up About Their Steamy Love Life in 'Secreto' Lyric Translation". Billboard. January 18, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  15. "Anuel AA Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  16. "Anuel AA Chart History (Hot Latin Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Bustios, Pamela (July 31, 2019). "'China' Debuts at No. 2 on Hot Latin Songs Chart for Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna & J Balvin". Billboard. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 Torres, Bianca (July 22, 2019). "Hip-Hop Junkie: Anuel AA Sees Parallels Between Himself and Meek Mill". XXL. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  19. Exposito, Suzy (July 31, 2019). "Play It Again: The 10 Best Latin Music Videos of July". Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Exposito, Suzy (January 13, 2020). "Hear Shakira, Anuel AA Yearn for Romance in New Song, 'Me Gusta'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  21. Flores, Griselda (March 2, 2020). "6 Essential Tracks on Bad Bunny's 'YHLQMDLG': Editors' Picks". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  22. Mahadevan, Tara C. (April 3, 2020). "Anuel AA Reflects On Being Arrested Four Years Ago With New Song "3 De Abril"". Complex. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Cobo, Leila (May 27, 2020). "Anuel Reveals 'Emmanuel' Album Release Date, Plus Track List". Billboard. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Espinoza, Joshua (May 28, 2020). "Anuel AA Drops Double Album 'Emmanuel' f/ Bad Bunny, Lil Wayne, and More". Complex. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  25. "Reggaeton Slang 101: Decoding the Lyrics in Latin Urban Music". Billboard. January 16, 2020. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  26. "From 'Vaina Loca' to 'Bebesita,' How Urban Artists Declare Their Love in Reggaeton Songs". Billboard. February 13, 2019. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  27. "Anuel AA, Farruko & More Urban Artists Revive Old-School Reggaeton Hits: See the List". Billboard. July 23, 2019. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Fernandez, Suzette (13 September 2018). "Anuel AA Apologizes For Offensive Song Directed at Cosculluela: Watch". Billboard. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  29. Arroyo, Juan J. (September 13, 2018). "Anuel AA Apologizes for Homophobic Diss Track: "This Has Been My Biggest Mistake"". Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  30. Herrera, Isabelia (April 8, 2019). "Ivy Queen Responds After Anuel AA Questions Her Title as the Queen of Reggaeton". Remezcla. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  31. Fernandez, Suzette (2019-04-09). "Anuel AA se enfrenta a Ivy Queen tras nombrar reina del reggaetón a Karol G" [Anuel AA faces Ivy Queen after naming Karol G the Queen of Reggaeton] (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  32. "Ivy Queen Responds After Anuel AA Questions Her Title as the Queen of Reggaeton". Remezcla. 8 April 2019.
  33. "Anuel AA confiesa que Karol G salvó la relación con su hijo - El Diario NY". El Diario La Prensa (in Spanish). October 18, 2019. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Fernandez, Celia (May 2, 2019). "Inside Karol G and Anuel AA's Whirlwind Relationship". Oprah Magazine. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  35. "Anuel AA: El cantante de trap salió de la cárcel tras cumplir 30 meses de condena" [Anuel AA: The trap singer was released from prison after serving 30 months of sentence] (in Spanish). El Heraldo. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  36. Pacheco, Istra (2017-06-19). "Anuel AA sentenciado a 30 meses de cárcel" [Anuel AA sentenced to 30 months in prison]. Primera Hora (Puerto Rico) (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  37. Herrera, Isabelia (2018-07-18). "Anuel AA Opens Up About His Time in Prison in First Interviews After His Release". Remezcla. Retrieved 2018-09-11.

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