The 25-year-old artist Rauw Alejandro is a breezy conversationalist. He’s eager to talk about the singles he’s working on, he chats openly about his former soccer career, he’s candid about his ambitions. But one way to leave him momentarily speechless is to ask him what his schedule looks like in the next week.
“How do I even explain that?” he laughs after a pause. “Everything is so crazy right now—I’m working, I’m dancing, I’m in the studio, I’m writing, I’m thinking about new concepts, I’m recording. My music is a constant, every day project, and it’s all about dedicating all of my time to it so that I become the most complete artist I can be.”
Rauw, whose real name is Raúl Alejandro Ocasio Ruiz, is a self-proclaimed workaholic—and right now, he’s doing everything he can to keep his momentum soaring. In the last year, he’s gone from uploading songs on Soundcloud to collaborating with the biggest artists in the industry. His Ozuna-assisted track “Luz Apaga” cracked Billboard’s Hot Latin Charts in December and secured more than 88 million views on YouTube. Meanwhile, “Que Le Dé,” his recent collaboration with Nicky Jam, dropped in January and has kept spring-boarding his career to new heights. Already, Billboard has named him an artist to watch, and an article in Rolling Stone singled him out as being at the forefront of a possible R&B wave in Latin music.
Rauw doesn’t want to tether himself to any specific genre quite yet. So far, he’s reveled in being a jack-of-all-trades who can flit between R&B, reggaeton, trap, and pop. But he also wants to be a performer—the kind of artist who can move and hype up a crowd in the style of ‘90s acts, like Usher and Justin Timberlake. When he was growing up in Carolina, Puerto Rico, he was a massive fan of Michael Jackson and James Brown, as well as Latin pop luminaries, like Ricky Martin and Chayanne. He always saw their electric showmanship as the ultimate skill and now, he wants to bring a heavier emphasis on dance, choreography, and performance to musica urbana.
“When I started doing music, I said, ‘I want to be great at singing, I want to be great at composing, I want to be great at dancing,’” he said. “So I’m always looking at every corner I can explore and ways to keep my artistry evolving.”
Just four years ago, music wasn’t something Rauw even considered a serious career. He’d always been into the performing arts as a kid: He constantly sang in local talent shows and danced in school performances. Plus, performing ran in the family. His mother was a choir singer, his father was a guitar player and vocalist, and his younger sister is now a dancer. But Rauw thought of music as a hobby, and he had high hopes of becoming a professional soccer player.
It wasn’t that far-fetched of a dream: He’d been a competitive athlete his entire life and, after graduating high school, he enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico at Carolina to continue pursuing the sport. Later, he relocated to Orlando in hopes of getting scouted for a major U.S. soccer league. But when he was 20, an injury ended his career—and that’s when he started thinking about making music. He’d always been able to sing, and he started working with emerging producers and artists active in Puerto Rico’s music scenes. They uploaded music onto Soundcloud and, slowly, they began to get recognition.
“There was this new wave of kids like Lyanno, Joyce Santana, and Brray, and we got together,” Rauw said. “It was like that era of remixes with a bunch of artists. So we started doing our own remixes and had like our own boom. People started listening to us, and that’s when we got fans who would come up to us locally and ask for photos, and people started to go, ‘Okay, what’s happening here?’ The doors started opening.”
Rauw says he doesn’t keep tabs on his social media, but his friends noticed how much his Instagram account blew up in 2018. “There’s one of my friends who is always looking to see who’s following me, and he started to be like, ‘Did you see so-so is following you?’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ Because I don’t really check that much, but it eventually got to be a bunch of international artists who I really admired, and I had to take a minute to just think, ‘Hold up, this is getting big.’” Eventually, he got a call from an artist who had heard about him through the grapevine—Ozuna—and the collaboration for “Luz Apaga” unfolded near the end of the year.
“Working with Ozuna was an experience that fills you with so much wisdom because he’s a leader in Puerto Rico and has had such a trajectory in his career and he’s lived so much as an artist even in a short time,” Rauw said. “You try to learn from that because you haven’t been through everything he has yet. So he’s always giving good advice and good vibes.”
Rauw adds that “Luz Apaga” also marked the biggest video he’d done at the time, and gave him a new experience in music. “I’d never made a video of that scope—with trailers and huge super expensive cameras and the whole Hollywood thing. That was like, ‘Whoa.’ Something you never forget.”
What seems to attract other artists to Rauw is his dexterity—he is primarily a singer, but he’s also comfortable on hard-hitting tracks. And his passion for dance has started to get him recognition on social media. While plenty of urbano artists are undeniable entertainers who get the crowd excited, Rauw is insistent about building his skills as a dancer. He works with a dance coach and choreographer several times a week and often shares videos on Instagram and YouTube. Even when he worked with Nicky Jam for “Que Le De” recently, his dancing added some extra energy to the video.
“[Nicky Jam] would be like, ‘We gotta dance, man,’” Rauw remembered. “He was like ‘I’m old school, pero le meto un poco, so we practiced some steps and improvised a few things. But, you know, it’s Nicky Jam, and he’s down to do anything.”
In addition to keeping up with the dancing, Rauw has been spending hours in the studio writing new music. In just one week in February, he says he recorded about eight tracks, and he’s eagerly making more—all in an effort to land on new sounds and experiment with different styles. He’s hoping to release a full-length album by the end of the year, but first, he wants to make sure his audiences have an idea of everything he can offer.
“I try not to have limits in my music. I’m always experimenting with how my voice falls and how the sound works and what else I can add to it. So, we’re going to keep releasing singles before my album comes out and doing a little bit of everything—there’s going to be some trap, some old-school reggaeton, a bunch of stuff,” he said. “You’re going to be hearing a lot of Rauw.”