It’s one thing to be an artist working in the music industry and a complete other to actually understand the business side of it. That’s what makes Puerto Rican singer-songwriter paopao so special – she’s a well-rounded musician who has put on different hats in the music industry. She’s worked as an A&R, a songwriter, and even went from working as a label manager to becoming RichMusic’s first female recording artist. Now, she’s more than ready for the spotlight.
But this isn’t an overnight success story. paopao – born Paola Nicole Marrero Rodríguez – has worked hard to reach this level of all-around artistry. She grew up bouncing back and forth between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. As a child, she already knew she had an interest in music, taking piano lessons as a pre-schooler. But, coming from a family line of doctors, lawyers, and engineers, her dream of being an artist wasn’t exactly accepted. However, with the support of her mom, she went for it anyway. At 17, she relocated and studied at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, majoring in Media Writing and Production. She also received her Master’s Degree in Music Business.
From there, the 26-year-old clocked in long hours of internships that helped her network with colleagues. “I would intern for the publishing end until like six,” she tells Remezcla about her hustle. “That building here in Miami is attached to a really active studio, and I would see a lot happening there. So I stayed and interned for the music studio side until like five, six in the morning – and then I’d repeat it all over again.” Her side work appears to have paid off. Since then, she’s accumulated a catalog of songwriting credits that range from CNCO to Chiquis. The latter earned her her biggest accolade to date: a Latin Grammy award for Chiquis’ song “Ticket de Salida.”
Her efforts and songwriting eventually led her to find her signature sound: a blend of alternative pop and reggaeton. “I was experimenting for, like, five or six years, and I remember writing ‘pal sex,’ and I was like, ‘This is different. This is the voice that I have, that I want to share,’” she recalls about the song released in 2021. “I’ve evolved that sound, and it’s gotten a lot more polished since then. But I remember that being the first song among the many that I’ve written before that I was like, ‘This is who I am.’”
With this new-found sound, she began to release more of her own music. In March, she released the all-female EP hembrismo, which featured La Gabi, Villano Antillano, Aria Vega, and Cami Da Baby – a project that she specifically spearheaded to highlight emerging female talent (the EP’s track “roce” later gave paopao her first Premios Juventud nomination). She also dropped a collaboration EP relaciones tóxicas with iZaak in Apr.; and finally, her debut solo EP diamantes y espinas in Aug. diamantes y espinas encapsulates her vulnerable lyrics paired with alternative pop, trap, and reggaeton.
“I was experimenting for, like, five or six years, and I remember writing ‘pal sex,’ and I was like, ‘This is different. This is the voice that I have, that I want to share.’”
Since these back-to-back releases, her musical career has only received more recognition. She’s undeniably gained new listeners. Especially one that’s hard to ignore: Bad Bunny. Benito’s no stranger to giving back to his community. He’s used his massive concerts in Puerto Rico, as well as his social media, to support his favorite emerging artists from PR. Among his fresh sounds, he showcased paopao’s tracks “algo así” and “noches largas, faldas cortas” on his Instagram story.
“That just took it to a whole ‘nother level and it gave me a whole ‘nother level of self-confidence and belief in my project that I had,” she says about the global star’s support. “I was too afraid to speak up for myself in a lot of ways, and that changed it. I’ll eventually thank him in person.” She also notes how appreciative she is for him to “pay it forward” by supporting new artists and subsequently “push the culture forward.”
With the shoutout, she noticeably gained a lot more exposure than in the past. This includes the attention of Mora, who officially jumped on a remix for her track “algo así,” released on Sep. 15. “The original version of ‘algo así’ was already so special to me, and Mora coming in just made it that much better,” she explains. “He made it his, and the combination of our voices and lyrical styles worked really well together. I’m so excited that it’s finally out for everyone to listen to.”
And this is only the start of paopao’s musical journey in the spotlight. “It’s been insane, and everything’s happening so fast,” she says. “But at the same time, it took me a lot of years to get to where I am today, so it’s happening when it had to happen. I’m really grateful. Honestly.”