If you were a living, breathing human in 2017, chances are you heard a little song called “Despacito.” That track, along with a handful of others, like “Mi Gente” and “Krippy Kush,” sparked the resurgence of bilingual cross-genre collaborations, a marketing strategy that seemed new to many listeners after “Despacito” became a global phenomenon.
But anyone who’s been immersed in this music for more than a few years will realize that these crossover moves have been happening for some time now. Since 2002, Soulfrito Urban Latin Music Festival has been highlighting the overlapping worlds of hip-hop and reggaeton, curating genre-diverse lineups that speak to urbano fans’ complex tastes. On Friday, June 8, the festival returned for its 2018 edition in New York, boasting a star-studded lineup of hip-hop newcomers, dancehall upstarts, and reggaeton royals, including Amara La Negra, Hoodcelebrityy, Jaden Smith, Bad Bunny, Bryant Myers, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and many more.
Over the course of the evening, teens filed into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Puerto Rican flags flapped through the audience. New York anthems, like the Tego Calderón remix of “Lean Back,” echoed through the massive stadium, and summer hits like “Te Boté” induced deafening singalongs.
As the crowd pulsed with anticipation waiting for Bad Bunny’s performance, it was evident that an event like this was long overdue. Fans gushed about nearly every act that graced the stage, regardless of genre or language. And in spite of a few technical difficulties with artist visuals and production, event organizers bulldozed through sets without the blink of an eye from audience members.
For years Latinos have been battling segmentation in the U.S. pop music market, and it seems the industry is finally starting to pay attention. Lineups that blend hip-hop and reggaeton artists are the future, and there’s a good chance we’ll see Soulfrito transform into a two- or three-day festival format soon.
Relive the whole night with our highlights below:
Bryant Myers Made a Triumphant Return to the Stage After Kidnapping
Trust that Bryant Myers wouldn’t let a kidnapping interrupt his glo up. The Puerto Rican rapper made a triumphant return to the stage after being kidnapped in Carolina only two days earlier, suffering a leg injury after escaping abduction with his mother. Myers beamed even as he limped across the stage, performing crowd pleasers like “Caile.” We’re rooting for you, Bryant.
AJ El Kallejero Shined As the Night's Host
AJ El Kallejero, Spotify’s trap and reggaeton expert and a member of the streaming platform’s editorial team, hosted the night’s festivities. Transcending the typical reggaeton show antics, AJ started a “Fuck Trump!” chant and shouted out the women in the audience who earn more money than their boyfriends. Damn straight.
Hoodcelebrityy Performed Her Song "Walking Trophy," a Song of the Summer Contender
Hoodcelebrityy showed her talent as New York City’s own dancehall star, performing the certified summer bop “Walking Trophy.” In addition to her addictive onstage charm, Hoodcelebrityy’s inclusion on the lineup felt like a necessary moment of recognition for the afro-diasporic dancehall roots that united many of the artists on the lineup.
Dominican Rapper Melii Made Her New York Debut
You might recognize Melii’s “Icey” from watching Rihanna’s Instagram makeup tutorials, but it’s quietly become an Uptown sleeper hit, thanks to that skeletal, bass-heavy beat and Spanglish hook (“Cuida’o si me toca te quema”). Melii made her hometown debut at Soulfrito, dominating the stage without any backup dancers or vocalists. In the post-Cardi B era, we expect a flurry of Uptown rappers to make their mark, and you can definitely count Melii among them.
De La Ghetto Brought the Classics
As one of the few seasoned artists on the lineup, De La Ghetto proved that even OGs can still rock the stage. The reggaeton and hip-hop king performed hits from his upcoming album Mi Movimiento, bringing much-needed charisma and energy to Barclays, especially as some of the young rappers struggled to keep the crowd’s attention with newer material. His ineffable stage presence was a breath of fresh air.
Bad Bunny Proved He's Poised to Dominate in 2018
The man of the hour, and the most anticipated performance of the evening, dominated the stage with an endless stream of features and original tracks. “Chambea,” the Ric Flair-featuring blast, was no doubt a highlight of the set, with confetti littering the stage and proving just how much Bad Bunny is poised to dominate pop music in 2018.