Music

On ‘YHLQMDLG,’ Bad Bunny Breaks the Urbano Mold From Within

Lead Photo: Photo courtesy of Rimas Entertainment
Photo courtesy of Rimas Entertainment

Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio does whatever Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio wants and we always reap the benefits of his contempt for normalcy.

From his first moment in the public eye, when he sang about putting a woman’s pleasure first on “Diles,” to his recent appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, in which he donned a skirt and T-shirt to call out the media’s misgendering of Alexa—Bad Bunny unflinchingly hace lo qe le de la gana.

On his latest album, aptly titled YHLQMDLG (short, in Spanish for I Do Whatever I Want), Bad Bunny again takes a sledgehammer to the pop paradigm—this time by unpredictably going against the groundbreaking standard he previously created on 2018’s X100PRE and leaning heavily into (whilst effortlessly conquering) the quickly-forming sound of normcore urbano.

Though that’s not to say that YHLQMDLG is another trite urbano album amidst a sea of uninspired releases. Even on this substantially more immediately palatable release, Benito makes an album that outshines all of his contemporaries working within the same sphere. In his sprawling 20-track sophomore album, Bad Bunny reverses course and, instead of delivering a singular and cohesive artistic statement as he did on X100PRE—with which he laid out a blueprint for future generations of urbano artists to make bold statements—San Benito broke the mold from within.

There are of course some moments that drag in the self-proclaimed king of trap’s quest to gift the world a symphony of radio-ready palos. But, all in all the album benefits from its various genetic make ups—with some leaning mainstream while others, like the emo/punk-adjacent trap hybrid “Hablamos Mañana” feat. Duki and Pablo Chill-E, give Benito the space to realize his inner mall-punk dreams.

The album opens with a vintage Casio-driven reinterpretation of “Girl From Ipanema” on “Si Veo a Tu Mamá,” in which Benito shows off a playful and unexpected vocal range he’d never shared before. If his previous album X100PRE felt like an exercise in acknowledging the nostalgia surrounding various of his formative relationships, “Si Veo a Tu Mamá” feels like a bookend to those memories—an acknowledgement that he’s finished mining his past feelings.

“Y si veo a tu mamá/ Yo le pregunto por ti/ Pa’ ver si ya tienes a alguien/Alguien que te haga feliz,” he sings, showing he’s ready to forge new experiences that will perhaps one day shape his future wistfulness.

Immediately after the eccentric opening number, the album takes a hard pivot into popetón with songs like “La Dificil,” the low-key trap number “Pero Ya No” and Bad Bunny’s latest collaboration with Daddy Yankee, “La Santa,” in which the two remind their respective love interests about the precarious nature of their meeting.

Photo courtesy of Acoustyle Communications

On “Yo Perreo Sola,” the album takes a turn from prefab (yet undeniably enjoyable pop urbano) and into the kind of throwback marquesina perreo that’s sure to bring back warm memories for some. “Ante’ tú me pichaba’/Ahora yo picheo,” sings Nesi, asserting her lack of interest in someone who once ignored her. The song is a throwback banger, but it’s hard to gloss over the fact that the woman singing the hook is not a featured artist on the track—a decision which harkens back to actual throwback reggaetón, when artists like Glory and Jenny La Sexy Voz were largely ignored despite providing reggaetóneros with some of the genre’s most memorable hooks.

The perreo intenso energy continues on “Bichiyal” feat. Yaviah, before the album takes yet another detour into its longest stretch of radio-friendly urbano, with songs like “Soliá,” “La Zona” and recent singles “Vete” and “Ignorantes” feat. Sech.

But, the best stretch of music on the album begins with “Safaera” feat. Jowell & Randy and Nengo Flow, in which Bad Bunny takes the listener on a journey through DJ Playero style underground—complete with cut-and-paste sampling and shifting riddims that will take certain listeners back to early 90s Carolina marquesina parties. The album then moves on to the long-teased Anuel AA collab, “Está Cabrón Ser Yo,” and “P FKN R” featuring the recently-released from prison trap god Kendo Kaponi in top form.

The closer, “<3,” is perhaps his most vulnerable moment. Benito thanks his fans for supporting him these last few years and makes his most startling confession yet: the fame and pressure have gotten to him and, after releasing his third LP in December, he plans to walk away for good.

Overall, YHLQMDLG follows a similar formula to other notable urbano offerings like Eladio Carrión’s recently-released Sauce Boyz, in which the bulk of the more immediately palatable material pads the beginning of the album, preparing the listener for the darker, more introspective moments to come.

The album does rely heavily on the glossy sheen of mainstream urbano, but it’s a mistake to think Conejo Malo would be content with simply doing it better than his peers and calling it a day. While the infrastructure of YHLQMDLG rests on the pillars that carry modern day trap and reggaetón, he takes liberties with the accents and designs throughout the offering, creating a tapestry of an album that feels like a 20-something-year-old’s urbano fever dream—a perfect amalgamation of the day’s popular sounds, formative influences and even reggaetón’s foundational elements.