Latin’s Top Producers Talk Stepping Out of the Studio and Into the Spotlight

·4 min read

One of the biggest global hits of the year belongs to a mysterious, fast-rising 24-year-old Argentine producer. Bizarrap’s “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 52” — an electronica club banger featuring Spanish singer Quevedo — spent four weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Global 200 chart this summer and has quickly cemented the producer’s place alongside hit-makers like Tainy, Ovy on the Drums and Edgar Barrera. All four have helped pave the way for a new wave of Latin producers who are moving from behind the scenes and into the global spotlight.

“It shows you in today’s world that consistency is more important than just a hit,” says Lex Borrero, Tainy’s longtime manager. “[Bizarrap] created a loyal fan base that led him to having the No. 1 record.” Bizarrap launched his music sessions series on YouTube four years ago, establishing a format (well-known artists and newcomers alike would stop by for single-take freestyles) as well as his signature look (giant black sunglasses and BZRP hat). Each session was bigger than the last, as his YouTube subscriber count grew from a few hundred thousand to over 15.6 million. This past year, his sessions with Residente and Paulo Londra did especially well, with both viral videos surpassing 100 million views each — leading to his biggest song yet with Quevedo, who scored his first major hit outside of Spain.

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Colombia’s Ovy on the Drums has propelled Karol G’s career into the stratosphere as her longtime producer, helping her score major career-making hits such as “Provenza” (“Provence”) and the Becky G-featuring “MAMIII.” And last November, Mexico’s Barrera won producer of the year at the Latin Grammy Awards for his work with artists across Latin genres like Camilo, Christian Nodal, Maluma and Jennifer Lopez.

The most veteran of the group is Puerto Rico’s Tainy, who trained under the wing of reggaetón pioneers Luny Tunes and has spent over 100 weeks ruling Billboard’s Latin Producers chart. Among the long list of artists he has produced hits for are Bad Bunny, Kali Uchis, J Balvin — and, increasingly, himself. Since 2019, the superproducer has been billed on a handful of tracks, six of which have landed on the Hot 100, including the Grammy-nominated “Un Día (One Day)” by Balvin featuring Dua Lipa and Bad Bunny. “I’m just so happy that I’m still able to be here till this day, being able to reinvent myself, to grow and keep learning,” he says.

Tainy has performed his own sets at music festivals this past year and is working on his debut album, Data. “It has been a whole new experience for me,” he says. “Producers are normally in the background. To go from that to a spotlight and being more out there, it has been a cool journey.” Ovy on the Drums and Bizarrap have also released solo music, which has elevated their profiles as well.

Barrera identifies three key shifts that have helped Latin producers become more prominent. He says that guiding artists pushes both parties to dabble in new genres and sounds, which have become more prevalent in recent years as the Latin market has exploded in the United States. “I try to not do what is obvious or expected,” he says, citing “La Bachata” with reggaetón-pop artist Manuel Turizo, his salsa track with Daddy Yankee and his mariachi song with Romeo Santos. Ovy on the Drums enlisted Nicki Minaj to feature on Karol G’s hit “Tusa,” and Tainy has released songs with Lauren Jauregui, Shawn Mendes and Miguel. “The world and music are so connected right now that we’re able to listen to anything that’s coming out of any part of the globe,” Tainy says. “I wanted to try different genres, different sounds. I just wish that these collaborations keep happening.”

The 2019 launch of Billboard’s producers charts has also largely helped these hit-makers document their own success. Yet Barrera says the biggest assist is how these producers are now using social media. “Young aspiring producers can easily find what their favorite producers are doing on Instagram,” he says. “What Bizarrap did with his YouTube videos is brilliant.” He adds that Ovy on the Drums is having “great success on TikTok,” with 1.2 million followers and 9.4 million likes.

With their bigger platforms, these producers are paying it forward to the next generation of creatives. Barrera launched his own label, Borderkid Records, in February and signed rising producer Casta, while Tainy and Borrero co-founded NEON16, an incubator group for producers and songwriters who were behind Selena Gomez’s Grammy-nominated Spanish-language EP Revelación (Revelation). “There are no limits,” says Borrero. “With the evolution of [Latin producers], they’re going to be more respected the way artists like David Guetta and DJ Khaled are — they’re producers that we always visualized as artists. They’re brands. You’re going to continue to see that growth in the same way on the Latin side.”

This story originally appeared in the Sept. 17, 2022, issue of Billboard.

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