"My goal was to pay my rent with YouTube," says rapper Porta, who on a recent morning was visiting the offices of his digital rights management company Red Points, not far from his apartment in Barcelona. "That has not been a problem."
With close to two million followers on YouTube, 900,000 on Twitter and over 12 million likes on Facebook, Porta is one of Spain's top twenty influencers, according to a recent report by Apple Tree Communications. That list, headed by Enrique Iglesias, also includes Alejandro Sanz and FC Barcelona soccer star (and Shakira's husband) Gerard Piqué.
The internet has taken the 28-year-old Porta -- whose real name is Christian Jiménez Bundó -- from the posh Barcelona neighborhood where he grew up to gain teen idol status in Spain, popularity in Latin America, and a smaller following among U.S. Latin hip-hop fans.
His new album, Equilibrio, debuted at no. 14 on Billboard's Latin Rhythm Album chart. The release took the no. 1 spot on iTunes hip-hop chart in Spain, and made the Top Ten lists on iTunes Mexico and Spotify Colombia. Porta first courted popularity as well as controversy in Spain ten years ago with his first tracks, which spoke of "love, heartbreak and video games" and other themes "from the lives of adolescents."
Porta discovered rap at age nine, after he found a hip-hop compilation cassette on the floor at school. He started listening incessantly to Eminem, who remains his biggest influence. Porta began writing his own songs and recording them in his room when he was 12. After a massive response to the free demos Porta posted on MySpace and other web sites of the time, he was signed by Universal Music Spain. He also received less desired attention from others in Spain's hip-hop community, who criticized his lyrics and questioned his cred.
"Rap is normally associated with social protest," says Porta. "But I wanted to talk about things that happened to me, things I liked; the things that you are experiencing when you are 16. It was frowned upon in rap to talk about love or about video games, but I wasn't afraid to talk about who I was. And people seemed to like it because they could identify with it."
"Today in Spain there are a lot of people talking about things like that [in rap songs]," he adds. "I'm proud because I was able to open up rap, make it more free."
After recording two albums with Universal, Porta left the major and released two more recordings on PIAS. Equilibrio, which he calls a "totally independent" production, is out on Sin Anestesia, a small label created by his management company RLM. It includes both previously unreleased tracks and new versions of some of his fan favorites.
The best known is "Dragon Ball Rap," an homage to the manga series that Porta was obsessed with as a teen and still follows. The video of the new version, "Dragon Ball Rap1.5," is a montage of characters and scenes from the series that Porta put together in accord from Dragon Ball's producers. The clip is has over 5.7 million views on Youtube.