The First Lady of Reggaeton, Puerto Rico’s Ivy Queen, became one of the genre’s most prominent figures at a time when it was seen as a men’s only club. She was a female voice that was able to rise to the ranks of her contemporaries like Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Tego Caulderón. Over a decade later since reggaeton’s mid-2000s breakthrough, there are now more women following in the Queen’s footsteps.
“I feel proud knowing that I built bridge where each woman can walk with her own style,” Ivy Queen says. This past decade has seen female superstars in reggaeton music rise up like Colombia’s Karol G, the Dominican Republic’s Natti Natasha, and Mexican-American singer Becky G. When Daddy Yankee set the original reggaeton movement ablaze in 2004 with his single “Gasolina,” Ivy was pushing back against the genre’s objectification of women and machista mindset. She made that known with her breakthrough club banger “Quiero Bailar” from 2003’s Diva album.
“‘Quiero Bailar’ was born inside the disco when I was seeing men grabbing women without their consent and trying to force them to dance,” Ivy Queen says. “From there, the anthem was born.” Her road to the crown in reggaeton wasn’t an easy one. Like Daddy Yankee and the other OGs in the genre, she spent the ’90s in the streets of Puerto Rico in freestyle rap battles and passed out her music from the truck of her car on cassette tapes. Ivy paid her dues before becoming the Queen we know her as today.
Since Diva, Ivy Queen has released more hit albums, three of which were nominated for Best Urban Music Album at the Latin Grammys. She was on a US tour for her next album, Raiz No Rama, that is due out this spring. With self-quarantining and social distancing in place for the Coronavirus (or COVID-19) pandemic, she had to postpone the last few dates. With some time on her hands, Ivy talked exclusively with LaMezcla.com about her legacy in reggaeton and what’s next.
Q: What interested you in reggaeton music when you were growing up?
I was interested in how raw and real things were said in the genre.
Q: Who were some of your inspirations?
I was inspired by La Lupe and Celia Cruz.
Q: A lot of your songs are about women empowerment and speaking against the machismo attitude. How important is it for you to use your music as an outlet?
I always knew that giving a voice to a woman’s pain and frustration was and is my mission. To this day, I will continue to carry that mission.
Q: Your song “Que Lloren” pushes back against machismo. What was the inspiration for that one?
“Que Lloren” was born from seeing a dad say to his son: Get up because macho men don’t cry.
Q: How has the Latin music industry changed now from when you started out?
Too much has changed I would say.
Q: How did you feel when Bad Bunny gave you a shout out in his song “Desde el Corazón”?
I told myself: How beautiful to be honored and more by a singer who is currently in command.
Q: What can you tell me about your latest single “Un Baile Más”?
“Un Baile Más” was written by Pinto Picasso. My way of explaining it is who would you dance with for the last time if you only had more chance to live.
Q: What was the inspiration for your new song “Peligrosa”? It has a classic reggaeton sound.
I recorded that song to show that love does not discriminate when it comes to you. It just comes and takes over.
Q: Who are some artists that you want to collaborate with next?
I would like to collaborate with Tego Calderón, Rene Pérez [Residente], Cazzu, Rauw Alejandro, Darkiel, and Ozuna.
Q: What is one of your favorite moments from your career?
Singing at the Staples Center while pregnant in front of thousands of people. And singing an homage to Héctor Lavoe in Madison Square Garden with a band led by maestro Johnny Pacheco. There are so many exciting moments.
Q: You’ve been in the music industry for over 20 years. What have you learned about yourself in that time?
Que soy hija del camuflaje y ave fénix de nacimiento.
Q: I’m gay and I feel like your music helped people in the LGBTQ community find a space to enjoy reggaeton music. Do you have a message for your fans in the LGBTQ community?
The inspiration and the colorful energy the community has always caught my attention. I live surrounded by human beings who have never judged me, who have adored me, and who make me feel regal when I’m on the stage. More than a message, I congratulate them for having advanced in a world that unfortunately judges out of fear what it does not understand. Congratulations and keep going, but above all, protect your heart, your soul, and your health. I am eternally grateful to them.
Q: What do you see for the future of reggaeton music?
I would like to have a crystal ball, but at the present moment, I am very proud to know a genre that people said would die is still alive and thriving.