RS500 #473: Daddy Yankee — Barrio Fino

Cover of Daddy Yankee’s album ‘Barrio Fino’

Year Released: 2004

Have I Heard This Before?: I have never listened to a Daddy Yankee album before. This isn’t to say that I’m unfamiliar with the man; I was in high school when “Gasolina” came out, and that song pretty much conquered the world, so I know his stuff, but I can’t claim any more than a basic, surface-level knowledge.

High Points: Daddy Yankee is a charismatic motherfucker. If anything makes Barrio Fino stand out, it’s how Yankee carries himself on the mic. Given that, at around the same time, the biggest voices in hip-hop could come across as a little low-energy, Yankee’s brazen liveliness is a welcome contrast.

I also have to give Daddy Yankee credit for his sonic inventiveness. The joke about reggaeton is that the intros to each song sound incredible before they fall into the same beat for most of the rest of the song. And while parts of Barrio Fino definitely fit into this formula, Yankee incorporates so many different sounds in a genre-bending soup of samples and beats that the songs generally sound fresh. Plus, when he veers into straightforward hip-hop like on “Santifica Tus Escapularios,” he more than carries himself well.

Low Points: I don’t mind the repetitive rhythms of Barrio Fino as much as I thought I would, but I do mind how cluttered the album can sound. Daddy Yankee pulls a lot from mainstream rap here, and the result is that Barrio Fino imitates some of the worst trends in hip-hop from the time, from the canned strings to the cluttered outros that seem intent on keeping the party going after the song is finished. On top of that, this album is long, way longer than it has to be. There’s enough good material here for a 12-to-13-track album, yet this runs over an hour at 21 tracks in a way that signals more of a lack of editing than a desire to make a bold, uncompromising statement.

Loose Thoughts: What I personally think of Daddy Yankee or reggaeton as a whole is kind of irrelevant, though, because I have to tip my hat at what this album did. Love it or hate it, this album introduced a whole new genre to mainstream audiences; nothing in American pop music quite sounded like this before it came out. Whatever I may think of it, I can’t deny the place in pop music history that Barrio Fino has earned.

Rating:…which is probably for the best, because this gets a Meh-to-Good from me. There’s some cool stuff here, and I definitely get the guy’s appeal, but after a few spins of Daddy Yankee, I can safely conclude that this just isn’t for me.

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