Bad Bunny’s YHLQMDLG provides both an entry point to modern urbano and a crash course in the traditions that built it. The rapper hardly cares to hold a newcomer’s hands throughout the whole album-length tour — he titled the album Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana, or “I do whatever I want,” after all — but more so because he smartly understands that the best way to find familiarity is by simply getting lost in the mix. It’s no more evident than in his explicit gesture at homage, “Safaera,” which blends multiple iconic beats throughout the track to recreate the feel of the mixtapes that helped establish reggaeton’s early influence. Zooming out a bit, and taking in a view of the project as a whole, Bunny’s respect to the tradition also shows in the spread of guests present who account for the genre’s last two decades, including the likes of Daddy Yankee (“La Santa”), Nengo Flow (“Que Flow”), and Kendo Kaponi linked up with Arcangel (“P FKN R”), among others. Here, the rapper is as much a curator as he is the main attraction, supplying boastful raps, bouncy ad libs, and emotive croons to tracks made for a world stage he’s willing to share. Anthemic and rallying as it all can be, YHLQMDLG best resonates when it gets personal about relationships, romance, and, in the case of album closer “<3,” the support and love from everyone around him. YHLQMDLG is a unified effort through and through, and so when Bad Bunny wins, so do we all.
Published as part of Top 25 Albums of 2020 — 25-11.