Romeo Santos is the final of four cover stars to be featured on The FADER’s first-ever Diaspora Issue. The print issue hits newsstands May 23rd. In this cover story, writer Marlon Bishop and photographer Rose Marie Cromwell meet “The King of Bachata,” Romeo Santos — one of the most influential musicians in the Western Hemisphere and CEO of Roc Nation Latin.
Santos discusses his multicultural upbringing with first-generation Dominican and Puerto Rican immigrant parents and creating a revolutionary and internationally recognized sound born out of his love and loyalty for bachata. He talks about refusing to assimilate into U.S. pop culture or stick to Latin Pop, and his plans instead to create something in between and entirely new.
On his cultural identity:
“I’m just a Latino that’s very Americanized, that’s the best way I have to word it. I feel like I don’t speak perfect English, I don’t speak perfect Spanish. But when I’m able to mix it as Spanglish, that’s the closest to perfection for me.”
On first hearing bachata music, and revolutionizing its aesthetic:
“I just fell in love with the production. I was like, ‘Wow this is dope.’ At that time, bachata did not have a great reputation. If anyone liked it, it wasn’t cool to brag about it. But I didn’t know that. When I got that information, it was too late, I was already in love with the genre. We came with a different vibe. We had Yankee hats. Before people even listened to our music, they said, ‘These guys aren’t bachateros, they are rappers or something, what is this?”
On becoming Romeo Santos to overcome his insecurities as a teenager:
“I couldn’t even speak to the crowd, that’s how shy I was. I was so skinny, I guess puberty didn’t kick in the way it should have, and I had a total lack of confidence. One day I realized that if I didn’t become a different person on stage, it just wasn’t going to work. I just used what I knew what I had to offer, and my friends always said I was funny. So I created this character, who was this funny, seductive guy, who could maybe come across a little bit arrogant. Latin men get that label a lot, the seducer. To some extent I feed people what they want to be fed, and it works for me.”
On his advice to artists:
“I tell artists they need to do what’s real to them. I do bachata. When I worked with Usher or Drake, I brought them into my world. I’m sending the message I’m not interested in crossing over. I want you to cross over into my world.”