Daddy Yankee – LEGENDADDY

With his last album release nearly a decade ago, it’s impressive that the influence of Puerto Rican reggaeton originator Daddy Yankee still reverberates so strongly throughout the global music culture. The man who coined the term behind the genre that is now so prevalent in the mainstream wherever you go, many up-and-comers still pay their respects and link up to collaborate with the legend. Now coming accompanied with a retirement announcement at the end of his upcoming tour, a hilariously-titled final album to go out on that spans the many styles he has been known for is a pretty great parting gift. While he can’t help but include a couple dated tracks, his instantly recognizable and electrifying vocal delivery, a couple great collabs, and the natural ear of a man who has been making smash hits since the early 2000s make this one a victory lap of the highest order.

After an opening skit featuring the legendary voice of Michael Buffer – of “let’s get ready to rumble” fame – introducing Daddy Yankee as “the heavyweight champion of music,” he backs that claim up with a couple of hard-hitting, absolutely manic hip-hop and reggaeton bangers that he’s so known for. “CAMPEÓN” sees Yankee listing his achievements as the blaring trumpets herald the arrival of a “leyenda,” as he proves that he can still innovate this far down the line. Reggaeton is one of the easiest genres in the world to put on autopilot, but Yankee’s beats are mixed well enough to always provide an extra kick and many contain a couple switch-ups to keep listeners on their toes. The recognizably spastic vocals return here over some more raw, natural-sounding percussion and a fuzzy, more digitized bass line. “REMIX” continues to ratchet up the energy level with a club-ready siren synth and some EDM tactics with a rising tone and some rapid-fire cuts and fades. “PASATIEMPO” is the 2nd time in the past couple weeks we’ve heard a flip of Robin S.’s “Show Me Love” on a big album, but Yankee using the track to introduce his catchy melodic approach and the unexpected tropical-sounding synth chords that rush into the chorus keeps the party going until we hit the incredible peak of “RUMBATÓN.” A genre combination as the title would suggest, the authentic sounds of the highly rhythmic Spanish guitar up front in the mix and the chanted belts of “bailando” make this track a joyous celebration of life as Yankee continues to flip the influential genre he created. It’s also always a surprise to hear the guy with the scratchy rap voice sing this well.

Daddy Yankee teams up once again with another of Latin music’s most infectious voices in Bad Bunny on the track “X ÚLTIMA VEZ,” as the two lay down some of the biggest hooks on the whole project over some digital synths. The chemistry between the two party animals with almost opposite delivery styles always makes for a re-listenable anthem, even if it feels a little more disjointed than their other collabs. “PARA SIEMPRE” doesn’t quite capture the same energy as the opening run either – Sech sounds absolutely fantastic on the string-backed opening, and it’s great to hear the two harmonize, but the reggaeton instrumental is a little more standard and Yankee’s energy almost feels too much for the lower-key track. Luckily, he brings things right back up with “UNO QUITAO Y OTRO PUESTO” and “EL ABUSADOR DEL ABUSADOR.” The former opens with gunshots and a dirty, lurching reggaeton beat that could serve as the villain’s theme music in an action movie as Yankee’s raps start to sound more like an impassioned rant as he lays out his plans for world domination. The trap flip is an added bonus. The latter legitimately sees Yankee lyrically threatening to be an abuser’s abuser as he calls out bullies and worse over some authentic and classic-sounding Latin piano melodies, but it’s also another of the most infectious hooks here.

The showcase of all of Yankee’s skills and facets of his music-making personality continues into the album’s second half, even if the innovation of the sounds at play start waning. “ENCHULETIAO” is the biggest straight-up Latin trap song here as Yankee lets some growls creep into his delivery and unleashes a couple impressively speedy rap verses. Even though the overall sound is beginning to get a little stale at this point, he has a final surprise in store with “AGUA,” which brings not only Rauw Alejandro but Nile Rodgers on board for a highly enjoyable marriage of Latin and funk – the fact that Rodgers’ trademark syncopated guitars don’t hit until after a minute has passed shows that Yankee is still relishing in the little sonic surprises that he can throw in, something that’s absolutely necessary in his genre and shows why he’s still at the top of the game. This leads into two songs that seem exclusively for his club domination – it’s hard not to have a smile on your face when Pitbull appears with his smoky voice and a central trumpet hook, but then you have to listen to the full song afterwards. It sounds like it’s ripped directly from 2011. “ZONA DEL PERREO” fares a little better with Becky G and Natti Natasha – it’s a twerking anthem that doesn’t really innovate, but it’s more fun and Becky G sounds particularly smooth.

The back run of tracks begins threatening to not leave much of a lasting memory behind for the final new material that fans are going to hear from Yankee, but he at least ends it with the massive punch of “BLOKE.” Tracks like “LA OLA” and “IMPARES” are essentially more standard reggaeton tracks that don’t feature much we haven’t heard before, while the ringtone rap leftover “BOMBÓN,” which features Lil Jon, and the romantic “EL REY DE LO IMPERFECTO” do showcase even further sides of Yankee but aren’t his stronger suits. The closer, however, sees him return to his most impactful, hard-hitting style as he toasts to the streets that made him while riding off into the sunset.

Fanbases are rarely lucky enough to get a final, focused and thematic retirement album like this one – most simply have to deal with the ideas slowly fizzling out, but Daddy Yankee has been a truly smart manager of his career moves for decades and leaves things off with a nostalgic yet boundary-pushing project that firmly cements his legacy.

Favourite Tracks: RUMBATÓN, REMIX, UNO QUITAO Y OTRO PUESTO, AGUA, EL ABUSADOR DEL ABUSADOR

Least Favourite Track: HOT

Score: 7/10

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