KAT DELUNA IN LOOT & RIOT MAGAZINE
Ink Tone Swep
Images Geoff Barrenger
Looks Tyrone Edmond
You are widely considered as the first international Dominican pop star. Why do you feel you were so embraced internationally? It never happened prior to you. Thank you for recognizing that. I never knew that I could be the first pop star of Dominican descent that would tour the world, especially as a Latina. One would guess it would be a male artist first… I think the magnetism which drew so many to me was my sound. I love to dance and sing and perform live, of course, but I don’t think people had heard the type of music I was recording and putting out at the time. Let’s go back to ’07, hip-hop wasn’t the global force it is today. It was on it’s way, but not quite yet. Not 10 year’s ago. Not everywhere in the world like now today. People played all genres of music at the club. When I came in with Spanglish, it was multicultural and full of life, with some rap, and some R&B, and some soul, and my bachata, and my merengue, and all of this truly blended in. People really gravitated to it. And it was such a huge blessing to be able to travel the entire world and experience so many beautiful cultures and meet so many beautiful people.
You have won awards, had platinum records, toured globally, and made great money. What is the key motivation and core source of inspiration that drives you now? You’ve accomplished so much. Oh, my God! Tone it’s like you are talking with my brain (Laughs!). I have actually been thinking so much about this lately. I have traveled the entire world and I’ve been able to meet people first hand. I come from humble beginnings, and I’ve remained humble and approachable. People gravitate towards me and my personality and I embrace them. If it’s raining in Madagascar, and the people are still there at the open air concert wanting me and waiting for me, then I have a purpose. I’m going out there and sharing what I have to entertain them. We enliven each other in this way. It’s not for fame or money or any of those material things. It’s to fulfill my purpose in life which I believe is to connect with as many people as I can all around the world and share my music, my dancing, my Latina culture, and my life with them. And I am equally as excited to learn about their lives and cultures as well.
Nicki Minaj was 27 when her debut album was released. By 27, you were like a 10-12 year veteran in this game. Now, I feel like there’s this new artist buzz surrounding you all over again. Do you feel like a new artist in some ways? Well yea, I do in many ways. That’s a great conversation, because in the music industry you have icons who leave for 10 years. Some return and are not really remembered, others aren’t ever forgotten. I feel like I’ve had success, but I did everything so early that now it’s about introducing myself to a new audience. My core listeners are all over the world so I have to reach each of them with a new sound, look, message, everything should be renewed. And that doesn’t mean changed, I will always be who I really am and present my truest self to everyone I encounter. At the same time I also feel that as an artist I should have some new and exciting and uplifting music to share. I definitely do.
Latin Trap is a genre tailor made for you. You were doing joints with Busta and other rappers years ago, and you’re from the Bronx where hip-hop originated. Were you ahead of your time? I think so. I most definitely do. I’m very humble, but yea I was one of the pioneers. I was fusing Latin pop and urban music, from R&B and rap to soul and the B-Girl look and feel. Much of my music was only released in specific countries, like I did stuff with Akon that was only released in Africa. And, you know, when I went into interviews I had to explain my sound. I had to describe this combining of culture and music that I was performing everywhere. Listeners were hungry for my Spanish world sound. For my talent, vocal range, and dancing all over the stage like a crazy person (Laughs!). Growing up in the Bronx I went to a high school with primarily African Americans, Jamaicans, and a few Latin students. But went home to a Dominican household. I always had to fuse the two, not only the music, but the people, style, culture, food, even the television shows we watched. I’ve always done both and related to both, meaning Black and Dominican, which then for me as an artist became rap and Spanish music, and is now today Latin Trap.