The summer of 2021 was a strange one, but even through all of its unexpected twist and turns, there was one bright light on the horizon. Rauw Alejandro’s “Todo De Ti,” an electro-tinged romantic pop jam that became the undisputed song of the summer all around the world. “I wanted this song—this whole album—to steal the whole summer,” the musician, whose real name is Raul Alejandro Ocasio Ruiz, reveals. “After finishing Afrodisíaco, I had just one week before starting all over again with this second album. I started working on some music styles that people were not really used to hearing from me.”
That second album, Vice Versa, released in June of this year, featured a mix of reggaeton, classic boleros, baile funk from Brazil, and even drum n’ bass, and immediately signaled to the world that Alejandro is an artist unafraid to break the rules and chart his own creative path. “Afrodisíaco was pretty much inspired on [early 2000’s] reggaetón, so people could feel the flow,” he explains, “Vice Versa, is a little bit more alternative, more experimental, it has a lot of energy. It’s one of my favorite projects so far.” A bold statement, not only because it’s his second album, but because in his short career — he released his first mixtape Punto de Equilibrio in 2016, and with the release of Afrodisíaco was nominated for Best New Artist at the Latin Grammys — he’s already collaborated with icons of reggaetón and pop music including Nicky Jam, Yandel, J Balvin, Selena Gomez and Jennifer Lopez.
“Wow, I’ve had collabs with great artists… legends,” he says, charmingly surprised at his own accomplishments. “I think that’s the result of hard work and a job well done, you know? We haven’t sought them out, we haven’t forced them. Your work is what speaks for you and will bring an audience and other people in the industry will say, ‘hold up, this kid is working hard, I like his art, I want to work with him.’”
Although it wasn’t until he was about 20 that he decided to pursue music seriously, it wasn’t a choice completely out of the blue for Alejandro. Born and raised in Puerto Rico to a musical family — his father was a guitarist and his mother a singer — he had spent his childhood performing at school talent shows, though initially his heart was set on becoming a professional soccer player. “I was 20, 21 years old, I’d already graduated high school I wasn’t doing great at soccer, it wasn’t going anywhere, and I was searching for my path in life,” he recalls. “I had a lot of things stacked against me at that moment and I have always used music as therapy. It was like medicine to get away from every problem.” It was his friends that encouraged him to pursue music, so he started uploading music to Soundcloud. Adding choreography to his performances, though not the standard for most reggaetón artists, came natural to Alejandro. “Dancing has always been in me. I remember my first videos, I would put the choreography together myself with some dancer friends, the choreo was a bit… not that great,” he recalls laughing, “but there was always energy, confidence and [attitude].” Though there was a point he put the dancing aside to focus on the music, he always knew he’d come back to it—this time with a professional choreographer named Fifi. “I didn’t want to ‘charrear,’ as they say in PR, I wanted to do it well.”
Like most Puerto Ricans, Alejandro feels an extreme sense of pride about his island. Though in the future he wants to keep pushing his own creative boundaries, he’s also aware of the legacy that Puerto Rican artists are leaving in the music industry and pop culture around the world. “When I was around twelve or thirteen, I fell in love with reggaeton. People like Daddy Yankee, Wisin y Yandel, Zion and Lennox… they influenced my childhood and everything they’ve done for Puerto Rico is incredible.” Alejandro sees himself as part of that musical lineage. “They are an inspiration and I think they’re pioneers, they opened the door to reggaeton on an international level and now it’s our turn to follow that up. That responsibility to raise it higher.”
“My goal is to be a legend. Build me a statue right next to Roberto Clemente’s in Carolina. I want to keep on making great music and never lose my essence.” He adds, “That’s the most important thing for me, never forgetting where you come from.”