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To build their name, Wisin and Yandel began touring nonstop, and became known for their high-octane shows. "Performing for an audience is the best part of being an artist," Yandel says. "When we're on the stage, we get to see how the audiences react to our music. That's how we test all of our songs. If a mix is working, we can tell immediately by the way our public acts."
The partners have turned out five albums since their 2000 debut, Los Reyes del Nuevo Milenio (The Kings of the New Millennium), but their U.S. breakthrough came only a couple of years ago. Teaming with Luny Tunes, the genre's top production team, they produced the single "Rakata," which became an international DJ favorite. The most recent record, Pa'l Mundo, is a dance-ready fusion of hip-hop and reggaeton that incorporates dancehall and salsa rhythms.
"People love their [Wisin and Yandel] music because they're always evolving," notes Lisa M, a Miami-based reggaeton diva. "Soundwise, they never do the same thing twice."
That diversity can be heard on the latest single, "Dame un Kiss" (featuring their protégé Franco El Gorila). The song, built around a traditional reggaeton beat, is anchored by a propulsive surf-rock guitar loop that calls to mind Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
Wisin and Yandel have used their success to recruit new talent for their label. This past November, they released Los Vaqueros, an album that showcases the next generation of reggaeton rappers. The album currently stands at number nine on the Billboard Latin album charts.
For all their acclaim, Wisin and Yandel insist they want to remain true to the barrio that brought them together. Like their English-speaking hip-hop counterparts, they emphasize street cred over corporate manners.
"We never left our hometown," Wisin notes. "We still live in Cayey, next to the people that saw us grow. We are living proof to other Latino kids that nothing is impossible. If we made it in the music business, other small-town kids can make it as well. That's why Latin people have always shown us love: They see themselves in us. We are one of them."