From his early days cutting hair and trimming beards as a barber en la isla del encanto to global reggaeton dominance and Billboard Latin Award-winning success with Wisin y Yandel to his solo career, Llandel Veguilla Malavé (AKA Yandel) has never stopped striving to become a legend. Or as he might say, un leyenda. But that doesn't mean he can't be caught off-guard.
"I just woke up," el reggaetonero laughed when he answered New Times' phone call a few months ago. "This is hard. I'm on my way to Washington. Yesterday I was in Chicago. I've already done like eight shows. I've been running around a lot. But thank God, it's been very successful."
When Yandel spoke with us, he was preparing to wrap his debut solo tour with a show in South Beach. Of course, though, it wasn't the first time he'd brought el baile to the 305. In fact, it seems he can't get enough of Miami. In April, he rocked the Fontainebleau Miami Beach for the BleauLive Concert Series. And now he's back for this weekend's Premios Tu Mundo. "I'm very impressed by the people of Miami," he admits. "They're very special and love my music to the max."
Yandel and Premios Tu Mundo 2014 at AmericanAirlines Arena August 21
Premios Tu Mundo: Featuring Yandel, Juanes, David Bisbal, and others. 8 p.m. Thursday, August 21, at AmericanAirlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; aaarena.com. Tickets cost $26 to $30 plus fees via ticketmaster.com. All ages.
But even if his frequent vacations to our sandy shores might indicate otherwise, the past year has been a big, sometimes-stressful gamble for Yandel. Obviously, touring and making music is nothing new for him. However, going solo after belonging to the biggest reggaeton duo on the planet was a serious risk.
He'd actually already tried and failed to strike out on his own. About four years after their debut, 2000's Los Reyes del Nuevo Milenio, Wisin spent some alone time in the recording studio working on El Sobreviviente, while Yandel dedicated hours to Quien Contra Mí. But not gaining the success they had hoped for, the two got back together, started WY Records, and in 2005 released what's become their most successful album to date, Pa'l Mundo, which includes some of their biggest hits, such as "Rakata," "Llamé Pa' Verte (Bailando Sexy)," and "Pam Pam."
Now, though, as a more established artist, Yandel says going solo has been a "refreshing" experience. "Musically, I don't have to ask anyone to see if they like it," he explains. "I make my own decisions. If I like this music, I could just do it. When I make my own videos, I think it's more focused on personal taste.
"I love to work with W [Wisin]. I'm very grateful for everything we've done. Aside from the fact that he's like my brother, we've already worked together for so many years, and you have to do something different to get out of your comfort zone. So I'm very happy I'm making my own music."
Still, no matter how successful an artist may be, every new endeavor comes with its own set of pitfalls. "It was a double-edged sword," el músico admits. "But we tried, and I think it's easier for us now because we've established a strong fan base and are better grounded."
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And so far, things are looking bright. His latest solo album, De Líder a Leyenda, debuted at number one on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart in November 2013 before being certified gold earlier this year.
"I did a very different mix [for this record]," Yandel says. "You'll find reggaeton, pop, electronic, and ballad elements. I mixed it up without taking away that urban sound. And I also collaborated with artists, like Daddy Yankee and Don Omar, that gave it good results."
So yes, the gamble paid off. He topped the charts. And he is already working on his third solo album, Dangerous.
"But I'm just very happy that all of my fans didn't leave me behind," Yandel confesses. "It's a blessing they are supporting me on this new path."