Ozuna
Ozuna
Courtesy of NV Marketing

Ozuna, "El Negrito de Ojos Claros," Brings Afro-Latino Visibility to the Music Industry

Ozuna's sophomore album, Aura, dropped last week, and Latinos everywhere got their perreo on to the sweet melodies of the Boricua-Dominican artist. The 19-track album has been in the works for the past year and includes a bonus track that Ozuna says is "very special." "Besos Mojados" features reggaeton royalty RKM and Ken-Y, who brought classics such as "Me Matas" and "Down" to the genre in the early 2000s. 

With 10.1 million Instagram followers, Ozuna is asserting his own reign over the genre. He'll entertain his subjects at the American Airlines Arena Saturday, September 8. There will also be guest appearances by some of the hottest artists in the reggaeton game. Ozuna says he'll tease his Instagram followers, but the possibility that Anuel and Nicky Jam, who call Miami home, will perform is high because both make appearances on Aura.

The first single off Aura — "Unicá" — topped Billboard's Latin Airplay and Latin Rhythm charts. Ozuna's debut album, Odesia, has been atop the Billboard Top Latin Album chart for 45 weeks, which is not far behind Gloria Estefan's Mi Tierra, the record-holder at 58 weeks. Aura will surely perform as well Odesia and perhaps even surpass the debut's peak position of number 22 on the Billboard 200.

Like OGs such as Tego Calderón and El General, who paved the way for young black Latino artists, Ozuna is making space for aspiring Afro-Latino artists. He has broken records in the Latin American entertainment industry, which is often criticized by consumers for pushing Eurocentric beauty standards and not giving visibility to the Afro-Latinx community.

In May, the music site Chart Data tweeted that the 26-year-old "is the artist with the highest daily average views on YouTube (19.3 million)." Ozuna also nabbed top honors for Latin Artist of the Year and Top Latin Album at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards. He was also recognized as the Best New Latin Artist at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

However, when it comes to his Afro-Latino background, Ozuna says he hasn't given the matter much thought. For him, talent supersedes race.

Still, last week, the VMAs shone the spotlight on Colombian reggaeton star Maluma. But why not Ozuna? In light of his long list of number one singles and a new album that's guaranteed to shred more records, Ozuna might be the perfect ambassador for the genre.

"I can't say if I am pushing boundaries as a person of color or not because I've never stopped to analyze this, but it's a great point," Ozuna says. "I haven't stopped to think of how being Afro-Latino has helped my career, but it has complemented me being black with dreads because I'm not as common as everyone else."

One thing is certain: Ozuna's career continues to explode, and this will be the third time in less than a year that he has toured the United States. Aura features tracks with Cardi B, Romeo, Akon, Anuel, and Winsin y Yandel. Ozuna says listeners can look forward to his signature sound and messages, which include the struggles of la calle, building relationships, and loving God.

Ozuna is an artist who has found a delicate and comfortable balance in being open about his faith while singing about one-night stands and contributing to cuts such as "Te Boté" — the Nio Garcia, Darell, and Casper Magico track about a bitter breakup. Ozuna says fans understand the balance between being Christian and a musician, so they don't question his faith, which is real and a version the world can understand.

"I pray on my knees every night and thank God for my family, my career, and my supporters. I don't have to dress up or carry a Bible to have faith," he says. "God is the reality of the world even if I sing about topics that people may not think are godly. That's why it's called art."

Ozuna. 8 p.m. Saturday, September 8, at American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; aaarena.com. Tickets cost $39 to $199 via ticketmaster.com.

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