How Women Reclaimed a Space for Themselves in this Decade of Música Urbana

   By Lucas Villa | Nov 8th, 2019

    Artwork by Alonso Ayala (@ouchal)

“Eso no quiere decir que pa’ la cama voy,” (That doesn’t mean I’m going to bed with you) declared reggaetón music's first lady, Ivy Queen, on her 2003 breakthrough single, “Quiero Bailar.” Fast-forward to 2018 and one of the women who has risen in her wake, Karol G, boasted in Spanish, “Mi cama suena, y tu recuerdo se va,” (As my bed squeaks, your memory fades away), on  “Mi Cama.” Ivy was part of the female voices in reggaetón standing on her own during the genre's exposure in the 2000s. The past decade has seen reggaetón, and the larger música urbana movement, come back stronger than ever and fortunately, many women followed in Ivy's footsteps and fought harder for representation and space in the industry.

As the decade-end think pieces start to pop up, many of the men of reggaetón like Daddy Yankee, J Balvin, and Maluma, and the recent Latin trap music upstarts like Bad Bunny and Anuel AA, will be revered for helping globalize música urbana. However, women hold a higher regard, in part for pushing through the male-dominated genre and accumulating accolades as well and regardless of quantitative accomplishments, women deserve respect on their names. Inspired by Ivy Queen, reggaetoneras like Karol G, Natti Natasha, and Becky G were able to stand strong like the guys and further spread the female perspective on topics like sex, heartbreak, and swagger.

Near the middle of this decade, Colombia's Karol G and Dominican Republic's Natasha released a string of singles that earned them notoriety in reggaetón while Mexican-American singer Becky G was starting to crossover from the Top 40 pop of “Shower” to music in Spanish. As Latin music and artists experienced a global outreach in part due to the amassed appeal of  “Despacito” in 2017,  women  collaborated with their male colleagues and lessen the gender disparity of the genre exposure Natasha earned her first big hit with Ozuna on “Criminal” and Karol G rack up millions of views leading Bad Bunny on “Ahora Me Llama” while Becky G did the same with “Mayores,” a smash that solidified her as a force in reggaetón.

With their heightened profiles in música urbana, the women were able to follow-up with hits that highlighted the girl power the genre was lacking. On the bouncy “Mi Cama,” Karol G seamlessly switched between sweet and hard in letting an ex know that her bed was still getting plenty of action without him.

“There was a journalist that told me he didn't respect a woman making a song about her bed squeaking,” Karol G said in a L.A. concert leading up to last year's Latin Grammy Awards. “My bed is bringing me to the GRAMMYs and it keeps squeaking and squeaking.” A few days later, Karol G became the first female reggaetón act to win Best New Artist.

One of Natasha's songs that really made an impact was “La Mejor Versión de Mi,” an emotional ballad where she discovered her self-worth after leaving a toxic relationship. Finding strength in solidarity, Becky G scored one of the biggest hits in Latin music this decade with Natasha on “Sin Pijama,” a reggaetón-pop romp about throwing a sexy sleepover.

“The industry, the press, the audience would rather see women compete against each other and fight against each other,” Becky G said in an interview with Billboard this year. “I would like to change that. So many people told me not to do ‘Sin Pijama’ with anybody. Imagine two powerhouses coming together. That's lights out. That's a moment in music history. That's more than just a hit song. That is making a statement that will change the game and that's exactly what we did.”

With women of música urbana teaming up, female Latin pop stars also joined. Argentina's pop princesses Tini Stoessel and Lali Espósito worked with Karol G on separate occasions. The former racked up millions of views with Karol on the empowering “Princesa” while the latter broke through a power studded lineup of Latinas on Mau y Ricky and Karol's “Mi Mala” remix alongside Becky G and Leslie Grace.

Just before “Despacito,” Colombian superstar Shakira was back in the reggaetón game with “Chantaje” featuring Maluma. In the early 2000s Shakira and Alejandro Sanz attempted a similar feature with “La Tortura.” Currently, “Chantaje” nears 2.5 million views on YouTube while Spanish artist Rosalía, has a pop take on flamenco music turning heads, and now rubbing elbows with urbano with “Con Altura” with J Balvin and “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi” with Ozuna.

Like Shakira, Jennifer Lopez is a powerful Latina who dabbled in reggaetón this decade. On a remix of the male-centric “Te Boté,” she gave the savage kiss-off track a much-needed female voice. “Let's be real, I threw you out,” J.Lo fired back. Brazilian superstar Anitta found her groove in música urbana, especially on “Downtown,” where she took control in the bedroom and gives J Balvin the directions where to go.

As música urbana goes global, more artists around Latin America are finding their voice in the movement. ChocQuibTown from the Afro-Colombian city of Chocó recently dropped a single titled “Que Me Baile” where the group's female member Gloria “Goyo” Martínez takes the lead in demanding hot-and-heavy dancing in the club alongside Becky G. In the music video, Martínez reigns and shines like a rightful queen over her bandmates and a team of dancers. Acknowledging reggaetón is a Black sound, seeing and hearing women like Martínez reclaim the genre for Afro-Latinx women is powerful, such the case of Dominican-American rapper Cardi B dominated the charts in both Spanish and English.

Women have been thriving in the genre for the better half of this decade. The opportunities they're pushing will be carried into the next one.

Lucas Villa is a freelance music journalist based in Santa Ana, the barrio of Orange County, California. He has been writing about all things pop music for 8 years now. He's covered countless pop stars, concerts and events across the country and abroad. As a Mexican-American writer, his coverage lately has been more focused on Latin music and its movement across the globe. He feels the most proud to give Latinx artists (especially the divas) the coverage that they're lacking and deserve. His words have been featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard, MTV News, and Remezcla. Connect with him on all social media @MyPrerogative15.¡Vamos órale!