Reggaeton Veteran Wisin Is Feeling More Adventurous Than Ever

April 25, 2024
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Wisin & Yandel’s first album, Los Reyes del Nuevo Milenio, came out in 2000. For millennial hip-hop heads, that was the year Outkast’s Stankonia and Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele dropped. For rock fans, that’d be the year Radiohead released Kid A. And for zoomers, well, that was three years before Olivia Rodrigo was even born.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying Wisin has been around for a minute now. But if his new album, Mr. W, is any indication, he’s an O.G. who still knows how to churn out hits. While he and Yandel have been retired as a duo since 2022, they made a final appearance on Tainy’s album Data last year and casually dropped one of the best songs of their career with “Todavía,” going out high. Riding that same energy, Wisin put the finishing touches on Mr. W, the first of his solo albums to be entirely produced at his studio hub La Base. Founded in 2015 in the hills of his hometown of Cayey, it’s where previous compilation albums like Los Vaqueros: La Trilogía and Multimillo, Vol. 1 were produced.

Mr. W is packed with a lineup of guest artists ranging from Don Omar, Jowell & Randy, Anitta, and many more. Those looking for knee-buckling perreo will find it, but there are also more sober tracks like opener “Ya Me Voy,” alongside Dominican rapper Redimi2, which recounts the tragic life of a fictional character who strays down the wrong side of the tracks. 

“I feel that after so many years there’s still a lot to do, new things to offer the public,” he shares exclusively with Rolling Stone.

The rapper opened up and talked more about Mr. W, his views on retirement, and what keeps him motivated after more than 20 years in the industry.

This is your first solo album entirely produced at your studio and label headquarters, La Base, alongside your in-house producers Los Legendarios. Can you tell us about how you founded La Base and what it means for you?
I had a very ambitious dream, which was to make a studio on my home turf of Cayey where my life and career began. When we started, this was a movement that no one believed in, and it was very difficult to grow because we didn’t have the support of radio stations, television, or any media. So I wanted to establish a studio where our dreams began, where it could serve as a place where not only singers but songwriters, producers, anybody can work on their projects. We’d always have to go to Miami or Los Angeles or New York to get ahold of the quality tech we needed. Here at La Base you can find all the tools you need to make a high-quality product without leaving home. You don’t have to go to another country, you can just come down to Cayey.

Was it important to you that La Base be located in Cayey, your hometown?
One hundred percent, man. It reminds us of who we are, our beginnings, what we had to suffer, what we had to work, the sacrifices we made to get where we are. And that’s important. Sometimes when we’re running around, going too fast, we forget where we’re from and it’s because of so much work and busyness. An artist’s life moves very fast and that’s why it’s good to slow down sometimes and remember what you went through and who were the people by your side. We’re still here, bro. 

So many artists of a certain generation — those that came up in the Nineties and 2000s — are either retiring or thinking about it. You and Yandel yourselves did a farewell tour in 2022, claiming you were retiring as a duo. Do you see yourself ever fully stepping away?
The people who’ve known the career of Wisin & Yandel know that we’d do more than a hundred concerts a year. I missed the formative years of my oldest daughter, Yelena. Retiring from music as such is not going to happen. We love what we do and when you do what you love you don’t see it as work, but as a blessing from God. Right now is not the time [for retirement]. I have a two-and-a-half year old son, and I’m living a nice and balanced life right now. My recording studio is 10 minutes away from home. To me, retirement would mean not living such an intense life, but a more balanced one. Before, we used to be on a different flight every day, but now we can dedicate more time to our families. Sometimes my daughter will show me a photo of a birthday or special day and I’m not in it. Not because I didn’t want to be, but because I was off dreaming and doing big things in music.

How fully formed was the concept for this album when you first started working on it?
As a producer I have a clear idea of what I want, [but] also letting the music surprise us on the path, not to mention artists show up with new ideas. Producing is an exchange of ideas, it’s about trying to reveal a vision. For me it’s an honor to have Don Omar, Yandel, Shaggy, Anitta, Pedro Capó, and Manuel Turizo [on the album.] I admire all of them. A lot of them came up with us, and others I saw them come up. There’s so many emotions flowing through me, after two years of work on this, especially as the first solo album of mine to come out of La Base.

What’s the significance of the name Mr. W?
Mr. W is a name that represents my maturity and growth — not just in music but also on a personal level. Like I mentioned, there’s more balance in my life, more respect for the music; we’re not just going after money like at the beginning. I think music is much more than money, than material possessions. It’s also offering to the public who you are. I heard in an interview a young woman say “What you put down on paper and in music is what’s inside you.” This album is that: There’s social themes, love themes, reggaeton… It’s a varied album full of emotion.

What’s the story behind “Aventura 2,” the homage to your classic hit off the first Luny Tunes album, Mas Flow?
That was a song we did in 2003 when Mas Flow came out. Sometimes we made songs that were lost in the shuffle, as in, they were ahead of their time and maybe if they came out today they’d be giant hits. I hit up Yandel [about the original track] but he preferred to do a brand-new song with me. So, I started to think about who had the musical qualities to do a chorus like this called for, and I reached out to Lenny Tavárez. After that I thought of Darell and his intenses verses. And that was it, and I think we brought it together well, especially with the Luny Tunes flavor alongside [my producers] Los Legendarios. It’s a hybrid of the new with that old original sound which is what I wanted.

Was “Himalaya” a song that you wrote and approached Pedro Capó for, or did you two conceive it together once you decided to collaborate?
When you’re making an album, there isn’t an instruction manual, and things just work out organically. This is a song that was sent to me by Antonio Barullo, a great Spanish songwriter, and when I first listened to it I thought of Ricky Martin. But Ricky was on his tour with Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull, so in a creative moment I thought of Pedro Capó, who was in Spain celebrating his birthday. But I didn’t know that! So I texted him and he replied “Wisin, I was just talking about you last night at dinner and about what a great producer you are.”

I think there are times, and this is one, where songs come branded with who they belong to. Pedro Capó is a great artist who I’ve always wanted to work with. It’s a song dedicated to love and relationships, not just between partners but between fathers with their kids, sons with their mothers; there’s so many things it touches on.

When putting an album together, is it fun to think of unusual or unexpected collaborations you can make happen? What do you take into consideration?
One hundred percent. Making an album is like building a puzzle, putting together different voices, and sometimes joining them in ways others might not. Being able to call Ñengo and tell him we’re doing a song with Randy, you might say musically they don’t fit but they actually can. That’s what I love about music, how we can coexist within a song. That’s the magic. There’s no boundaries, just friends with the same intention of making something great and touching the sky doing the thing we love. 

Considering his guilty plea for domestic violence, did you hesitate to work with Cosculluela on this album?
Look, on the contrary, I think music can be a balm, and I don’t think I have a right to judge anybody. I have a lot of respect for Cosculluela, lots of affection, and in life there’s always dark moments. I consider him a great friend and he’s always been there, for every concert and every project. On top of that he’s a very talented person, with a unique style. I’ve always told him he can reach out whenever he wants, even beyond music, just for personal reasons too. I wish him the best in every step he takes, and that he stays on the side of light.

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Do you think that, especially for women who find themselves in precarious domestic violence situations, seeing him on your album might reinforce the belief that there’s no consequences for men who indulge in that kind of behavior?
What happened between Cosculluela and his lady is very much his story. I wasn’t there. To me he’s a good guy who’s always treated me with respect. I praise God for the wife I have; in our relationship we’ve had difficult times, but I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her. I respect all the women of the world. My mother lives five minutes away from my house, and is one of the reasons I live in Cayey. She lives in the first house I could build when I started making money. To me, women are a fundamental part of my life. But as I was saying, it’s not my role to judge anybody. The song I have with him is a fun reggaetón where he’s praising women, with no offensive lyrics in it.

You have new artists like Chris Andrew, Dreah, and Jory Boy all signed to your label. What sort of fulfillment do you get from mentoring rising stars in this stage of your career?
Ever since the start of our career, since founding WY Records with Yandel where we worked with Tony Dize, Franco El Gorila, Jowell & Randy,  our dream has been that. That’s why I accept offers to be a judge on talent shows like La Voz and La Banda. It’s because I want to be a tool that helps talented young artists not go through what I did. If we have the opportunity to help young talent, then we can be winners. In my day, we had to work hard and stumble a lot to get where we are. I feel like I’m doing something, not just when I have a microphone in my hand, but also off the stage.

Do you listen to reggaeton outside of work?
I listen to old salsa, reggaeton, gospel. When you’re a producer you have to be open to different genres, and not center yourself on just one sound. I’ve worked with Víctor Manuelle, Franco De Vita, Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer López, Ricky Martin, 50 Cent, Chris Brown, all of them representing different genres and I don’t stop being Wisin when I’m working with them. In any case it makes your music and your catalog richer, and you learn from artists like them.



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