‘Jesus lives in me’: Puerto Rican pop star Daddy Yankee retires to focus on faith

<span>Photograph: Thais Llorca/EPA</span>
Photograph: Thais Llorca/EPA

Daddy Yankee, the Puerto Rican star who helped make reggaeton a global phenomenon, has said he will focus on his Christian faith following his previously announced retirement from music.

The 46-year-old vocalist, real name Ramón Rodríguez, told the crowd of his plans at his final concert, held at Puerto Rico’s José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum. “I am not ashamed to tell the whole world that Jesus lives in me and that I will live for him,” he said in Spanish, in remarks translated by Variety. “For many years I’ve tried filling a hole in my life that no one could fill. I tried finding a purpose, on many occasions, it seemed as if I was happy but something was missing for me to feel complete.”

He added that he intends to use “the tools that I have in my possession such as music, social networks, platforms, a microphone – everything that Jesus gave me – for his kingdom”.

Rodríguez performed four concerts at the Coliseum this week to round off a farewell tour that ran between July and December 2022, and in support of his final album Legendaddy, also released in 2022.

It brings to an end one of the most successful and influential music careers in Latin American history. Growing up in the working-class Villa Kennedy area of San Juan, Rodríguez initially hoped to be a star baseball player and had trials for the US MLB league, but his sporting career was ended when he was shot in the leg. He switched to music and released his debut album No Mercy in 1995, which was brewed in the melting pot of San Juan where US hip-hop vied with Caribbean dancehall in the city’s nightclubs and stereos, eventually splicing together to form reggaeton.

By 2002 he had finessed the sound and honed his flow which featured showboating runs of high-speed chatter. The propulsive single Latigazo found airplay outside Puerto Rico, and while peers such as Tego Calderón and Don Omar were also breaking out of the country to a wider audience, it would be Rodríguez who truly crossed the sound over.

2004’s Gasolina, based around thrilling beat drops and a chorus that even English speakers could easily chant along with, reached No 5 in the UK and No 32 in the US, and remains for many the defining reggaeton anthem.

Rodríguez appeared on another major hit that year, Oye Mi Canto by American-Puerto Rican rapper NORE, and he went on to record with US stars such as Snoop Dogg and will.i.am as well as some of the biggest names in Latin pop such as Bad Bunny, Ozuna and Marc Antony.

In 2017 he was a key part of one of the most commercially successful songs of all time: Despacito by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Luis Fonsi, for which Rodríguez provided a typically melodic and high-energy rap. Its popularity was further increased by a remix featuring Justin Bieber, and Despacito eventually reached No 1 in 47 countries, including the US and UK. Rodriguez’s subsequent rework of Snow’s Informer, Con Calma, became a huge hit in 2019.