Born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico, Rafael Castillo, artistically known as De La Ghetto ,was at the forefront of the reggaeton movement. His music was infused with the sounds of his home island laced with a variety of Hip-Hop and 90s heavy metal that he grew up listening to while living with his family. Since he was discovered in the early 2000s, he hasn’t stopped making music or contributing to the reggaeton scene. “My first shot musically came with this guy called Zion from the duo Zion and Lennox. He’s the one that discovered me in my old neighborhood La Perla in Puerto Rico,” De La Ghetto tells HOLA! USA at the Drake Room at Mandrake Miami to celebrate Moët & Chandon’s Nectar of the Culture campaign. “I met Zion and we clicked. He said, ‘Yo, let’s do it.’ And aprobeche el momento y no lo solte y estamos aquí. I took advantage of the moment and never let go. Now we’re here.”
Now, De La Ghetto is making sure the next generation of reggaetoneros get a shot at stardom. To celebrate his achievement in the music industry and his pioneering spirit, Moët & Chandon has chosen him to be part of the new Nectar of the Culture campaign, which celebrates the people, places and moments that continue to push culture forward. Keep reading to see what De La Ghetto thinks of the rest of the reggaetoneros, what music he listens to on his down time and which artist he’s passing the torch to next…
HOLA! USA: Which influences do you credit for your style in music?
De La Ghetto: “My influences come heavy from the American side of me. I was born in New York, raised in Puerto Rico and now I live in Miami. You can see the whole old school Salsa from my mother, the 90s Hip-Hop from my older brother and the 90s heavy metal and alternative rock music from my older cousins. I come from an island, so you know, the reggae, the dance-off, the Bob Marley, I grew up listening to a little bit of everything.”
There are a ton of big names inn reggaeton now in the industry—how’s the relationship between you all?
“Well, you know, me and Yankee, we go back, way back. Like babies and pacifiers. He saw me when I first started growing. I used to see Yankee in all the shows. He used to perform on all the projects, in all the neighborhoods in Puerto Rico, so I’ve been seeing him since he started. The new cats like Bad Bunny, Anuel AA and Ozuna, I helped them a lot in their careers in the beginning. Just to see them blossom, grow and become such huge stars, it makes me feel good because I’ve been in the game for 14 years already, so I want to be in the game 10 or 15 more! And then just sit back and produce artists and develop artists.”
Are you mentoring anyone right now?
“I just signed an artist called Palermo. He’s a young 19-year-old from Puerto Rico. I have a lot of big expectations from him. As we speak, he’s in the studio working on some new music. I’m coming out with a new single with him called Los Mios. It’s going to come out next year like mid-January. We’re shooting the video in Puerto Rico in two weeks, so it’s going to be great.”
How do you think reggaeton will change in the next few years?
“To be honest with you, I don’t really know because the genre is a little…there are too many artists coming out everyday, so we’re going to have to ‘darle limpieza en la casa.’ There a lot of people that sound like everybody, but there are going to be a couple of the artists that are really really authentic.”
Who’s an artist someone would be surprised that you listen to?
“Sh*t from Prince and Phil Collins to Tears for Fears and old Snoop, old Dre, old Biggie, old Tupac. Nirvana, Mettallica, Beatles. That’s what I have in my collection.”
Any advice for the next generation of reggaetoneros?
“Just work your a** off and be humble and don’t forget where you come from. Just simple and plain. Kids nowadays forget where they come from . With social media, they forget what’s the realidad and what’s fiction. So just stay humble and don’t forget where you come from and work work work. There’s no secret to this. It’s trabajar duro mas que nada. Work harder than anything. If I did it, they can do it.”