Meet rising Puerto Rican reggaeton star Rauw Alejandro: 'I'm my own competition'

Pamela Avila

Rauw Alejandro isn't competing against anyone but himself. 

From the reggaeton, Latin trap and R&B sounds he experiments with in his music, Alejandro shows off his versatility in his sophomore album, "Vice Versa" (out now). It's the follow-up to "Afrodisíaco," which he worked on and released amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“My sound is just a lot about melodies,” Alejandro says. “I’m trying to look for the perfect melody.”

The first song on the album, "Todo de Ti," sets the tone for the medley of sounds Alejandro presents and keeps the momentum going until a slower, more intimate “Aquel Nap ZzZz” shows Alejandro's softer side. The tracklist kicks up a notch with up-tempo songs perfect for the summer, from "Desenfocao'" to "La Old Skul."

Unlike "Afrodisíaco," which featured other reggaeton giants such as Sech, Zion & Lennox, J Balvín, Wisin & Yandel and Myke Towers, "Vice Versa" is more squarely focused on Alejandro. It's a “more personal” project, Alejandro says, “so I don’t have too many collaborations.” 

Among the few collaborators on "Vice Versa," are his fellow puertorriqueños producer Tainy and singers Lyanno and Caleb Calloway. He saves the best for last with “Brazilera,” featuring Anitta (who won favorite female artist at the Latin American Music Awards in April).

Last month, Alejandro teamed up with Alicia Keys and Nicky Jam for Keys' remix of her song "Underdog," and in January he was featured on Selena Gomez's "Baila Conmigo," which they performed at Premio Lo Nuestro.

If Alejandro wasn’t already busy enough (he has a world tour kicking off in July), the 28-year-old is adding Jennifer Lopez to his roster of A-list celebrity collaborations. 

"We’re working on two songs, one on her own project and one of mine,” he says, teasing that fans can expect a dancehall vibe. “But after 'Vice Versa', you’re going to be in for a big surprise that JLo and I have for you guys. For me, it’s an honor to work with her, she’s a legend.”

A New Generation of Reggaeton Stars:Rauw Alejandro takes home award for "New Artist of the Year" at 2021 Latin Music Awards

Meet Puerto Rican artist Raúl Alejandro Ocasio Ruiz, better known by his stage name Rauw Alejandro. The reggaetonero is taking the Latin music world by storm.

The reggaetonero spoke to us about his album, how he strives to be the best version of himself, his musical influences and his dream collaborations (hint: one of them is Post Malone). 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Question: After releasing your debut "Afrodisíaco" last year, what can fans expect from "Vice Versa"? 

Rauw Alejandro: "Afrodisíaco" was a challenge for me, but it was a great project. I know my fans enjoyed it a lot, they had fun. I would've loved to perform my first album live so I know my fans are saving that energy for this new album. I made this album dedicated to the summer. This is the first summer after the pandemic, last summer we were in quarantine, everything was restricted and now a lot of cities are opening back up again. People are starting to go out, enjoy life and go back to normal. "Vice Versa" was made for people to enjoy life and their freedom. It's like going back to old times. 

Puerto Rican superstar Rauw Alejandro released his sophomore album, Vice Versa, June 25.

Q: You recently announced a show in your hometown that'll be taking place at the biggest indoor arena in Puerto Rico, and your world tour starts next month. How do you feel about being able to finally perform live? 

Alejandro: I feel blessed; I feel so happy right now. I was going crazy not being able to be on stage. I miss connecting with my fans, I think we (as artists) need that connection to recharge. We need that energy from our fans. For me, being on stage is so special that I don't have any words to explain that feeling. 

And now, you know, with the tour starting in July, we're going to Mexico, Spain, and Puerto Rico. It's going to be my first big show in Puerto Rico, my island, my city – for me, it's so special.

Q: Can fans expect to see some more of your dance moves during the world tour? 

Alejandro: 100%. I'm training hard, you know, trying to get better and surpass my level. I'm my own competition. I don't want to compete with anyone. I just want to compete with myself and just be a better person and be a better artist every day. You're going to see a lot of Rauw Alejandro dancing.

Q: How was the process of recording your second album different from the first? 

Alejandro: I think with this album, I felt more prepared. With time, you learn. I took notes of (mistakes to not repeat), just production stuff, mixing, compositions, and beat selections. I try to analyze my first project and learn from it. For me, all my projects are special but I want it to be better every time. With this project, I was a little bit more organized. I knew what I wanted to do. I also feel blessed that I have such a great team, we went hard in the studio. I'm happy with the final result and I know my fans are going to enjoy it. 

Q: Speaking of new music, your music video for "Todo De Ti" is the perfect companion to the already upbeat and super fun song. But how did you get Shaquille O'Neal to put on roller skates and appear in your music video? 

Alejandro: My management has an existing relationship with Shaquille's management and we were talking about a cool cameo in the video. And, you know, I'm a short guy, I'm 5'8. He's like 7'1. So I thought that was pretty cool and funny. I'm a funny guy, I like to inject a bit of humor into some of my projects too, and when we spoke with Shaquille, he told us about a roller skating academy he has in Atlanta. So that was his thing, we didn't know! It's like the planets all aligned. It was meant to be. 

And he has his own custom roller skates he wanted to try. He wanted to just chill with us and have fun, and everything was so organic. I think that's when the magic happens when everything happens like that. God's plans are perfect. 

Q: The song also has an '80s vibe to it, what drew you to that time period? 

Alejandro: The '80s and '90s have so much to offer musically. Music evolves every year but I think we can't forget our roots, our culture. A lot of Puerto Ricans flew out to New York in the '70s and it was a big mix of cultures. 

My dad is from Brooklyn and he taught me all these different sounds and (exposed) me to a lot of old-school legends. I've always been inspired by old sounds and wanted to put my own touch. When the new school and old-school mix, the fusion is amazing – that's when you create new sounds. That's when "Todo de Ti" appears. You know, mixing all this Caribbean flavor of reggaeton and delivery with the '80s and '90s sound was a big move and we were looking for this summer jam, and we found it. 

Q: Music runs in your family. Your father is a guitarist, and your mother is a backing vocalist. What are your favorite memories of that growing up? 

Alejandro: When I was little, music was playing in my house every day. I remember my mom, when she used to pick me up at school, she loved playing super loud music in the car. Like, really loud. I would just know it was my mom picking me up from school because you could hear her from miles away. She would pull up playing merengue and her favorite feminist anthems. My mom was all about girl power.

Then, my dad, he liked different types of music like rock 'n' roll but also Caribbean music like salsa and merengue. But he also liked the oldies and soul music. He was a big fan of Elvis Presley and used to dance like him in the living room, he used to show me a dance move or two. My dad was my first role model in music, I wanted to be like my dad. 

Q: Who are your dream collaborators?

Alejandro: I would love to collab with Bruno Mars – I think he’s amazing. I love Post Malone’s music and vibe. Of course, Drake. I would also love to do something with Burna Boy. They’re all killing it.

(I would have also loved to work with) Michael Jackson; he’s one of my inspirations. James Brown, too. There are a few more but for me, those are my top artists and in another life, I would have loved to collab with them.