Cartel: The Big Boss
Ramon Ayala spent the bigger part of a decade spreading the reggaeton sound far from its Caribbean home before becoming something of a household name with his 2004 crossover hit Gasolina. Since then, Daddy Yankee, as he's better known, has been busy doing what nowadays befits every A-list musician: he's embarked on an acting career and has his own line of street wear.
But Yankee says he has returned to his roots as a rapper and hip hop artist on El Cartel: The Big Boss.
That's a shame. Not because you'll miss the sound he's made mainstream - several of the album's 21 tracks qualify as reggaeton - but because his hip hop roots have greyed. Yankee has spent the years since Gasolina ostensibly hoping his fans would forget what they were listening to in 2003. Too many beats and samples here are from past Billboard top-10 lists. Listen for the 'woof' from Who Let the Dogs Out, or hear him rap about 'pretty mamas up in the house ... shakin' that ass' and you'll have heard evidence enough.
Perhaps you can't blame Yankee, given the number of guests he signed up, including Akon and Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. That he has made a lot of guest appearances for other rappers - on some 70 releases - means he may have had a hand in many of the sounds he's stolen. But explanations do nothing to keep this from sounding like rehashed commercial hip hop.
Perhaps the bigger shame is the reggaeton tracks. Rather than ripping off fellow reggaeton artists, each track manages to sound just like Gasolina, but with different lyrics. The exceptions are Fuega De Control, Ella Me Levanto and Me Quedaria - but three decent tracks in 21 does not a good album make.