As the sun set over the New York sky, Bad Bunny was just emerging from his rabbit hole. Well, if the hole was a nine-foot-tall, 18-wheeler in the middle of New York City.
Puerto Rican reggaeton and Latin trap artist Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, better known as Bad Bunny, made a return to performing on Sunday after a three month social media hiatus. The event was Bunny’s first concert since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
The live-streamed concert was sponsored by Univision’s music and events branch, Uforia, in conjunction with Verizon to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month and honor Puerto Rican strength through times of turmoil, Univision said in a press release. Univision New York correspondent Damaris Diaz and WXNY La X 96.3FM radio personalities Brea Frank and Shino Aguakate hosted the concert. The three expressed their anticipation for Bunny’s return.
“[Bunny] doesn’t follow the rules. He makes his own rules, his own rhythm, his own style” Diaz said about why fans are excited for Bunny’s return to the stage. “He’s unique. There’s no one like Bad Bunny.”
Unlike the title of his February album, "Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana,'' which translates from Spanish to “I do Whatever I Want,” Bunny actually didn’t get to do that.
“I didn’t want to do a virtual concert...it has been difficult for me to do a virtual concert without an audience. I didn’t want to,” Bunny said in an interview with Uforia. “[But] I am accepting the new reality. I hope you enjoy this. We need it.”
Kicking off the show at Yankee Stadium, Bunny donned an all-black outfit with silver chains and trenchcoat a la Morpheus from the Matrix, tiny sunglasses and all. He stood atop a moving flatbed truck built to look like a clunky New York subway: it was decorated with graffiti that read “YMHQMDLG,” as well as 787 subway numbers, which represented one of the Puerto Rico area codes.
Without hesitation, he opened with his song “Bendiciones” from the compilation album he released while in quarantine, “Las Que No Iban a Salir,” which translates to “The Ones that Weren’t Going Out.” Performing songs from the album for the first time, he sang in Spanish, “I am here because God had plans for me/ Thanks to you all and to my people. I am grateful,” assuring us viewers that despite the circumstances, we were still in for the perreando party we’ve been missing.
In between songs, Bunny’s mobile concert was cut with wide shots and the natural sound of the motorcade snaking through the city. With fans cheering, sirens blaring and cars honking, Bad Bunny pulled a stunt worth stopping New York traffic for.
During longer breaks, the audience got to know what "el conejo malo'' was up to while on his hiatus in documentary style interviews.
Bunny discussed why he chose to perform in New York, citing the city’s significance to him as an artist.
“It’s the city I’ve performed the most in since I’ve started as an artist,” he said. “When I first started, I would do five shows at five different clubs in one night in New York, and now with my success going through the roof, I’m playing bigger stadiums, like Madison Square Garden.”
As he paraded through the Bronx and Washington Heights, fans followed the music, chasing Bunny and his motorcade on foot, moped and bicycle. The highly anticipated stream garnered over 10 million viewers after trending on Twitter for 2 days prior.
Following “Bendiciones,” Bunny performed “Si Veo a Tu Mama,” the bubbly, ’80s video game-esque opening track on “YMHQLMG,” where he sings about missing his ex and the toll it’s taken on him. When he belts the lyric, “Maldito año nuevo, y lo que me trajo,” Bunny relays what we’ve all been thinking about the disaster that is 2020.
The Big Apple’s urban landscape was no match for Bunny as he dodged hanging street lights, tree branches and bridges while dancing through his repertoire (although he did once hit a tree, but only because the tree hit him first). New Yorkers on the sidewalks and in apartment buildings couldn’t help but be swept up with Bunny’s energy as he sang to them.
During his hiatus, fans criticized his silence on police violence against Black people happening in the United States, chiefly because of reggaeton and Latin trap’s origins in Black music. The artist, known for speaking out against violence against women and the LGBT communities, had only released a song, “Compositor del Año,” to Soundcloud explaining his absence and thoughts on Black Lives Matter. The song was met with criticism for being too little, too late.
Although he didn’t comment on Black Lives Matter or perform “Compositor del Año,” Bunny took the opportunity of having this platform to address issues in his community, as the concert took place on the third anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the deadly 2017 Category 5 hurricane that swept through Puerto Rico.
“We have had a government that hasn’t respected us, here in the United States and in Puerto Rico,” Bunny said about the state of Puerto Rico. “Why we should vote and why we should raise our voices is rooted in respecting ourselves. As a pueblo, as latinos, as puertorriqueña and puertorriqueño. It’s giving ourselves respect from a government that gave us none. We have to decide for ourselves and that’s why we have to go vote.”
The Bronx and Washington Heights are home to the majority of New York’s Latinx population, with those populations largely being Puerto Rican and Dominican. Puerto Ricans, particularly those in New York, are among the most impacted by COVID-19, according to a study by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism.
“I think the most difficult part is accepting, accepting what is happening, accepting that it’s real, accepting that it can happen to anyone,” Bunny said about the virus. “Taking it with respect, respecting not only the care for your own life, but respecting the lives of others. Being cautious of others, not putting at risk the lives of other people, of your family.”
As the sky grew darker and city lights twinkled like stars behind him, Bunny’s party bus was lit, with the subway LED “windows” highlighting silhouettes as if people were dancing inside, bringing the party to the streets of the Bronx. He went on to perform his full range of hits from the songs that’ll get you in your feelings, including “La Difícil,” “Vete” and “A Tu Merced,” to powerful anthems like, “Pero Ya No,” “La Santa,” “Bichiyal” and “Ni Bien Ni Mal.”
Giving us a sprinkle of the past, Bunny performed songs from his 2018 debut album, “x100PRE,” including “Si Estuviésemos Juntos,” “Solo de Mi,” “200 MPH” and the “fiery” club hit, “La Romana.”
Bunny even performed songs he was featured on including “No Me Conoce” and the 7-artist breakup bop “Te Bote,” without his powerhouse collaborators Ozuna, Nicky Jam, Darrell Casper Magico, Flo La Movie and Nio Garcia. However, Bunny still made sure to include his friends in the party no matter where they were.
Bunny tossed a mic to Sech, the Panamanian artist featured on his heartfelt breakup jam, “Ignorantes.” Sech appeared on a helipad in Panama City against a pale orange sunset. The two shared a split screen as they danced and performed their duet. Puerto Rican artist, Mora, featured on Bunny’s song “Una Vez,” also made a guest appearance from a rooftop in San Juan.
Bunny’s final surprise guest was his frequent collaborator and Colombian artist J Balvin; the two sang their lustful piano and trumpet-heavy song, “La Cancion” from their joint album, Oasis.
“Thank you to all the people that are watching around the world. Thank you to the Latino community in New York for the love and for the support. I hope that you’re having a great time at home,” Bunny said to his fans.
Bunny hoped to showcase the resilience of Puerto Ricans in the last few years and to bring positivity to the Latinx community in New York and around the globe.
“For me, it’s important that we try to turn that energy into something positive at the end of the day,” Bunny said. “Perhaps you lost your job, a lot of businesses that have closed...Take the time to see how to reinvent oneself...with more strength.”
Before performing his final song, woman-empowerment anthem, “Yo Perreo Sola,” Bunny took the time to thank essential workers and fans staying home.
“My respects and thanks to the people that have sacrificed their lives, giving it all for the health of this city,” said Bunny “So thank you to all the Latinos, for real, for making me who I am. To everyone who is in their house, to all the people that are seeing us through social media around the world, thank you thank you thank you.”
Bad Bunny’s concert showcased the power of love, positivity, community and ganas.
“I know we are passing through difficult times, but I have hope that the people are doing things from the heart, doing things with their soul, with compassion, with faith and hope. We are going to continue moving forward, take advantage of this time, like I said already, to reflect, to learn,” he said.
“Try to be a better person every day, that’s what it’s about,” Bunny continued. “I have committed a thousand errors, every day I have committed errors, but my only mission in this life is to be better everyday.”