From Colombia to the world: How Fade became Medellin’s reggaeton ‘ambassador’

This summer, the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot (aka El Choliseo) in San Juan was awash with neon green outfits, posters and lights. The bright hue signaled two headlining shows by Colombian artist Feid, who became the first artist in history to sell out the venue in an hour or less.

On an island that has produced artists like Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny – where reggaeton is an entire culture, not just a musical genre – Feid does not take this achievement lightly.

“To them, reggaeton is not pop music. This is music from the streets, music from people who really run in the streets,” he says of the Puerto Rican fans. “It’s like you can’t think of anything there. You can’t be a poser there; you have to be so real with people and [either] they contact you or they don’t.”

Feid’s music is steeped in his identity, often referencing his hometown of Medellín, his colloquialisms, and the bright green color of the city’s mountains and soccer jerseys in his imagery. And on one of the most significant stages in the genre, he won over the Puerto Rican audience.

“There’s a lot of controversy about how some non-Puerto Rican artists appropriate our slang,” says local music journalist Juan R. Arroyo, who reviewed Feid Choliseo’s performance for A rolling stone. “He’s a guy who stays true to his vocabulary from where he’s from, but at the same time when and if he drops something from [Puerto Rico] or uses a word from [Puerto Rico]you know it’s coming from a place of respect where he’s done his homework and done his due diligence.”

Arroyo partly credits this cultural understanding for Fade’s rapidly growing popularity. In two years, he notes, reggaetonero went from opening for Karol G at the Choliseo to breaking a new record in the venue’s history. But this pop breakthrough—which includes nominations in five Latin Grammy categories this year, a new album and a collaboration with Bad Bunny—didn’t come out of the blue; it’s been almost a decade in the making.

Fade began writing and producing for other artists, working with stars such as J Balvin, Nicky Jam and most recently Christina Aguilera behind the scenes. “A lot of people know me as a songwriter, but that wasn’t my motivation,” he says. “It’s not like a songwriter, and now I’m an artist. I was an artist who was supposed to be a songwriter.”

He began releasing his own music in 2014, but it took several years and albums to really find his footing as a solo artist. He turned to making sentimental songs for the club, often featuring a slicker pop polish than trap drives twerking originating in the Caribbean. He’s also developed a signature look with his alter ego, El Ferxxo: a bleached mullet, wraparound Oakley sunglasses and oversized cuts accented by that ever-present Medallo green.

“When I tried to be more myself, that’s when people connected with me more,” he says.

Last year, he rushed to officially release his album Happy Birthday Ferxxo: We pirated your album ahead of schedule after it expired unexpectedly, which he mentioned in the title and on the cover. Despite the less-than-ideal timing, the record earned Feid his first Top 10 on the Billboard Latin Albums chart, peaking at No. 6, and led to an immediate sold-out US tour

This time on his own terms, Feid released his sixth studio album on September 29. MOR, Don’t be afraid of the darkwhich translates to Love, don’t be afraid of the dark, is his biggest record to date, peaking at No. 4 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart. He says the title is an ode to the perseverance that led to his success.

“Most people just started hearing about me two years ago, a year ago, maybe this year,” he says. “So for me, I’ve always been a light in all this darkness.”

Sonically, the album is his most expansive yet. It traces the history of reggaeton back to the dancehall, featuring the legendary Sean Paul singing poetically in Spanish on ‘Niña Bonita’, then transitioning into tropical Afrobeat assisted by Nigerian singer Rema on ‘Bubalu’.

“He sings in Spanish as if he were a Medallo man, singing with slang, with accentwith everything,” Fade says, beaming with pride.

“Luces de Tecno” brings a renewed EDM energy to the album’s second half, while the rock-infused “Privilegios,” featuring the band Cupido, allows Feid’s vocals to round out the album. Although his roots are in reggaeton, Fade says he’s excited to expand the boundaries and geography of the genre. He is also the only non-Puerto Rican artist to feature on Bad Bunny’s record-breaking new album, Nobody knows what will happen tomorrowon a song that pays tribute to one of the hottest clubs in Medellin, Perro Negro.

“I’ve always felt as the Ambassador of Medallo in a certain way, because I wasn’t afraid to say that I’m from Colombia, I eat arepa con chorizo, I eat chicharron con frijoles,” says Feid.

Although part of a larger legacy of artists from the Colombian city, including collaborators Maluma, Carole G, J Balvin and Sebastian Yatra, Fade leans on Paisa swagger to anchor his sound and personality in an authentically unique way.

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