September 16, 2019
There are no limits to the way Reggaeton can be expressed according to De La Ghetto a.k.a. Rafael Castillo. Born in New York City and raised in Puerto Rico, arguably the country that first gave us reggaeton in the 80s and 90s, it makes sense why he’s one of the genre’s most versatile artists. Sometimes he raps forcefully over earth-shattering dembow beats and other times he seductively croons over tropical grooves. His genre-bending career first took off in 2006, landing him on stages all over the world.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked De La Ghetto, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, about launching an international career, the meaning of Hispanic Heritage Month to him, and how streaming is changing his approach to the music business.
SoundExchange: What inspired your stage name De La Ghetto?
De La Ghetto: This happened during high school. I was always singing and listening to American/Mainstream music and improvised to American beats. I was watching an episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” with my friends and Will [Smith] talks about a street poet named Rafael De La Ghetto. My first name’s Rafael, I inherited the nickname and stayed ever since.
SX: You first launched your solo career back in 2007, in addition to starting a label. What prompted you to start your own label?
DLG: I always wanted to be a young entrepreneur. My passion was to always work in music, but not necessarily as a singer or artist. Things took a 180-degree turn, and aside from thanking God for giving the opportunity to be a singer, I never forgot about wanting to start my own an independent music company, one that could grow in the future, and support upcoming musical projects.
SX: Your music spans many different genres reggaeton, R&B, trap, hip-hop, and dancehall. What inspired you to have such a genre bending sound?
DLG: My love for music in general. I’ve been amazed by all the different sounds and elements that makes music so diverse.
SX: What are some of your favorite songs by Puerto Rican artists? New and old?
DLG: Jajajaja [DJ Playero’s album] Playero 37 is a must! But song wise I’ll say:
- “Tu Con El” by Frankie Ruiz
- “El Cantante” by Hector Lavoe
- “Las Tumbas” by Ismael Rivera
- “Hay Algo En Ti” by Zion & Lennox
- “Funeral” by Daddy Yankee
- “La Maquina” by Yaviah, and many more!
SX: How has streaming changed your approach to the business side of music and how has SoundExchange helped elevate your music career?
DLG: It’s a blessing for us artists. Anybody can listen to your music whenever, and wherever. In general, it’s easier, it’s not like back in the day that you would have to hear whatever was on [the radio] or buy a whole album. Now, people can listen to their favorites on demand. Thanks to SoundExchange we have everything organized so we as artists can have our business and income [sent] every time somebody listens to us in a flawless way.
SX: It’s Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., as someone born in New York to Dominican and Puerto Rican parents, why is it important to celebrate Latin culture in the U.S.? What does your heritage mean to you?
DLG: It is important to know where you come from. All the struggles our ancestors went through to make a foundation here in the land of the free. We should be super proud of our history and how we as Latinos made our footprints in the books of history of this multicultural, diverse country, and became one.