Anuel AA Still Records In Quarantine With His Chains
When Anuel AA makes a song, you get the impression that the Latin rapper is perhaps cold, and trying to convey to the sound mixers within the studio that he is feeling extra chilly.
On his latest album Emmanuel — a twenty-two track ode to all the drinking and white-sand debauchery that once took place apart from a digital screen — as well as his debut that was released the day he got out of prison, the Puerto Rican native likes to remind listeners of other temperatures beside the sunny climates he raps upon, with the occasional lyric finished off with a growl-like, ‘Brr.’
It was this once playfulness — and often sexual energy — that bombarded the rapper under titles of hostility like ‘bad for Puerto Rico’ during the earlier part within his career; although now, that all seems to be a forecast of the past, with his Latin-trap bangers making him number one on just about every worldwide music chart, album sale, critical appraisal; and music video engagement (because those are all somehow still a thing).
‘I got it all’ he says, referencing to what could be used as a statement regarding his number-one album, or all the money he’s been making from it lately; or, in this case, invoking his playfulness to mention the exclusive collection he’s been able to accumulate all because of a simple growl. ‘I got the Louis Vuitton [mask], the Gucci one… I even got the original one, like I got the hospital mask.’
His precautions ranging from ultra-drip to extremely apocalyptic — apart from the album release party he recently held with a fleet of stretched-out yachts — we catch Anuel while he’s quarantining within Miami, getting him to talk about money bundles as big as Dj Khaled, the broken prison system and the worst thing about being a twenty-first-century rapper.
Is it weird perhaps releasing such a sexy album while everyone is alone and in insolation?
For me — like, let’s talk about the numbers and how people are consuming it. The numbers are crazy and people are consuming it a lot. And it’s number eight on Billboard 200, and Latin Billboard #1… What I think is if there was no quarantine or none of these things that happening right now, I know it would’ve been like way more. So, for me, it’s not weird? But it’s like, I don’t know. There’s something that — I know it would’ve been better, you know. But it’s been two years without me dropping an album, and nobody knows shit when this is gonna last ‘cause every time it looks like it’s about to get better, it gets worse. And I felt like dropping an album. I know the fans wanted it and I wanted to drop it too.
So, I think it would’ve been better but I’m still happy with what it did.
You’re still killing the charts, anyway…
[Giggles] Yeah, exactly. I broke records in Spain, I got the first Latin album in history to reach the top ten in Turkey; in Billboard 200 number one [number eight]. It’s still killin’ it.
I was translating some of the lyrics the other day, and it’s quite fun getting gems like ‘Pussy in my mouth is taffy’ or ‘The money bundles are fat like DJ Khaled’. Does he know about that one?
[Laughs] Yeah! He was supposed to be on it, talking. ‘Cause of the quarantine, he already had the record and he was about to do it, but DJ Khaled with this coronavirus, he was waiting for his engineer to try to do it, so yeah. Before he went over there, I had to give the album. Even though I could’ve waited like one more week, I couldn’t keep pushing it back. I just had to give it in.
Where does all the inspiration come from? Like, how do you come up with those?
I don’t even know. I’m just trying to be really creative. I ain’t tryna’ say the same things everybody sayin’ on their own songs. Like I’m tryna do somethin’ different and mix it up with the commercial. But I don’t know. It’s just the soul. It just comes from my soul. Every time somebody asks me that, I just say that ‘It comes from my soul, like inside.’
With you in quarantine, do the chains come on when you record? Or they’re already on for the day?
Nah, nah. I wake up, I don’t even put them on unless I got like a camera interview… But if Imma record, I’ll get dressed. I get dressed and put everything on ‘cause I like to record, like — I don’t know. I like to record looking good ‘cause, I don’t know. I feel better when I record.
Yeah, that would be weird if you’re making hype music and you’re in like, pajamas.
Yeah, like I’m talkin’ a lot of street things in the songs, a lot of crazy things and I’m in like in Jordans and slides. Like, nah. I like to get nice before I record so I feel comfortable.
You recently recalled the day you went to prison with single ‘3 de Abril’… Tell me, with the majority of your debut album largely completed during your imprisonment: Was it hard making music in jail?
Yeah, basically yeah [laughs]. I left at eight months and when I was writing, I couldn’t write anything. The prison for real, if you do music, it kills the spirit… I was blocked. And when I started to get more and more used to it and I started recording, it was really hard because it was through the phone. And when they put the beat over there, it sounds off time. Like, it’s crazy. I’m listening to the beat through the phone and singing and over there, it’s on another time ‘cause it’s through the phone. They gotta move a lot the vocals to put it to the time. They had to work a lot with the vocals ‘cause so they would sound good ‘cause it’s through the phone, you know. But thank God I dropped them. I dropped three songs through the phone, and they’re all sharp. They were on the charts on Billboard, so thank God people liked them and supported me even though I was in prison.
While making music during prison was, in a way, your success story — do you think this is rare or that the system is largely broken and unforgiving once you get out?
Prison basically is a part of my life. Like, yeah. I think that made me bigger than normal. In the streets, I was like a legend ‘cause it’s like this little kid just got on and all the sudden he gets caught with a gun. And when everybody thinks his career is over, he starts dropping songs every month. Like two songs every month, one song every month. And like, I have the number one record on Latin Billboard for I don’t know how many weeks. But like, a lot of weeks. And I went to prison, and the song didn’t even have a [music] video. Like, I don’t know. It’s really rare ‘cause a lot of people get locked up, and their career like ends basically or it goes down a little bit ‘cause it’s hard working from prison. But I think that’s what made everything take off. My career, the hype. Everything. ‘Cause when I came out, I don’t say it was easy — but the way I blew up when I came out, it wasn’t normal. It was like super crazy. So, I thank God for real that I went to prison. I thank God for who I am right now, and as big as I am right now in the music ‘cause I was in prison. But I don’t know. Someway, somehow that helped my career. And sometimes I feel like I lost time when I see my family, but God’s plan is perfect and I probably would’ve been dead or locked up again for something worse. So, I don’t know; I just go with it. But about the system and about everything and me coming out, I just feel like that made me stronger and why I’m so big right now… When you asked me about the system, did you mean like the system if it’s fair, the way that they be treating people?
I don’t even know. I think for certain people it’s fair but for certain people, it ain’t. I’ve seen people get ten years for selling drugs, but I’ve seen people that only get three, two years for raping a little girl. So, I think in a lot of sentences, it ain’t. Like, how’s someone — I know he’s doing wrong, he’s selling drugs — but sometimes, a lot of us, we don’t get another option. We never had a role model that was like a positive father figure for us to follow. And how does the system, when you just tryna’ take food to your house, to your son, to your family, to help the family out — and I know selling drugs is wrong, I ain’t sayin’ it’s okay. But why for selling drugs you can get ten years, and somebody that raped a little girl or a little boy or a young woman, like anything. I don’t understand. So, I say it’s fair for some things but for other things, it ain’t fair. Like me, my case? It was a one-year case. One year only. Like, my brother’s being locked up for four years and we don’t know how much time he’s gonna get; I got brothers that’ve been twenty years locked up, twenty-five, fifteen. Like, my case, I used to see a year after I’m in prison people come in with the same case I had. And they used to walk out in a year, ten months; very few, they usually give them six months in jail or six months in home confinement with the ankle bracelet. But to me, they gave me thirty months. And the judge, she had told me thirty-six months; but when she had told me, ‘You got something to say?’ And in the court, [after] I spoke, she said, ‘Imma consider what you said and Imma give you thirty.’
So, for some things it’s fair but other things, nah. The system makes a lot of money for them; they don’t even see it as good or wrong. They’re just tryna’ make money out of every single inmate. It is what it is.
Although there was some hostility towards your music in the early days within Puerto Rico, what’s it like going back home now? Like, are you the Pitbull to Miami? The Rick Ross to Wingstop?
Yeah, like in Puerto Rico, I’m like… Lil Wayne and ‘Orleans. I’m like Drake and Canada. Like, DJ Khaled in Miami, Ross in Miami. I wouldn’t even say Rick Ross or Khaled but like Drake and Canada or Wayne and ‘Orleans, or Santos and the Dominican Republic. Like, either.
In recent weeks, a lot of people seem to be confused regarding this subject, so I wanted to give you some time to clear the air… There’s some chatter going around that you and 6ix9ine will be collaborating again?
Mmm, nah. That ain’t gonna happen. That feature’s not gonna happen. I know a lot of fans want it, but it is what it is… Like, nah. Ain’t gonna happen.
In your opinion, what’s the worst thing about being a rapper? Or is there even a ‘worst’ part?
I don’t think there’s no worst part about being a rapper, like nah. I think what’s the worst is like, in the Spanish industry — ‘cause in English it’s different — the only thing I’ll say, it was good but it was bad. Like when I went to prison, the fans see me as bigger, but in the music industry when it comes to business in the beginning, it was a little bit harder because I didn’t have the artist’s respect or with the music industry businesspeople. So, that was a little hard — or not hard, but it took me time to show them that I’m a real rapper, a real artist. Like, stop treating me like a street person. Like a gangster, this and that.
What was the last thing you bought that the general public could afford?
The last thing I bought that the general public could afford?… I don’t know. Nothing [laughs]. No, no, no. I’m playing, I’m playing… ] An iPhone? Yeah, I bought the iPhone like two days ago.
interview by Hailey Johnson
Check out Anuel AA’s latest album Emmanuel and music video for ‘Narcos’ below!