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Daddy Yankee's 'Gasolina' is the National Recording Registry's first reggaeton song

Daddy Yankee retired last year after a career spanning more than 30 years. In that time, reggaeton has become one of the most profitable genres in the music industry.
Emma McIntyre
Getty Images for Rihanna's Savag
Daddy Yankee retired last year after a career spanning more than 30 years. In that time, reggaeton has become one of the most profitable genres in the music industry.

Before becoming the Godfather of Reggaeton, Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez, now known around the world as Daddy Yankee, was listening to the din of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

A cacophony of revving engines and flirtatious catcalls floated up from the streets into his tiny apartment in the projects. The way he told it to Billboard in 2014, someone shouted, "Cómo le gusta la gasolina!" at the girls who rode in men's flashy cars.

The phrase bore into Daddy Yankee's head, and he began adding on to it. "Dame más gasolina!"

Eventually it became the chorus of "Gasolina," the mega-single that catapulted the rapper to global fame and took reggaeton from an emerging genre born in the Black working-class neighborhoods of Panama, New York and Puerto Rico, to one of the most profitable in the music industry.

On Wednesday, the song broke more new ground: "Gasolina" became the first reggaeton song to be inducted into the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. It is one of 25 recordings and albums chosen for preservation at the nation's audio history library.

The party anthem, which features the reggaeton singer Glory, was released as the lead single for Yankee's third studio album, Barrio Fino. It was the first reggaeton song to be nominated for record of the year at the 2005 Latin Grammys, where the album won the award for best urban music album.

The victory signaled the growing and seemingly unstoppable popularity of the genre. For Daddy Yankee, that meant a steady stream of hit records and collaborations with other reggaeton superstars through 2017. That year he smashed even more records, singing alongside Luis Fonsi and Justin Bieber on the inescapable "Despacito." That song eventually tied for the longest-running No. 1 in Billboard's Hot 100 history.

Host of NPR's Alt Latino Felix Contreras told All Things Considered, "Not only did [Daddy Yankee] become one of the most successful Latin music pop stars out there, he also helped create a demand for reggaeton that went global."

Katelina Gata Eccleston, who worked on Spotify's Loud podcast, chronicling the rise of reggaeton, said that "Gasolina" created a dividing line for the genre on the mainstream charts.

"'Gasolina' definitely proved to the industry that this music is not only fun, but it is marketable," she said.

After a career and perreo spanning more than three decades, Daddy Yankee retired last year with the release of his final album, Legendaddy.

Other recordings and albums selected by the for preservation by the Library of Congress include Madonna's "Like a Virgin," Mariah Carey's Christmas classic "All I Want For Christmas Is You," and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." The Super Mario Bros. theme, composed by Koji Kondo, was also honored. It marks the first theme from a video game to join the registry.

Check out a full list of honorees here.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.
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