Tell Me Más: Álvaro Díaz Is Bringing Romance to Reggaetón
In our Q&A feature series Tell Me Más, we ask some of our favorite Latine artists to answer the questions only their BFFs know about them, revealing everything from their most recent read to the songs that get them hyped. This month, we sit down with Puerto Rican alternative reggaetón artist Álvaro Díaz.
Álvaro Díaz has a secret ingredient that makes his musical recipe superb. The Puerto Rican artist, known by family and fans as Alvarito, is simply being himself. As fans anticipate the release of his sophomore album, "Sayonara," Díaz confirms the sound may be different from his first album, but his authenticity will always be his main sabor.
"If you took my last album 'Felicilandia' and said 'this is a reggaetón album,' when they listen to it, it's not what they expect from a reggaetón album," he tells POPSUGAR Juntos. "If you tell them 'it's a hip-hop album' it's not what they expect. If you tell them, 'This is an alternative Latin album,' it's not what they expect. It's like it's in its own lane. I don't even know what to call it. I just make music I like — music that is inspired by all these other sounds that I love."
Díaz grew up in San Juan absorbing a variety of music, which helped to shape the artist he is today. At his dad's home, he heard salseros like Hector Lavoe and Fania All-Stars. From his mother, the sound was quite different.
"My mom used to listen to the Beatles and Sade and all those soul artists," the "Problemon" singer recalls. "But then my mom had a revelation and threw out every CD that wasn't gospel. In my mom's house, we could only listen to Christian music."
The sounds of salsa and Christian music were mixed with Diaz's other musical inspirations, like Blink 182, a band he credits with being the reason he wanted to do music. "That was my favorite band ever. It was the first poster of an artist I had in my house," he says. "Then from there, it was reggaetón."
Díaz watched as the genre hit a global high with a spotlight on Puerto Rico. Now, the influence of reggaetón can be heard around the world in genres beyond reggeatón. So, Díaz makes sure people know that it began in Boriken, and many Boricuas wear it with pride, like the number one soccer team in the world.
"Every country may have their soccer team, like that national team for Mexico or Spain," he says. "But we, in Puerto Rico, we have the reggaetoneros. Every time Daddy Yankee would do something and Wisin Y Yandel, or Don Omar, we would feel proud, like really proud of being Puerto Rican. We didn't feel like they were making it. We felt like we were making it."
Díaz had every intention of making it in reggaetón like those that came before him. But before he dove fully into becoming an artist, he had to make a pit stop first. He went to college and got a degree, something that was inspired by legendary salsero Ruben Blades.
"I don't know if it's real, but my dad told me this story of how Ruben Blades went to university and studied and got a law degree, and when they handed him the diploma he took it and said, 'Ok, I'm going to make music now,'" Díaz recalls. "My plan was that when I graduate I'll enter law school. I passed the exam for law school."
Instead, Díaz decided to take a year off to work on his music while working at an advertising agency. During that first year, he began dropping music. But the year came and went faster than he had imagined so, he took another year off, and then another year. As he continued perfecting his craft and began making real noise with his sound, the Puerto Rican artist knew that the agency would need to take a backseat. But his college education wasn't all in vain.
"I'm glad I studied and to this day I feel like one day I'll have my own creative agency," he says. "Even though I'm making music, I'd love to do that too because it's about creativity and that's what I love about music — it's creating."
Currently, Díaz is busy creating his next album "Sayonara," which has some big shoes to fill following "Felicilandia". As he takes his time crafting his next body of work, he's attentive to his fans, who are patiently waiting until the new album drops. To show his gratitude, he is giving them gifts before the next album's release.
"I'm going to start dropping singles like every Thursday," he says. "It's not from the album, but the fans are waiting, and I don't want to keep giving away songs from the album because it's like having 10 trailers for a movie. When you go to the theater, you're going to feel like you've already seen it."
The "Lentito" singer kept his promise, first releasing "Poké," a freestyle with Papi Sousa. The following week he gifted his fans with new music again, this time with a song called "Suki" featuring RaiNao. These weekly gifts to fans were inspired by Díaz's favorite rapper, Kanye West.
"When Kanye West was dropping 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' he used to do something called Good Fridays, and he would drop a song like every Friday, and I was one of the fans that would go to his blog every week to see what song he was going to release," Díaz says. "I remember that time, it brings me nostalgia. So, I'm trying to create things like that for the fans."
Another gift Díaz consistently gives to fans is vulnerability, something not found often in the urbano music space, which was once dominated by machismo. Being able to express his emotions is something that builds strength for him and is relatable to fans of all backgrounds.
"I always like to be different," he says. "I grew up in a single mother house. Y la nevera no estaba llena siempre (and the fridge wasn't always full). So, I thought I could rap about that and be different because I know there's other kids like me."
While Diaz wholeheartedly respects the reggaetón from the hood, and the artists who use musical expression to detail life in the streets, it just wasn't his narrative.
"I know there's a lot of people from the hood and from the streets, that's why that music is so popular in Puerto Rico," he says. "But I know that there are single mother households, and kids growing up seeing their mothers have three jobs, and just wishing that they had the money, so that they (the mother) don't have to work no more. That's basically more of what I'm inspired by."
Díaz's mother plays an important part in his music. Not only has she appeared on songs like "Todo Bien" but, in Puerto Rico she's a bit of a celebrity herself.
"In the Alvaro Díaz world, everyone knows who my mom is, she's part of the songs. She was a part of all of my albums. She's the one that's singing at the end of 'Felicilandia' and she's gonna be on 'Sayonara.' She's a huge part of my influence," he shares.
Above all is one driving force for Diaz, and he isn't shy about expressing it for all the world to know.
"Love is the realest thing ever. I always dreamed about being the artist who could make you feel."
"Love is the realest thing ever," he says. "I always dreamed about being the artist who could make you feel. There's a lot of artists that can make you dance, and can make you feel hood, but there's not a lot of artists that can make you feel, and that was my dream."
As he continues whipping up his next genius on "Sayonara," Díaz shows gratitude for "Felicialandia," which created the path to continue making music for the masses. "That album is like a piece of art that will live forever," he says of his first album. "People will enjoy it and think about it for years and hopefully it inspires the next generations."
Read on to find out whose album Díaz has on repeat these days, his favorite thing to do in Puerto Rico, and more.
POPSUGAR: Who is your biggest inspiration?
Díaz: My biggest inspiration is my mother.
POPSUGAR: What's the last movie or series you watched recently?
Diaz: I'm rewatching "Stranger Things" right now for like the hundredth time. But I'm watching this new series now, I'm opening up Max so I can tell you, it's "The Righteous Gemstones." We're like Michael Cera superfans.
POPSUGAR: Whose album are you obsessing over right now?
Díaz: I think Tainy's "DATA" is the one I'm playing, even though I like the new Travis Scott album, too.
POPSUGAR: How would you describe your personal style?
Díaz: Sencillo pero complicado. (Simple but complicated.)
POPSUGAR: When you're scrolling on social media, what kind of content grabs your attention and makes you stop?
Díaz: Probably fighting content. I'm a big UFC fan right now. There's a lot of theories about different things with a lot of information, and it grabs my attention. Like information about movies, things that no one knows about.
POPSUGAR: What is your favorite thing to do when you're in Puerto Rico?
Díaz: Get with my friends, get with my family, recharge. Go to the studio. I go to the studio in different parts of the world, but there's nothing like going to the studio at home. And eating! Eating Puerto Rican food!
POPSUGAR: Where would you love to perform where you haven't performed yet?
Díaz: Probably Calcutta.
POPSUGAR: As your career continues to take off, what are your favorite tools or things to do to stay grounded?
Díaz: My family. I've been doing this for a lot of years and I've seen friends of mine get to the fame and to see how people change. I've always been a guy with both feet on the ground but I think that's the thing that holds me, that I've been through a lot already.