Meet Young Miko: From Tattoo Artist to Singing Alongside Bad Bunny
There's something about Latin trap star Young Miko's sound that just hits differently. She has a natural swag and suave demeanor to her, yet she's probably one of the most humble and down-to-earth music artists you'll ever encounter. The 24-year-old from Añasco, Puerto Rico, learned how to develop tough skin at a young age. Surrounded by friends who were men, she had no choice but to become what she calls a "bad b*tch." The rise of the tattoo artist turned trap artist may seem out of the blue for many. After all, she hit Puerto Rico's Choliseo arena, a dream that often takes years for an urbano artist to accomplish. Not only that, but she did it within a year of releasing her first song, "105 Freestyle."
"Puerto Rico is a difficult audience to captivate. [We are] very picky and demanding. That's part of why so many major stars come out of the island. Puerto Ricans know how to distinguish quality right away, so the fact that they were the first to show love [to our project] put things into perspective."
Bad Bunny invited Miko to be a part of his "Un Verano Sin Ti" tour islandwide party. Singing "Riri," Miko commanded the attention of the crowd within seconds. They were chanting lyric by lyric while stage dancers performed the viral TikTok dance and Bad Bunny gave the spotlight away. The audience started shouting "Otra! Otra! Otra!" ("another one!") when she finished. And Miko stole the show of arguably the world's No. 1 artist right now. "Puerto Rico is a difficult audience to captivate," Miko tells POPSUGAR. "[We are] very picky and demanding. That's part of why so many major stars come out of the island. Puerto Ricans know how to distinguish quality right away, so the fact that they were the first to show love [to our project] put things into perspective."
Although music runs in the family (Miko's grandmother composes and plays piano, while her cousins play in bands), it took her a year after she started experimenting with music to release it on SoundCloud, as many on the island do. Rapping has been her "platonic love" since she bought a cheap mic in 2018 and started writing. "My mom has always told me, 'Life is too short for one not to fall madly in love . . . with yourself and what you do, with another person, with your family,'" Miko says. "That is something that I always implement in my daily life."
With "Trap Kitty," her first EP, she's done just that. Its concept was inspired by one of her best friends, an exotic dancer named Riri, and aims to take you on the journey of what she calls "the life of a stripper." Miko thought Riri could write a book with all the "crazy" stories that happened to her friend on the job. They created her debut album instead.
Her "corillo" (crew) are new to this. Her manager, Mariana, is like a sister to her, as they've known each other since 2012. Her producer, Mauro, happens to be Mariana's brother. So in 2020, she brought her favorite minds together, rented an Airbnb in Rincón, and began creating with a $100 mic and Bose speakers. Now they all live together, which she jokes feels like a "music camp 24/7."
"The ideas people have liked the most, they may think we spent months developing, but in reality, it all flowed so easily thanks to our chemistry," Miko says. "We are constantly learning from each other. If being a student means constantly growing, call me a student. Everyone in the group has that mentality. We are so hungry."
They may be up-and-comers in the arena, but they clearly know what they're doing, and people are taking note. One of the first openly lesbian artists in the Latin trap scene, Young Miko is a leading figure in what many call the new wave of Latin trap and one that's distinctly queer. Alongside her, women like trans trap artist Villano Antillano and RaiNao are unapologetically driving — and creating — the narrative for women in a men-dominated industry. But don't get it twisted: although they're equally open about their sexuality, each of them offers something very different.
"[We] are three different musical colors with three very different points of view, and I love that," Miko says. "That's why I feel like [we] can't be compared to each other. Each one of us is 100 percent ourselves." One thing that characterizes Miko from a mile away is her complete domain of "malianteo" in English. Her lyrics are fully Spanglish, and it's not entirely on purpose. Her musical influences from an early age developed her that way.
"My father listened to rock — the Beatles, U2, Kiss the Police, and even Bob Marley," Miko recalls, "while my mom was always playing La Oreja de Van Gogh, La Quinta Estación, Shakira, and Juanes. All while my big brother showed me Nas, Biggie, Gwen Stefani, Tupac, and Missy Elliott." Wearing a YM merch hat and showing off a shiny stone in her teeth, Miko is unapologetically herself. She's adding a narrative unseen in the urbano movement, one that paints women and the LGBTQ+ community as creators of their own destiny, not victims of it.
"Pa toas' las putas y las cueros, las que están puestas pal dinero," she sings in "Putero," where she makes it clear her music is for everyone but especially for women. Miko wants listeners to feel liberated and free to exude the confidence of a pole dancer in their everyday lives — and flaunt it. "This generation is tired of the same. They're accepting and receptive to something new," Miko says. "Maybe [my lyrics] are not how I feel but how I'd like to feel. I write to myself, too."
Unlike her peers, she's not singing about what happens en calle — in the streets. She's creating a multiverse from the anime stories she's read, one of her biggest inspirations. Most of her songs are anime characters she's given further life to by personifying them, like in "Vendetta," a song based on "Black Lagoon"'s Revy. Even her name is inspired by anime. Growing up, she watched "Avatar: The Last Airbender" religiously and found herself going down a rabbit hole of fan pages reading about how the names of the series came to be. That's when she found a Japanese dictionary and learned that "Mi" means beauty and "Ko" is a common way to finish a girl's name. Together, "Miko" means "Daughter of God." Having grown up religious, she says that after the discovery, she adopted Miko as her stage name right away.
"If I have the acceptance of my parents, the people who matter most to me in the world, do I really need anyone else's? I don't need anyone's approval," Miko says. "I was clear from the beginning and let them know what I wanted to do and what I wanted to sing about, but as parents, they worry because we do live in danger."
Miko remains true to herself. To be defiantly so in a scene that threatens to quiet the voices of openly queer artists is the ultimate flex.