“I will never forget that perreo.”
“I will never forget that perreo,” says 27-year-old Guaynaa. The occasion? His classmate’s birthday. The girl? His classmate’s younger sister. “It was a Yaga & Mackie song,” he says, laughing as he recalls his first encounter with perreo salvaje. The then-preteen was about a decade shy from releasing his perreo hit “ReBoTa,” but that moment embodied the very thing that made reggaeton both a parent’s nightmare and a thrilling genre for young adults—the back-to-front dance style known as perreo, named after the Spanish word for dog and its resemblance to a certain sex position.
Though it’s popular now, perreo was once viewed as trashy and low-class—not the kind of dance that “nice girls” did. “It happens in all generations,” says Guaynaa. “I’ve spoken to my father, uncles, and neighbors—when bolero [was overtaken by] salsa in their generation, they were reprimanded for listening.”
Compared to the raunchy lyrics heard in the early days, the mainstream reggaeton of today is relatively watered down, but “ReBoTa” recalls the genre’s underground origins. “I think we just need to make the music that we love,” says the Puerto Rican rapper, born Jean Carlos Santiago. His plan seems to be working because “ReBoTa” has been on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart for 14 weeks.
As a member of the freshman class of artists stepping onto the international urbano scene, Guaynaa first gained attention in 2017 with his sly, political freestyle “María,” recorded shortly after Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico.
Rapping in a satirical style similar to the one heard on Vico C’s “Desahogo,” “María” drew attention to the struggles U.S. citizens were still facing on the island and called out politicians for their shoddy response to the natural disaster. “I did it in a way of protest, because damn, we were going through some hard times in Puerto Rico,” says Guaynaa. “I vented with a little humor, but it represented what all Puerto Ricans were thinking.”
He vividly remembers the panic he felt, even knowing that there were thousands on the island living in light wooden homes while he was (somewhat) safer, feeling the strength of those winds in a home made of cement and strong resources. “You would come out to the streets and you would see signs with the town’s name on the ground,” he says. “It was a disaster. You have no communication with your family, you couldn’t go anywhere, with no car, no gas. No one had medicine, and you would hear on the radio people calling in crying, ‘I just want to know if my father’s OK?.’” The song went viral after it reached radio personalities and influencers who reposted Guaynaa’s blunt lyrics.
Though “María” put him on the map, it’s “ReBoTa” that’s made him a star. And recently, Guaynaa teased a remix on Instagram in a post that showed him dancing with DJ Luian, playing verses by Farruko, Becky G, and Nicky Jam, so it’s likely there’s only more perreo salvaje to come in summer.