Natti Natasha has a lot to look forward to this year: She dropped her studio album ilumiNATTI and scored 15 nominations for upcoming Latin-American awards show 'Premios Lo Nuestro.' The singer-songwriter shares with us stories about her early years and challenges of being a woman in the music industry.
Natti Natasha is having a moment. Well, make that 15 moments.
Born Natalia Alexandra Gutiérrez Batista, the singer-songwriter known for her 2012 feature on Don Omar’s “Dutty Love” — which peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 — and last year’s girl power anthem by Becky G “Sin Pijama” recently scored 15 nominations for this year’s Premios Lo Nuestro, making her the most nominated artist of the year. (She won four awards for three songs: “Sin Pijama,” “Quien Sabe” and “Justicia.”)
In 2017, her song “Criminal” featuring Ozuna got her on the charts and now the Dominican-born singer, nicknamed “La Baby,” just dropped her first studio album, ilumiNATTI. “[My days] have been hectic but fun,” she tells CHICA. As the 31-year-old Latin urban-pop artist ascends, here’s what you need to know about her journey.
1. She grew up living a double life
At 7, Natalie attended a school of Fine Arts and developed her singing voice. But as a teen in Santiago, Natti had to keep her extracurricular performances hidden from her parents, who were strict about her grades among other things. Like many who were teens in the late 1990s and early 2000s are well aware, the reggaetón genre carried a stigma of low-class impropriety among an older generation. She kept the secret in two ways: being the perfect student and sneaking out when necessary. As an engineering student, she mastered the art of switching priorities between school and music. She wanted to graduate, so “what I did was if I had to go to a show, which usually was on weekends, I used to study really hard weekdays. So when I had the test, I didn’t have to rush studying.” Her parents’ insistence was a motivating factor, she adds. “I had to balance it because [otherwise] I was going to get in huge trouble. Big trouble.”
Even so, the “Me Gusta” singer wasn’t about to put off her dream. Like many teenagers, she carefully crept out at night. But unlike her peers, it wasn’t to dance and party — it was to sing the music they could dance to. “I would have to hop over the fence and in DR, you know, you have like the metal bars. Then when I went to sing I would beg, like, ‘Can I just please be the first one?’ so I could just go back home,” she tells CHICA.
2. She celebrates her Dominican roots
The artist proudly expresses her love for “merengue tipico,” one of the oldest styles of the dance, created in the Dominican Republic. Originating in the 1850s and later evolving with the accordion German traders brought in, it’s a style that has become popular in Europe and the United States. She names legends such as Geovanny Polanco and Fefita La Grande as the artists she loves to listen to. “I think it represents Dominicans and it’s very cultural. I’m very proud of our music.”
3. She couch-surfed New York City on her own
At 18, Natti found herself making an impulsive decision to move to the Bronx, in hopes of breaking into the music industry. “It was an adventure. It was rough, but I didn’t care if I didn’t always have money for food. The bold young woman came alone, without any idea where she would start, and grew accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle, never staying in one place long. Of this rite of passage for many a starving artist she says: “I didn’t have [any]where to live, but there was always a place where I could stay. So at the end of the day, I didn’t have anything, but I had it all. If you want to see the cup half full, it was fun. Got me to where I am today.”
Several years later, she would land a spot at Orfanato records and eventually hit it big with Don Omar in 2012 with “Dutty Love.”
4. She never let “girls don’t sell” stop her
Even after her big break with Don Omar, she struggled to maintain her career, like many women in male-dominated spaces. “After hours and money invested from your savings for one song or two songs — even if I thought it was amazing and probably a good song — it was just that you’re a girl and girls don’t sell,” she tells CHICA. It was a scary time, she told Fader in a 2017 interview, and she felt lost and alone again: “After you get a high like that, and they don’t give you the opportunity to keep doing more, but you have so much more to give, it’s frustrating.”
But male chauvinist push back would inspire her as well: “I had to always prove why a girl like me deserved to be in the industry.” Brushing off the conventional wisdom, she remained persistent about expressing herself through her music, not just trying to fit in, and in 2017 signed with Pina Records, which boasted a roster including reggaetón royalty such as Bad Bunny and Nicky Jam. When it comes to men and women in music, “we are creative, and there’s not really much of a difference…. I don’t see a difference when it’s a creative moment.”
Today, as one of the women dominating Latin-American music, she continues to create music for women and own her sexuality, as she did with her 2017 track with Bad Bunny, “Amantes de Una Noche,” about her desire for a one-night stand. “I like to do it with no filter,” she shares with CHICA, “That’s me…it’s worked for me. Once I understood that about myself I just kept doing it.”
On the 17-track ilumiNATTI, put out by Pina, she has two collaborations and both are women, Kany Garcia and Anitta.