On the afternoon that Variety interviewed Tainy in honor of his being named Variety‘s Hitmaker of the Month, the Puerto Rican-born producer and songwriter got word that Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti” had returned to the top of the Billboard 200 album chart for its eighth non-consecutive week. The record is headed toward the fall with a top-album-of-the-year status that will be difficult for any other artist to topple by the end of 2022.
If the news that “Un Verano Sin Ti” had displaced Beyonce’s “Renaissance” from the top of the U.S. chart made Tainy — aka Marcos Efraín Masís Fernández — feel sunny, that would be very much in keeping with the design they had for this unexpected runaway blockbuster.
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“Going into ‘Un Verano Sin Ti,’ Bad Bunny wanted to do something completely different than that which he had done in the past. He wanted happiness, from start to finish – light. The past albums of his that we have worked on have had ups and downs, as well as dark and mellow moments. This time, he wanted to embrace all of the happy times that he had living through the summers of Puerto Rico, traveling and being with his loved ones. Even when we worked with Bomba Estéreo, everyone had total freedom, with but one suggestion: to make it a cute, happy, sun-coming song. And all that put me in the mood and the space to imagine beaches, imagine sunshine and imagine places real and not-so-real where we could have a good time.”
Tainy holds major real estate with production and composition credits on Bad Bunny’s previous solo albums, too, such as the artist’s 2018 debut, “X 100pre,” his 2020 two-some “YHLQMDLG” and “El Último Tour Del Mundo,” and his 2019 joint album with J Balvin, “Oasis.” That includes the first single from “Un Verano Sin Ti,” Bad Bunny’s duet with Bomba Estéreo, “Ojitos Lindos,” as well as the recently released track “Me Fui de Vacaciones.”
Tainy laughs as he acknowledges the accomplishment shared with Bad Bunny (“It’s an amazing feeling“), but he’s not doing too much laurels-resting. He has an album debut of his own he’d like to get out before the end of 2022, to be titled “Data,” as previewed by his atmospheric new single “Sci-Fi,” with vocalist Rauw Alejandro. In that and his other projects, he’s looking to keep exploding the reggaeton genre in fresh, adventurous ways.
Evolving reggaeton is how Tainy started in the first place, when he presented self-made tracks “at age 14 or 15” to Francisco Saldaña and Víctor Cabrera, who together form the Luny Tunes production team, effectively the Jam & Lewis of Latin music at the top of the 2000s.
“They were the most established producers in Puerto Rico, and they allowed me under their umbrella, and to thrive,” says Tainy of Saldaña (Luny) and Cabrera (Tunes).
“I practiced my production chops every day after school, and remember clearly giving Luny my track, something he made me do from scratch, and getting the golden ticket to get into that world. They actually made me do the music for the top of their album, ‘Mas Flow 2.’ My intro to that world was the literal intro to that record. And that was everything to me… I didn’t even think of it as a job, but more of an adventure, seeing and learning how to produce a track with an artist from start to finish and not just give them a beat.”
Tainy follows up by crediting the Luny Tunes team and producer Nely “El Arma Secreta” for his all-inclusive top-to-bottom production and writing style, which he uses on current charges such as Rosalia, Balvin and Bad Bunny, to say nothing of his own new music.
“I was a kid into art who always thought I would be doing something closer to graphics or drawing for a living before music,” says Tainy. “I didn’t have a big brother, so I paid attention to what the older kids doing music were doing. I paid attention to how a producer could make an instrumental, then have a vocalist, and got mind-blown, especially doing it on the computer where I could do anything I wanted… creating with no limits.”
Creating with no limits also meant listening with no limits, beyond Latin music – a genre-less vibe that helps make a Tainy track like no other, and turned reggaeton on its ear. “Growing up in Puerto Rico then, reggaeton was this movement…. but I was heavily influenced too by hip-hop producers like the Neptunes, Kanye West and Timbaland. I was also into nu-metal like System of a Down, Blink 182, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit.”
Those metal and hip-hop influences are what give a Tainy track its wild aggressive abandon and frenetic feel, beyond reggaeton’s rush. “I’m grateful to have been a part of reggaeton’s growth, opening its boundaries,” he says. “I heard and was part of what Luny Tunes and Nely were doing, but I wanted to make my own imprint. I had something different to offer and that helped me find my space. The effects of a Linkin Park and the kicks and snares of a Neptunes – combine that into the sorts of reggaeton patterns used naturally, and that caught certain artists’ attention.”
Tainy laughs when he says that “there was always a risk that this weird music would freak artists out, and no one would call me again.”
Beyond working with early reggaeton pioneers such as Daddy Yankee, Wisin & Yandel and Don Omar and others, the producer is overjoyed at having made the acquaintance of “this generation’s most open-minded creators,” J Balvin and Bad Bunny. These two artists, like Tainy, were looking to expand the boundaries of reggaeton and electronic music, starting with, respectively, 2018’s “Vibras” and “X 100pre.”
Calling 2018 a pivotal and amazing year, Tainy credits his having forged “a whole new sound” and up-and-coming superstar friends who trusted him, Bad Bunny in particular, for his success. “You can see and hear that connection into today,” says Tainy of their alignment, one that led to the global smash “I Like It,” by Cardi B with Bad Bunny and Balvin as featured artists. “Having Cardi opened up an even broader world for me and my sound,” he says. “From that point on, I could work with pop artists who might not have known me prior to this.” That list includes Dua Lipa, Camila Cabello, Benny Blanco and Selena Gomez, who Tainy joined as a featured artist on tracks such as “Un Día (One Day),” “Oh Na Na” and “I Can’t Get Enough.”
As pivotal and amazing as 2018 was, 2022 has been a revelation, with his production and writing credits on Rosalia’s “Motomami,” Bad Bunny’s chart-exploding “Un Verano Sin Ti” and Tainy’s own solo tracks — something he has been doing since 2018. “This has been a time where I have had no limits, just trying stuff as I like with diverse artists with whom I’m having intense conversations beforehand,” he says. “Seeing how they imagine this dream of theirs, talking it through, helps me to evolve, find new parts of myself and make individual sounds for each of them.” In particular, co-writing and producing several singles with Bunny for “Un Verano Sin Ti” was crucial in helping the rapper-vocalist realize his vision.
Having mastered the art of mood for “Un Verano Sin Ti” so that it rules the top of the album charts for eight weeks, Tainy’s own new solo music is more based on atmosphere than it ever has, starting with the uniquely windy ambience and soft reggaeton pulse of “Sci-Fi,” with legendary vocalist Rauw Alejandro. “Sci-Fi” is openly spacy and less densely complex than his usual tracks, with a cloudy, non-crushing bassline that floats and stings.
“That track is special to me because I’m trying to explore within and find out who I am as an artist and what sounds amazing to me,” he says. “To not have specific guidance from another artist is liberating. I’m creating instrumentals and atmospheres that feel a part of me, and of part of the concept I’m creating for the overall ‘Data’ project, but things that I have never explored before. Having Rauw in the studio and finding that this track resonated with him is a bonus — really cool. He saw my vision.”
As for “Data,” Tainy’s solo full-artist album debut, while “Sci-Fi” and its spaced-out vibe will certainly be part of the album project he believes will be out before 2022’s end (“and with many people you’d expect and many you could never imagine”), so much more of the album will be radical and unexpected. “I’m more than halfway there, and this month, I just need to be able to get a lot of the vocals that I need to touch up some of the tracks,” says Tainy, without saying who will do that singing for the rest of the album. “I want to do things that I haven’t done yet… just lay it all out.”
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