Ramón Ayala, better known by his professional name Daddy Yankee, was born on February 3, 1977, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His childhood dream was to become a Major League Baseball player, but his dreams were shattered at the age of seventeen when he was caught in the crossfire of a street fight. He was shot twice, with one of the bullets hitting him in the leg and leaving him with a permanent limp. After his injury, he would focus on his other passion: music. Specifically, the underground rap community that was developing in Puerto Rico.
Ayala studied with many other musicians, using elements from their music but seeking to create his own unique style. This underground community was using rap and other musical genres to create a new style of music that would come to be known as reggaetón. Ayala released him first album, No Mercy, in 1995 to little success. After a short partnership with Nicky Jam, he would continue his solo career with El Cartel and El Cartel II in 2000 and 2001.
But it wasn’t until his 2002 album, El Cangri.com, that Daddy Yankee would find international success. The single Latigazo received much air time on American radio stations. The success of this album coincided with the rising popularity of reggaetón, which saw the release of popular albums from Luny Tunes, Don Omar, and Tego Calderon.
Daddy Yankee’s success, and that of reggaetón as a whole, would continue with the 2004 release, Barrio Fino. The album sold over 500,000 copies in the United States and won numerous awards. Daddy Yankee would become one of the most recognized Latin music artists in 2005 as the awards for Barrio Fino rolled in. They included wins at the Premio Lo Nuestro and Latin Billboard awards as well as nominations at the Latin Grammy and MTV Music Awards for the hit single Gasolina. His rise in popularity was highlighted when he was named one of the 100 most influential people for 2006 by Time magazine.
Daddy Yankee’s latest album, El Cartel: The Big Boss, was released in 2007 and included the hit single Impacto. Billboard magazine ranked it as the top-selling album in all Latin music genres for that year, an amazing feat for an album from a reggaetón artist. But Daddy Yankee considered this album to be a return to hip-hop roots, and it also incorporated other genres. In addition, Ayala also collaborated with artists will.i.am, Neli, Fergie, and Akon, among others. Daddy Yankee also boasted that the album sold more copies than new releases from Latin music greats Juan Luis Guerra and Juanes, proving that a reggaetón artist could compete with other more traditional Latin music genres.
Daddy Yankee has proven himself to be an enterprising music artist, taking on multiple projects in the business, acting, and philanthropic worlds. He has hosted a syndicated radio show and appeared in a Pepsi advertising campaign. He is also an actor and producer, appearing in the lead role of the Puerto Rican film Vampiros and producing and acting in Talento de Barrio, a film loosely based on Ayala’s experiences growing up in the barrio. Daddy Yankee also co-owns El Cartel Records and founded a charitable organization called Fundación Corazón Guerrero to help youths and ex-convicts.
Ayala married at the age of seventeen to Mireddys González. The couple lives in Puerto Rico with their three children.