The diss track is ubiquitous in music, and it’s an especially common fixture in reggaeton. The genre, which flourished in Puerto Rico’s underground in the Nineties, drew heavily on hip hop and dancehall, two genres in which feuds between artists and crews erupt regularly. In reggaeton, those influences, along with the realities of organized crime lurking around the industry, gave rise to the tiraera (call it “tiradera” at your own risk). A slang term for diss tracks, tiraeras became almost like a rite of passage for artists who wanted to prove themselves to fans and show off their street cred to maximize their growing fame.
As reggaeton gained momentum in the early aughts, new tiraera songs became as highly anticipated as professional wrestling matches. Fans would wait excitedly to hear artists like Arcángel and Franco El Gorila battling it out lyrically; choose sides whenever pioneers Eddie Dee, Julio Voltio, and Tego Calderón got into it with rappers Lito & Polaco; and listen as friends-turned-enemies Don Omar and Héctor El Father launched barbs at each other over the airwaves. But it’s the bellicose rapper Tempo who might hold the title as the undisputed tiraera heavyweight, having traded vocal blows with a lot of Puerto Rico’s major artists and leaving classic takedown tracks like “Conozcan Otra Parte de Mí” in his legendary wake.
Tiraeras, like most things in the digital age, have continued to evolve today, with some diehard fans lamenting that the music has lost the hard-hitting ferociousness that characterized its early days. In recent years, artists like Anuel AA brought back some old school energy with infamous tiraeras launched at the rapper Cosculluela. The ever-aggressive Residente (more on him later) has frequently taken aim at peers and even government and law enforcement figures. The most unlikely artists have been swept up in the moment, too: After bickering online, Jhayco and Rauw Alejandro channeled their hostility into back-to-back songs and even a music video last year, going at each other and barely holding back.
Social media has brought a new dimension to these battles, and 2022 showed us just how personal they can get. This year, when spats between artists like Daddy Yankee and Don Omar exploded, they reflected decades-long tensions that have simmered between some of the biggest names in the genre. As reggaeton has grown and become a global phenomenon, the commercial strategies and ambitions of some artists have also led to irritations and provocations, like when Residente went after J Balvin and made fun of the easily consumed, pop-oriented style of music he’s used to take over the charts. Other feuds reflect the uglier sides of the industry, including the rampant homophobia and transphobia that Cosculluela’s attack on Villano Antillano and Tokischa brought to the forefront a few months ago.
Despite the spectacle of it all, the one thing that never changes is the gripping energy of these feuds when they go public. Below are some of the biggest blow-ups of 2022 that can be best expressed by Héctor & Tito in a now-classic tiraera: “Si quieres la guerra, pues voy” (“If you want war, let’s go.”)
Residente vs. J Balvin
J Balvin and Residente’s professional relationship has been contentious, to say the least. In an interview with Rolling Stone en Español, Residente revealed that the first time they ever met, Balvin mocked him for not having bigger Spotify hits, instantly sparking animosity. Tensions boiled over in 2021, when J Balvin spoke out after the Latin Grammys that November, implying that his music — and reggaeton in general — had been overlooked by the Latin Recording Academy. He suggested reggaeton artists boycott the awards ceremony, but woefully miscalculated how much support he’d receive. Residente fired back and referred to Balvin as a hypocrite, then compared his talent to cheap street food. (“Your music is like a hot dog cart… a lot of people like them, but when they want to eat well they go to a restaurant,” he said in a scathing Instagram video).
After the two of them went back-and-forth for a while, things seemed to finally cool down – until this March, when Residente hopped on Bizarrap’s freestyle show and unloaded about Balvin for eight minutes straight. Whatever armistice had existed up until then was over. Residente mocked Balvin for making children’s movie soundtracks, lambasted him for issuing a half-hearted statement after protests broke out in his native Colombia, and even insinuated that he’d exploited his own mental health struggles to promote a documentary released on Amazon Prime.
But Residente’s most cutthroat line came when he used Balvin’s own words against him and called him a racist: He brought up a 2021 interview Balvin did in which he claimed that he finally felt represented by reggaeton when he saw Daddy Yankee, who he perceived as white (Daddy Yankee’s father is Black.) To many, the comment reflected the broader whitewashing of the genre, and showed how Balvin had capitalized on that erasure to become a star. Residente took that opportunity to educate Balvin, in no uncertain terms, about how Black Latinos have a steeper hill to climb in the increasingly white genre, naming Black artists such as Myke Towers, ChocQuibTown, Sech, Don Omar, and his close friend Tego Calderón in solidarity. It was a nuclear missive that effectively deaded the rivalry; J Balvin’s only response was a tweet that said “amor y cariño” (“love and affection”).
Don Omar vs. Raphy Pina and Daddy Yankee
Don Omar, the “King,” and Daddy Yankee, the “Big Boss,” have had a rivalry that stretches back to one of reggaeton’s peak in the 2000s, when they were both reigning stars. The specific reasons their feud began isn’t exactly known and reasons seem to vary wildly, but some have speculated it has to do with behind-the-scenes pettiness that intensified over competing opportunities and features on songs. Still, most contemporary peers and fans agree that the animus mostly had to do with clashing egos.
Daddy Yankee and Don Omar put their differences aside long enough to record some well-received collabs over the last several years and even launched a joint tour together in 2016. However, their conficts surfaced again when Don Omar sat down for a bombshell interview with El Chombo in October. Don Omar let it all out: He accused Daddy Yankee’s close associate, the music manager Raphy Pina, of working with Daddy Yankee’s team to undermine his part of the 2016 tour. According to Don Omar, his sound equipment was disconnected under suspicious circumstances just before he went onstage after Daddy Yankee at a tour stop in Las Vegas. He maintains it was onstage sabotage that Daddy Yankee had a role in, and it spurred him to drop out of the tour. He also accused Pina and Daddy Yankee of buying off newspapers to favorably review Daddy Yankee’s part of the show.
Pina, who is currently serving a three-year prison term, and Daddy Yankee, who is winding down his retirement tour, both pushed back. Pina’s team published a video on YouTube in which Pina spoke up from prison and shot down the allegations, saying Don Omar only had himself to blame if he felt the tour didn’t go well. “You did not rehearse your show. You didn’t prepare yourself like the other guy did,” he said. Yankee decided to take a page out of Don Omar’s book and did his own radio appearance, appearing on the Dominican music program Alofoke RadioShow to share his side. According to him, Don Omar quit on his own volition because he couldn’t handle the fact that people were more enthusiastic about Yankee’s performances than his during the tour. While their frustrations might have made it into the music in the past, the squabble reflects how these days, accusations are made in an interview chair instead of inside a recording booth.
Villano Antillano vs. Omy de Oro and Cosculluela
Reggaeton has made some strides toward inclusivity, with more queer artists taking the mic and making space in the genre. However, there are still struggles combating homophobia and transphobia. We saw this earlier in the year, after Villano Antillano and Tokischa made out with each other and several audience members during a liberated show at a San Juan nightclub. Both artists have been vocal about their queer identity: Villano has been a public trans figure who’s advocated for her community, while Tokischa is fond of breaking taboos in her songs. The rapper Omy de Oro immediately reacted with scorn, uploading an Instagram story expressing how critical he was of the two artists and said he couldn’t get behind their performance. (“Fans and artists that support this can unfollow me,” he wrote.) Cosculluela, a rap veteran who has spent over a decade singing about drug deals and violent attacks against his rivals, stood with Omy, accusing Tokischa and Villano of setting a “bad example” for young listeners while also using a Puerto Rican gay slur to describe them.
His comments were ridiculous, and they were met with the appropriate amount of anger. Villano spoke out fiercely, tweeting that she didn’t need his support or permission to live her life on her own terms. She also took some time to educate people about the realities of being a trans artist in a historically misogynistic genre: She pointed out the number of death threats she received once Cosculluela began ranting about her sexuality. In a video shortly after, the rising star — whose album La Sustancia X was among this year’s best records — said she was ready to move on from irrelevant, attention-seeking artists (“It was about lesbians, babe! Y’all were not even invited to begin with,” she said.) Fans and other artists soon began rallying around her, illustrating how sick and tired many people of dealing with homophobic tirades and close-minded crybabies — a hopeful sign that the genre is evolving.
Residente vs. Cosculluela
Residente and Cosculluela have never seemed to like each other, but their animosity had never gone beyond a few catty comments and light jabs (like when Residente threw light shade at Coscu on the song “Adentro” from Calle 13’s 2014 album Multi_Viral.) All that changed when Residente publicly backed Tokischa and Villano Antillano after Omy de Oro and Cosculluela decided to target them with homophobic comments. Residente showed what side he was on by taking a cheeky selfie with Tokischa in which they both appear licking a photo of Villano Antillano.
In late August, Cosculluela hit back with “#RenéRenuncia”, a six-minute rap blasting the former Calle 13 frontman and adding some unnecessary transphobia in there to take things even further. Two days later Resident replied with his own track, “Cosquillita,” in which he called Cosculluela out for a bunch of things, including his street posturing despite coming from an upper-class privileged background. (In a funnier turn, he also mocked his questionable haircut.) He made sure to give fans the kind of insider tea they live for, revealing that Cosculluela allegedly apologized to him after Residente confronted him in person a while back, a move intended to emasculate and take power away from the bravado Cosculluela projects in his songs. Together, the two tracks amassed 22 million plays on YouTube, proving that even as time passes and context changes, fans will still show up for a good old-fashioned dust-up between two seasoned lyricists.