When Ivy Queen first recorded “Yo Quiero Bailar” in 2002, both she and her lyrics were total anomalies in the Latin music industry. With a title translating to “I Want to Dance,” the sweltering reggaeton cut reclaimed the club for women and championed the freedom to dance — not to mention exist in the world — without owing men sexual favors. Ivy Queen’s rallying cry spoke to a generation of girls who preferred their perreo with affirmative consent; but for many more years, Ivy Queen would continue to find herself the only woman in the studio.
“I was surrounded by guys,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I started in this industry when it was very underground. I joined [founding reggaeton collective] The Noise, and we played our music from the trunk of a car. It was recorded in a DJ’s garage in Puerto Rico. But it wasn’t reggaeton when I got there; it was Spanish rap and reggae, [a bit] of dancehall, with our own drums and unique sounds. I am blessed to be a part of that evolution.
“But from the underground to the top,” she adds, “I was — and I am, and I’m still — the queen.”
Seventeen years after recording her anthemic hit, the Queen of Reggaeton has indeed sustained her reign over the increasingly popular genre. In February she dropped her total knockout of an EP, Llego La Queen, and in March she’ll receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the upcoming Premios Tu Música Urbano, Latin urban music’s first-ever awards show. Record-breaking Latina artists like Natti Natasha and Cardi B have directly cited Ivy Queen as an inspiration: “[‘Yo Quiero Bailar’] was one of the first reggaeton songs I ever listened to,” said Cardi, who became the first female solo rapper to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album this year.
In celebration of International Women’s Day this Friday, Ivy Queen has not only issued a new version of “Yo Quiero Bailar”; she’s fueled it with woman power every step of the way. In order to do so, she enlisted the help of three female resident engineers from Spotify’s EQL Residency, organized through the company’s Social Impact program. Rolling Stone met with the Queen and her subjects at New York’s Electric Lady Studios in February, as a crack team of women recorded, produced and mastered the song. (With a silk fan in one hand and the other at the keyboard, Ivy Queen’s producer and featured live performer Julio Cartagena was an exception.)
“Less than five percent of all audio professionals are women,” says Kerry Steib, Director of Social Impact at Spotify. Although the number has fluctuated roughly between five and 15 percent since 2004, women remain woefully underrepresented in the recording industry as a whole. “We wanted to use the resources that Spotify has to create a more open and inclusive ecosystem,” adds Steib.
The recording took place in a single day at Electric Lady, amid sumptuous psychedelic décor and relics from rock stars past — a studio space that Ivy Queen jokes is haunted by Jimi Hendrix. (“Hi Jimi!” she says, after she’s interrupted by a mysterious knock on the door. “Light a candle and he’ll behave,” she tells the Rolling Stone crew.)
Produced in the company of the Queen herself, the track was finessed by Spotify’s EQL resident engineers: London-based Ramera Abraham, Nashville-based Taylor Pollock and New York-based Jeanne Montalvo Lucar. “Yo Quiero Bailar” was also mastered by Emily Lazar, who made history this year as the first female mastering engineer to win a Grammy in Mastering, Non-Classical. “It’s a more comfortable workspace than most,” says Abraham.
“This is the first time I’m working with women [producers],” says Ivy Queen. “When I said that my whole crew is going to be girls, people said, ‘What? Producing? Working with the board?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, with a big-ass board! We know how to do that, what’s the problem?'”
“People in the industry treat [female producers] like a novelty,” says Montalvo. “They’ll say ‘Yeah girl, that’s dope!’ But it means more when they actually hire us!”
While the resulting 2019 version of “Yo Quiero Bailar” retains its classic bass-boosted strut, it also boasts a slinkier production, adorned with synthy flourishes that span far beyond its reggaeton roots.
“Ivy’s super feminist,” says Pollock. “Like us, when she started she was the only girl among guys. But she goes in knowing exactly what she wants, no apologies. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a woman work like that before.”
In the meantime, Ivy Queen has alluded to more collaborations with sisters in song.
“I’m going to perform at Primavera Sound in May,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I’m going straight up to Cardi. The fans want us to collaborate so bad. It has to happen. And if it doesn’t happen, I won’t hold a grudge or nothing. I’m glad she gave me my honors while I’m still alive. But Cardi — I’m coming for you in Barcelona!”