The remix to Nio García, Casper Mágico and Darell’s “Te Boté,” a seven-minute, stubbornly skeletal reggaeton single, is a massive hit in the U.S. this year — especially when you consider that the entire thing is rapped and sung in Spanish. In the harsh world of the Hot 100, dominated by hip-hop streaming sensations and pop stars with major-label budgets, “Te Boté” climbed all the way to Number 36. No English? No problem.
This song is so spare it makes minimalism seem decadent: Two sets of two piano notes and blunt, grimy drums that are as crass and un-feeling as the broken-hearted rappers. The lyrics to “Te Boté” are juvenile and mean — more or less, I loved you, you hurt me, and now I hate you. (English language hits with similar messages might include CeeLo Green’s “Fuck You” and Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You.”) Both the music and the sentiments are unfriendly. But that hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the biggest all-Spanish reggaeton hits in over a decade.
“Te Boté” was created in 2017 under grim circumstances. Mágico was struggling to find direction after a previous stint in jail. “When I first came out of prison, I had absolutely nothing,” he says, speaking through a translator. And Hurricane Maria, a deadly storm that’s now estimated to have killed nearly 3,000 people, was raging. “There was no communication, electricity, water or food to buy,” says García, also speaking through a translator.
In the last few years, Latin trap acts like Anuel AA and Bryant Myers have dominated Puerto Rican popular music. But in the middle of the hurricane, the team behind “Te Boté” decided they wanted to make something more fast-paced than trap. “The situation we were in affected us significantly because there was no communication — we were in darkness, in a depression, and we wanted something that would move people,” García explains. “Trap was already over-saturated, and we didn’t want to make more of the same,” adds Mágico.
They went through “seven or eight” different possibilities before settling on the final version of the ruthless “Te Boté” beat. The gaunt instrumental shifts the listener’s focus to the voices. In the original version, Darell, gravelly and gruff, handles the first verse, then Mágico, seemingly devoid of emotion, takes over for the second leg, while García delivers the final verse with light melodic inflections. When your beat includes just four notes, you don’t need much besides a three-syllable hook: The title phrase — which translates to “I dumped you” — repeated twice to create a pleasing symmetry with the doubled piano riff.
The original version of “Te Boté” was well received in Puerto Rico: “The people made it theirs,” Mágico says. Puerto Rico is a small island, and established stars in “urban” music — those who make reggaeton and trap — often keep their ears open, looking for artistic sparks to fan into flames. A few years ago, those sparks were Ozuna and Bad Bunny; now it was their turn to embrace up-and-comers. Ozuna heard “Te Boté” and fell for it instantly; he messaged Mágico on Instagram asking to record a verse for a new version. Bad Bunny joined the team with help from DJ Luian, the well-connected former DJ for the reggaeton star Arcángel. He was followed by Nicky Jam, who came aboard to represent the first generation of crossover reggaeton artists.
“They gave it life and made it grand,” Darell says solemnly. “I am grateful to each one of them.”
Once the remix came out, “Te Boté” was as close as you get to a sure thing in the music business. “The guys had a hit by themselves,” says DJ Eddie One, who handles the daily 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. slot for Los Angeles’ Mega 96.3. “But having the big-leaguers, that helped that song go to the next level.” Ozuna and Bad Bunny are so popular that they amassed more than 30 hits between them in 2017; Nicky Jam has also been a constant presence on the charts in recent years. Sure enough, their verses helped the remix reach Number Two on Latin radio, where it’s been omnipresent for five months, and on the Hot Latin Songs chart, which takes into account streaming and sales, it climbed to Number One.
The rise of “Te Boté” has kickstarted the careers of all three original performers. Darell signed a record deal — he did not say where — and appears on the remix to Enrique Iglesias’ and Pitbull’s “Move to Miami.” He is also preparing his debut album, Everybody Go to the Discotek. García is working on a solo project as well.
Maybe no one has benefitted from the ubiquity of “Te Boté” as much as Mágico. He’s working on a slew of solo songs that he wants to be family-friendly: “The time has come for me to clean up my lyrics,” he says. “I wanted to do something for the kids to hear.” Perhaps more important, “I now have a way to put food on the table without having to search for opportunities on the streets, without having to do things I don’t want to do,” he adds. “We made a song that was born from ruin, just out of nothing. And now, from one day to the next, the whole world knows us.”
On their own terms, too: “Te Boté” defies convention, even in the highly regimented world of radio. “It’s one of the only times that a seven minute-long song gets to play on the air,” DJ Eddie One says. “That’s the time it takes three songs to play! The funny thing is, we made a shorter version, but we started getting complaints — ‘We want to hear the whole thing!'” So he plays every second of the single.
“Te Boté” has also changed the sound of mainstream Latin music. Already you can hear similar drums in Brytiago and Darell’s “Asesina,” which is Top 20 and climbing on the Hot Latin Songs chart. Ozuna also channeled the beat on his own “Tu Olor,” a song from Aura, the Latin album that sold more first-week copies in the U.S. than any other this year. Another “Te Boté” remix is on the way that will, in theory, feature Jennifer Lopez.
Even more impressive, this single — along with J Balvin and Nicky Jam’s “X,” another all-Spanish hit that made it to Number 41 — has helped prove what many listeners already suspected: English-language features on songs in Spanish are cute, but increasingly irrelevant. Spanish-speaking artists no longer need to be validated by Anglo stars to find mainstream success in the U.S.
The significance of this is not lost on García. Just as Ozuna, Bad Bunny and Nicky Jam helped him reach a global audience for the first time, he is hoping to do the same for other Puerto Rican artists who are currently unknown. “‘Te Boté’ is a door that is open,” he says. “We’re opening the way for younger kids who are just starting out. ‘Te Boté’ is our blessing — and a blessing to many more new acts from our island.”