Bad Bunny’s “nadie sabe lo que vas a pasar mañana,” an Homage to Puerto Rico, Is His Best Album Yet

Getty/Photo by Christopher Polk/Billboard

Bad Bunny has a thing for surprise drops. But prior to the surprise drop of “nadie sabe lo que va a pasar mañana,” there were a lot of questions floating around. The obvious one was whether 2023 would come and go without a Bad Bunny release. But there were other poignant questions for Latine fans, too, like whether Bad’s relationship with Kendall Jenner would affect his music – and whether he’d forgotten his roots and gone pop. And if the album, which was released on Oct. 13 at midnight, is anything to go by, Bad Bunny heard the whispers and has answered with a forceful “Oh, you must not know who I am?”

“nadie sabe lo que va a pasar mañana” is a resounding middle finger of a project that sees Bad Bunny taking his critics and haters to task over some of the hardest trap beats he’s rhymed over since “YHLQMDLG.” If Bad’s previous release, “Un Verano Sin Ti,” was a love letter to Caribbean music and island party vibes, his latest is a return to harsher form and a return to the streets of Puerto Rico. If you thought he went pop. If you thought he fell off. If you thought he got soft. This album is especially for you.

The intro track “NADIE SABE” sees Bad rapping over swelling instrumental strings with minimal snare or base. It puts all the focus on Bad’s voice, specifically his lyrics. This is less a song and more the 29-year-old savant speaking directly to his fans and critics alike. And bars like, “Es verdad no soy trapero ni reggaetonero / yo soy la estrella más grande en el mundo entero” (it’s true, I’m not a trap star nor a reggaeton star/I’m the biggest star in the whole world) only add to the gravitas of the track, making it clear that Don Benito is not going to let anybody talk down about what he’s achieved as an artist. But as big as he has become, he also leaves space for his compatriots to make their own mark on the game and on this album.

With 22 tracks overall, el conejo malo shares more than a few with trap legends as well as rising stars of the new generation. “Thunder y Lightning” calls in stylistic maestro and Puerto Rican hip-hop star Eladio Carrion to go bar for bar over a sinister drill beat. Bryant Myers lends his gravelly voice to help elevate “Seda” – which, without his presence, would be a smooth but basic trap ballad.

While Bad has a few songs like this, which tackle topics of lost loves and failed relationships, at its heart, “nadie sabe lo que va a pasar mañana” is an album that is at its best when it fully leans into the malianteo side of the genre. “TELÉFONO NUEVO” and “MERCEDES CAROTA” do just that, featuring two of the hardest spitters out right now: Luar La L and Yvng Chimi, respectively. Luar’s verse on “TELÉFONO NUEVO” is a stand out on an album filled with punchlines and lyrical flexing, delivered with a kind of violent pitch that few can match.

But over the course of 22 songs, there are bound to be a few missteps. And funnily enough, they come when Bad strays from the trap formula he’s established on this album. “PERRO NEGRO” is a pretty basic club perreo that ultimately comes off as too similar to some of the artist’s reggaetón classics to exceed them in any way. The second, more traditional reggaetón song on the album, “Un Preview,” fares much better and feels more authentic.

But while it would be easy to reduce “nadie sabe lo que va a pasar mañana” as simply Bad’s return to the trap stylings for which he first achieved acclaim, it’s more than that. Yes, it’s a trap album, but from the verses to the beats, it transcends anything else that’s out there right now. That’s the secret to Bad Bunny’s success. Everybody wants to sound like him, to capture that sound. But when he drops what he drops, he sounds like nothing anybody is doing. And even more than that is the simple fact that he knows what he’s doing.

Bad Bunny is digging through the crates of Puerto Rican music to show that reggaetón and trap are more than a sound or a style; they are a culture and history. Even before it was called reggaetón, it was a feeling that the pioneers channeled into song. That is the tradition Bad Bunny continues to uphold, and it comes across clearly in the album’s use of samples.

A long-standing tradition in hip-hop and the early days of reggaetón, “nadie sabe lo que va a pasar mañana” generously reaches back through the ages to give new life to bygone eras and yesterday’s hits. But it’s also more than a nostalgia trip. Pulling almost exclusively from reggaetón’s extensive catalog, Bad Bunny is making a statement about the depth of the urbano movement and the hand Puerto Rico has played in crafting it.

“FINA” is an absolute banger – it features Young Miko and samples the legendary Tego Calderon and his 2002 hit “Pa’ Que Retozen.” “NO ME QUIERO CASAR” retools the main melody of another Calderón song, his duet with Yandel, “La Calle Me Lo Pidió,” pairing it with an intro and outro that honors underground pioneers Maicol and Don Chezina, respectively.

And then there’s “ACHO PR.” Sampling Voltio’s 2005 banger “Chevere” and featuring verses from Nengo Flow, De la Ghetto, and Arcangel, it’s an ode to life on the island, its people, and the humble roots that went on to birth a global superstar.

Yes, Bad Bunny is addressing his haters on this album. Yes, he’s relishing his superstar status and comparing himself to Madonna and Rihanna. But for Boricuas especially, it’s so much more than that. In the same way “Un Verano Sin Ti” paid homage to Caribbean genres across the region, “nadie sabe lo que va a pasar mañana” pays homage to Puerto Rico itself. Bad Bunny understands that his success is intrinsically linked to those who came before him, as well as the surroundings and musical history that inspired him to first pick up a pen. He understands that, before everyone loved reggaetón, they were saying every song sounded the same, and that it all had the same beat. He understands that before it was reggaetón, it was called underground, and before that it was called dembow, and before that it was called rap y reggae. He understands that when nobody outside of the island was listening, his idols were making music that played with genre and broke the formulas so now he is free to do that in an even bigger way. Listen to De La Ghetto’s “Massacre Musical.” Listen to Arcangel’s “El Fenomeno.” Listen to the old Playero tapes and you will see the groundwork that allows us to have a Bad Bunny.

Bad is more than a reggaetonero, more than trapero, more than a pop star: he is a representative of an island that continues to innovate and evolve music like it’s nobody’s business – an island that has had a direct hand in creating salsa, hip hop, reggaetón, and might very well have a hand in creating whatever genre comes next. He is a reminder that no matter how big reggaetón or trap gets, how mainstream it becomes, how many countries create their own subgenre, we all know where the crown will rest. And with his latest album, with all the eyes on him, waiting for him to slip up, he delivers some of his best work yet.

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