Anuel AA is one of the most influential figures in the Latino music industry. Born Emmanuel Gazmey Santiago, the 27-year-old is considered one of the founding fathers of Latin trap music. With millions of followers on social media and an astronomical number of views on YouTube, Anuel AA's star power is undeniable.

On July 19, Anuel dropped his latest track,"China" featuring Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna and J Balvin. The song samples Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me" and has garnered 43 million views on YouTube in just three days. Last week, the Puerto Rican superstar won three awards at the 2019 Premios Juventud. The accolades don't stop there; in April he won Best New Artist at the 2019 Billboard Awards.

Having appeared on tracks alongside the likes of 6ix9ine, Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj, it was only right for Anuel AA to drop by the XXL office to chat all things rap. He discusses why he relates to Meek Mill, working with Gucci Mane and 2019's hip-hop song of the summer.

XXL: Your new single, "China," samples Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me." Why did you choose that sample for your new song?

Anuel AA: I was trying to redo a classic for the club. I started listening to a lot of old songs. When I heard [“It Wasn’t Me”], I was like, That’s the one that was a big hit back in the day.

I remember [the song from] when I was a little kid. Everybody used to listen to that in the clubs. When I used to go with the big boys in my hood to the club, they put that song on and everybody used to go crazy. I was like, this gotta be the song. Shaggy used to work a lot with Spanish artists, so I already knew it wasn’t going to be a problem with the release.

What was your introduction to hip-hop?

You probably won’t believe me because of my age, but to hip-hop, Tupac. I wanted to be like Tupac.

Where did you listen to him? Did someone put you on?

Yeah, my big sister and my big brother, they always used to listen to Tupac, Biggie [The Notorious B.I.G.], but always used to like Tupac more.

What's your favorite Tupac song?

“Ambitionz az a Rider."

Hip-hop and Latin trap artists have been collaborating more than ever. Why do you think that is?

It’s simple: Back in the day, American hip-hop was real big. It still is, but Spanish music wasn’t that big. Now, with time, [Spanish music] kept going. Music is a business. You ain’t gonna record with someone if it’s not business, if it ain’t gonna get you no money. Spanish trap and reggaeton got so big that it’s seen like a good business.

How did you end up on Meek Mill's "Uptown Vibes"?

I knew Meek since six years ago, before I was famous. At that time, Ross had just signed me to develop my career. It was different, though, because they dominated the English industry, not the Spanish [industry]. That’s how I met Meek. I used to see him when he dropped “I’ma Boss,” all those Dreamchaser mixtapes. I came back to Puerto Rico and all of a sudden I just blew up, but I got locked up. And I didn’t know anything about none of them ’til I came out. Meek was like, “Yo, what’s up with dude? He blew up, I need him for a song.” And we just did it.

So he looked for you?


You recently did a track with Gucci Mane, “Special,” how did that happen?

We just went to the studio. One of my close friends is real close with Gucci; he knows everybody I listen to in trap music. Gucci was the first big trap artist. So, he was asking me, “Yo, you wanna record with Gucci?” Without telling me he had already talked to Gucci and he showed Gucci my numbers. Gucci was like, “Tell that nigga to pull up.” When he told me I was like, Yeah, let’s get it. I went to the studio and we recorded two songs.

How was it working with him?

Everything was straight. We recorded fast, both of us. We killed two songs in an hour.

Gucci is known for recording non-stop.

When I pulled up he already had been there for like, five hours. He had already recorded like, four songs.

Ron Downes Jr. for XXL
Ron Downes Jr. for XXL

Who are your favorite hip-hop artists?

Meek Mill. I listen to what people say in the songs, not just the melodies. With rappers you gotta listen to what they say. And, Meek be talking some real shit. That’s why I look up to him.

Y’all have been through the same struggle, more or less.

Yeah, I identify myself with him. The lifestyle he had was the same lifestyle I used to have. Me, all the Puerto Ricans didn’t even understand English and just by seeing his lifestyle, everybody was looking up to him and admiring him. So, Meek.

Is Meek big in Puerto Rico?

Yeah, everybody know Meek. In the streets everybody know who he is.

Are there any other non-Latino rappers you'd like to collaborate with?

Post Malone.

Are you working on a new album?

Yeah, I’m working on a new album. We don’t know the date we gonna drop it but it’s gonna be this year. We already got all the songs. We just mixing and mastering. Waiting for the right moment to drop it.

Are you featuring any rappers on there?

Yeah, I’m supposed to meet up with Meek. He’s been on the tour, me too, so we haven’t been in the same city at the same time. If I put someone from the English music industry [on the album], I’ll put Meek or Post.

When you collaborate with rappers, are you usually in the studio with them or does it depend on the situation?

If we in the same city, we just pull up. At the level that Meek is, that I am, everybody busy working. So we just record separate.

You haven’t worked with Cardi B yet, right?

We follow each other, but, nah, we haven’t worked together.

Do you think that’s something that would be in the works for the future?

If it happens, it happens.

What do you think the hip-hop song of the summer is?

“Press” by Cardi B. For me, that’s the best English song that’s been dropped this summer.

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