Ruben Santos of Cinq Music on being an A&R pioneer for Latin Trap, working alongside Daddy Yankee and more


Welcome to our Editorial Series for Music Industry Discussions, where we cover topics related to the Latin music industry and the players behind it.

New year means new discussions on the music industry! This time around, we spoke to Ruben Santos, Vice President of Artist and Repertoire (A&R) Latin America for Cinq Music. Ruben was instrumental in the rise of Latin Trap and worked alongside Daddy Yankee, Natanael Cano, De La Ghetto, Natti Natasha and other artists.

Ruben spoke with mitú how he started his career in music and where he envisions Latin music in the near future.

How did you start your career in music?

Ruben santos: My career in music began in 2000 at Penn State University, where I was part of a fraternity known worldwide as the Sigma Lambda Beta. We have organized events for the student community. After I graduated a few friends and I coordinated our first gig with bachata artist Toby Love. This gig turned out to be a huge success not only because it was our first big gig, but it also placed our names in bigger venues that we had no idea they lined up for all of us.

Our second concert followed a year later. We did it with an artist that at the time I linked to his movement under the name De La Ghetto. His style of music seemed different to me. Being born and raised in Puerto Rico and listening to reggaeton, when I moved to the United States to study high school and college in Pennsylvania, I immediately embraced hip hop culture. When I first heard of her music, I connected to her instantly because it felt like the two worlds came together, from hip-hop to R&B and reggaeton sounds. Dress style was a game-changer in many ways for a young child living in Puerto Rico and now living in Pennsylvania. So we decided to reach for the stars in the hopes that he would agree to perform on our stage and he did so alongside Alex Kyza. They were completely in disbelief that a group of young men had organized such a well-marketed and organized event. It wasn’t long after we all became friends which caused them to ask me to start helping them with their daily business opportunities and the rest was history.

Read: Music Industry Discussions: Behind the Rise of Latin R&B on Spotify

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments so far?

Ruben Santos: My greatest accomplishments in the music industry have been to gain full respect for the main pillars of the industry, also known as the drivers behind artists. Such as Raphy Pina of Pina Records, Elias De Leon of White Lion Records, Jimmy Humilde of Rancho Humilde, Robert Fernandez of Mr. 305, Carlos “Spiff TV” Suarez and Egbert “Fino Como El Haze” Rosa to name a few some.

What does it mean to you to be a part of the rise of Reggaeton and Latin Trap in the music industry?

Ruben santos: It’s a vision to say the least come true, especially for Latin Trap. It was a genre that was never really accepted at first. To pay homage to all the merit, Latin Trap, Latin R&B and Reggaeton have joined forces with De La Ghetto and Alex Kyza. I remember vividly that in 2010, it was impossible to try and play Alex Kyza’s mixtape, “Traficando Man” on a radio station, as well as De La’s “Boss of the Block” mixtape. Ghetto.

The radio stations were not fans of it at all just because it was “too street”. We also brought urban Latin R&B, where it became more accepted. During our tours around the world, we never gave up on Latin trap hymns such as Botin De Guerra, Jala Gatillo and Muero Por Los Míos. Today we have seen so much global growth and acceptance of the genre.

Can you share any anecdotes about the artists and your career?

Ruben Santos: Early in my career working with De La Ghetto and Alex Kyza, I remember always talking about crazy ideas back then, like creating spinoffs, world tours, bringing a cameraman everywhere to record our movements. Slowly but surely, these crazy ideas came true. We created the commodity; we did two world tours, YouTube and Instagram came in and we were able to go from MySpace to YouTube and upload our tour footage. It has helped us tremendously to connect with the fans and develop the Latin Trap movement.

As I sat down with Elias, Sinfónico and Siggy when they introduced me to their new artist Darell, I immediately told Barry, the president of Five, that we had to bring this project to Five. And now Darell is a globally recognized artist. His first album “La Verdadera Vuelta” is certified Album d’Or by the RIIA and it is distributed by Cinq.

When Raphy Pina called me to tell me that he wanted to prove to Natti Natasha that he could rock his music like no one else, I told him to count on me and we immediately started working on his channel. YouTube with the release of “Otra Cosa” with Daddy Yankee, and then we edited the music video for his most decorated world release, “Criminal” with Ozuna. Pina Records and Natti’s channel recently received the Diamond Creator Award from YouTube. It’s a testament to the good work our team has done within the YouTube space.

But the one that will always hold my heart was being in the green room of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in New York alone with Raymond “Daddy Yankee” Ayala on the occasion of the anniversary of my mother’s death and thanking for by checking off one of his music list items, which was the collaboration between Janet Jackson and himself. Knowing that I did it was definitely a highlight of my career.

Read: Music industry talks: The rise of Mexican regional and women-run Latin music stations in Pandora

What can you tell us about your work with Cinq Music?

Ruben Santos: Working for Cinq Music was truly fate at its best. Barry Daffurn and I crossed paths in Puerto Rico in 2016, after I left music from 2012 to 2016. It was thanks to Siggy Vasquez for asking me to come to the studio and help him negotiate a project with Barry since I was fluent. English. Barry and I connected and after many conversations about his vision for the brand, I felt I could help make that vision a reality. Fast forward to 2021 and we were able to accomplish things that the big labels can’t even imagine. Working at Cinq Music is a fun environment. I always try to enjoy the time spent with the team. We all feel like family, but when it comes time to get down to business and get things done, I will pit my team against anyone in the industry.

Where do you see Latin music in the next 5-10 years?

Ruben santos: As Latin music continues to engage more deeply in more and more territories across the world, I see a fusion coming with other genres across the world, such as Guaracha, K-Pop, Afro- beats, Punjabi, among others.

Any advice for singers who want to make a name for themselves in the Latin music industry?

Ruben Santos: First of all, my advice will be to learn the business side of the music industry. I love when an artist writes their own music with feelings and is able to tell a story. How important is it to deliver a story that allows fans to instantly connect with the entire production, from the lyrics to the beat.

Read: Music Industry Discussions: Warner Chappell Latin’s International Songwriting Camps Bridge K-Pop to Latin Music

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