Daddy Yankee Focuses "Talento" On Movies

Daddy Yankee in a publicity photo from 2008. El Cartel Records

Daddy Yankee was the first reggaeton star to successfully bring his music into the U.S. mainstream. Now, with his new movie "Talento De Barrio," he wants to be the first reggaeton star to be a success on the big screen.

"I'm very excited about this project because a lot of people have done this before in the Anglo market, but I'm opening doors in the Latino market," the singer/rapper, whose real name is Ramon Ayala, told CBSNews.com.

Ayala produced the movie, in which he stars as Edgar Dinero, a young man who tries to hide his barrio roots from the woman he loves. The movie follows his struggles to break his ties to a violent underworld and start a new life.

Like his character, Ayala grew up in San Juan and witnessed his share of violence. He insists that the film is not biographical, although he can relate to the character he plays.

"I saw all the things [the character] goes through in the movie, basically, in my life," Ayala said. "Those are the things we go through in the barrio in Puerto Rico."

Fans are used to seeing Ayala swaggering through music videos in his Daddy Yankee persona, but he said they're going to see a new side to him in the movie.

"It's the first time that people are going to see me crying," he said. "That was a new thing for me. It was a little tough, but then I got an acting coach and I learned a couple of [things] and it worked."

One thing the fans won't get is a love scene.

"Not yet, not in this movie," laughed Ayala. "Honestly I wasn't ready. I'm a rookie as an actor. So I was trying to separate the character from my musical career, but it was a little tough at the beginning. In your first movie you've got to show the world you can act, then people are going to be focusing on you as an actor, not just as a singer."

Ayala contributed his musical skills by recording and producing the movie's soundtrack.

"We created a whole new Daddy Yankee album around the movie," he said. "So basically the movie inspired me to write a whole new album."

The album's first single, "Pose," is currently No. 1 on the Billboard Latin Rhythm Airplay chart.

Ayala was the first reggaeton artist to gain widespread notice on U.S. pop and urban radio when he was featured on the 2004 remix of rapper N.O.R.E.'s "Oye Mi Canto." He quickly followed that up with the hit single "Gasolina," which reached No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Since then he's been a platinum-seller worldwide, parlaying his popularity into several businesses including a clothing line, a Reebok endorsement contract, a record label and a men's fragrance set to launch in November.

"I'm involved with all my projects in all areas," he said. "I worked on the cologne from the beginning through manufacturing. Then, we took more than 100 women to start smelling the cologne and the girls approved it, so I'm pretty sure the girls will like it."

He described the fragrance as "a little citrusy, more 'island,' that represents my Caribbean sense."

Ayala also makes time to give back to his community through his foundation, Corazon Guerrero. One program gives college scholarships to inmates in juvenile detention centers. The foundation is working with an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, and it is funding the rebuilding of schools in Colombia, Bolivia and Guatemala.

Although he usually doesn't discuss his personal life in interviews, he did say that his children aren't fazed by his music or acting careers.

"They don't see me as an actor, they don't see me as an artist. They just see me as a dad," he said. "They're very proud of everything I'm doing. Daddy works a lot. They have seen me helping everybody and giving back to the community, so they're learning a lot."

"Talento De Barrio" premieres at the New York International Latino Film Festival on Wednesday, July 23, and is set to open in the United States and Puerto Rico on Aug. 14.

By Judy Rosen
  • CBSNews

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