Ozuna, "El Negrito de Ojos Claros," Brings Afro-Latino Visibility to the Music Industry

Last week, Ozuna's sophomore album, Aura, dropped and Latinos everywhere got their perreo on to the sweet melodies of the Boricua-Dominican artist. The 19-track album has been in the works for the last year and features a bonus track that Ozuna says is "very special." "Besos Mojados" features reggaeton royalty RKM and Ken-Y, who brought classics to the genre like "Me Matas" and "Down" in the early 2000s.

Ozuna, has 10.1 million Instagram followers, is asserting his own reign over the genre. He'll entertain his subjects at the American Airlines Arena on Saturday, September 8. There will also be guest appearances by some of hottest artists in the reggaeton game. Ozuna says he'll tease his Instagram followers, but the possibility that Anuel and Nicky Jam, who call Miami home, will perform is high as both make appearances on Aura.

Aura's first single, "Unicá," topped Billboard's Latin Airplay and Latin Rhythm charts. His debut album, Odesia has been atop The Billboard's Top Latin Album chart for a total of 45 weeks, which is not far behind Gloria Estefan's Mi Tierra, the record-holder at 58 weeks. Aura is surely going to perform just as well, perhaps even surpassing Odesia's peak position on the Billboard 200 at number 22.

Like some of the OG's that came before him, such as Tego Calderón and El General, who paved the way for young black Latino artists, Ozuna is making space for aspiring Afro-Latino artists, He has broken records in the Latin American entertainment industry, which is often criticized by consumers for pushing Eurocentric beauty standards and not giving visibility to the Afro-Latinx community.

In May, music site Chart Data tweeted that the 26-year-old "is the artist with the highest daily average views on YouTube (19.3 million)." Ozuna also nabbed top honors for Latin Artist of the Year and Top Latin Album at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards. He was also recognized as the Best New Latin Artist at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

However, when it comes to his Afro-Latino background, Ozuna says he hasn't given the matter much thought. For him, talent supersedes race.

Still, last week, the VMAs gave the stage front and center to Colombian reggaeton star Maluma. But why not Ozuna? Given el negrito's long list of number-one singles and a new album that's guaranteed to shred more records, Ozuna might be the perfect ambassador for the genre.

"I can't say if I am pushing boundaries as a person of color or not because I've never stopped to analyze this, but it's a great point," Ozuna says. "I haven't stopped to think of how being Afro-Latino has helped my career, but it has complimented me being black with dreads because I'm not as common as everyone else."

One thing's for certain: Ozuna's career continues to explode, and this will be the third time in less than a year that he has toured the United States. His new album, Aura, features tracks with Cardi B, Romeo, Akon, Anuel, and Winsin y Yandel. His says listeners can look forward to his signature sound and messages, which include the struggles of la calle, building relationships, and loving God.

Ozuna has been one of the very few artists who has found a delicate and comfortable balance in being open about his faith while singing about one-night stands and jumping on cuts like "Te Boté," the Nio Garcia, Darell, and Casper Magico track about a bitter breakup. He says people understand the balance between being Christian and a musician, so they don't question his faith, which is real and a version the world can understand.

"I pray on my knees every night and thank God for my family, my career, and my supporters. I don't have to dress up or carry a bible to have faith," Ozuna says. "God is the reality of the world, even if I sing about topics that people may not think are godly. That's why it's called art."

Ozuna. 8 p.m. Saturday, September 8, at American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; aaarena.com. Tickets cost $39 to $199 via ticketmaster.com.