Amid Latin music’s latest explosion — powered by a concoction of sounds and styles — Carin León, Nicki Nicole and Maria Becerra have emerged as three of the industry’s vanguards. Over the last few years, these artists have risen to the top of their respective genres, becoming Billboard chart staples and achieving global success.
With León leading música Mexicana, Nicole Argentine trap and Becerra urban pop, all have taken new, more experimental paths while staying true to their essence. And now, they are ending the year at the top of their game — and setting the stage for the next crop of stars to follow.
With an undeniable swagger and a knack for penning hard-hitting rap verses, Nicole shines brightly in the crowded trap scene of her native Argentina. The 23-year-old wordsmith launched her career as a teenager, performing at freestyle rap competitions in her hometown. The exposure led her to sign with Argentine label Dale Play Records, an indie home to local hero turned global phenomenon Bizarrap. Nicole recorded a fiery session with the producer in 2019, which has earned over 200 million YouTube views. “That collaboration was key in my career,” Nicole says. “I’ve had many moments that have been pivotal — but I still think the best is yet to come.”
A few years ago, fresh off her debut album, Recuerdos, Nicole was still considered an emerging MC; today, she’s a bona fide hit-maker. She now boasts a number of star-studded collaborations, including the blockbuster hit “Pa’ Mis Muchachas” with Christina Aguilera, Becky G and Nathy Peluso, which scored record and song of the year nods at the 2022 Latin Grammys. While Nicole is a leading force in the trap genre, her last two albums, Parte de Mí (2021) and this year’s Alma, have showcased a more evolved and wide-ranging sound, including reggaetón, disco-pop and cumbia. “My next big goal is to keep connecting with my fans the way I was able to connect with them with Alma,” she says. “The way the fans embraced how open I was on that album and that I was able to represent myself authentically will always be a core memory for me.”
In the dynamic realm of Latin pop, Becerra’s musical fusion has resonated with an ever-expanding audience — and helped her earn the title of Visionary at Billboard’s inaugural Latin Women in Music gala in May. Whether crooning about the complexities of human relationships or celebrating self-confidence, she effortlessly genre-hops from pop to cumbia villera to bachata to reggaetón. Bestowed with the nickname “La Nena de Argentina” after her 2021 collaboration with Argentine trap star Cazzu, Becerra has also worked with prominent figures like Duki, J Balvin, Prince Royce and Los Ángeles Azules.
Hailing from Buenos Aires, the 23-year-old singer-songwriter burst onto the global Latin pop scene in 2019 with her EP 222 and released its follow-up, La Nena de Argentina, late last year. She has scored three entries on the Hot Latin Songs chart, including her Balvin collaboration “Qué Más Pues?,” and has also claimed two top 10 spots on Latin Airplay, with the No. 1 hit “Te Espero,” featuring Prince Royce, and “Éxtasis,” with Manuel Turizo. Most notably, she holds the record for the most entries by a woman on the Billboard Argentina Hot 100, with 43.
In August, Becerra signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music. And now, she says she is focused on “surpassing myself all the time — being a person who is always willing to learn, who innovates and delivers quality productions. For me, it is nonnegotiable to leave a mark in the world of music and to be a reference for future generations.”
León has established himself as one of Mexican music’s most versatile and eclectic artists today — and most in demand, too, even outside of música Mexicana, working with Maluma, Kany García and Camilo. The artist launched his solo career in 2018 following a stint as lead singer of Grupo Arranke. Since, he has helped to redefine what it means to be a regional Mexican act, singing over both R&B beats and a norteño accordion. With two career entries on the Billboard Hot 100 and 12 on Hot Latin Songs, León has already seen the fruits of his labor. But it was Colmillo de Leche — his breakup album that arrived in May and chronicled a period of personal and professional change, including a split from his longtime manager — that proved particularly pivotal.
“I was able to express musically what I was going through and see the connection it has had on people’s lives; I feel like the record can hold its own among music’s most sacred albums,” says León, 34. The set — which finds him dabbling in pop, bluegrass and flamenco — scored him his first top 10 on the Top Latin Albums chart. It was the first studio album released on the singer-songwriter’s own label, Socios Music, which he launched late last year in an effort to help develop new talent from his hometown of Hermosillo in Sonora, Mexico.
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