How Unhealthy Bunny’s Gender Fluidity Is Altering a Style

At this level, Unhealthy Bunny’s gender fluidity is just about widespread information. The rapper has made a profession out of upending inflexible gender constructs and transcending generationally held prejudices about what it means to be a person. So when he was introduced because the VMAs’ artist of the yr to a small crowd at my native bar, even the informal, non-Latinxs had some inkling of what the 28-year-old Puerto Rican artist has come to signify.

However quite than taking the stage to just accept his award within the Spanglish that has change into one thing of a trademark, Unhealthy Bunny made us anticipate. The digicam lower to Yankee Stadium, the place 1000’s of followers waited in screaming anticipation for the artist. When Unhealthy Bunny lastly took the stage, it was by means of the open doorways of a chapel, with an unknown bride in his arms. Because the opening chords of his hit music “Tití Me Preguntó” performed, he dropped his bride and picked up the mic, as if to acknowledge and subtly indict the heteronormative be aware on which the music’s video ended (for many who have not watched it, Unhealthy marries a light-skinned, cis Latinx lady who descends from the heavens). By the point the music completed, he’d made out with two of his backup dancers — one a girl and the opposite a person. And I, together with many of the remainder of the patrons on the bar, could not assist however smile. As a result of Unhealthy simply appears to do what he desires when he desires and brings the remainder of the world screaming together with him.

No surprise his second album was titled “Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana.” Benito Martinez Ocasio, higher identified to the world as Unhealthy Bunny, first got here to my consideration in 2016. A lifelong fan of Arcángel, I used to be intrigued by the light-skinned, tall child with the bassy voice on the heart of the “Tu No Vives Asi” video. It’s a far cry from Unhealthy’s extra mainstream hits, depicting a aspect of Puerto Rico not usually seen by outsiders. However at the same time as he raps with bravado about “making holes in individuals’s faces” whereas ATVs do burnouts on mission streets, the intangible air that will assist Unhealthy go from simply one other reggaetonero to a world phenomenon is already current. It is within the usually clumsy actions he would not care to cover and easy stream and voice that nestles delicate vulnerabilities in between cocksure rhymes. In a world of exaggerated swagger, onerous strains, and finger weapons, Unhealthy refuses to take himself too severely. And when difficult generationally held gender norms and prejudices, it is an strategy that has served him effectively.

Raised predominantly by a single mom, I usually discovered myself straddling the strains between masculine and female that Unhealthy disregards so casually. As usually as my mom painted her nails, she would paint mine with clear nail polish. She would let me put on her jewellery (huge cuff bracelets and bangles) and hand me down a few of her energy blazers and costume shirts (after eradicating the shoulder pads). However the older I bought, the much less acceptable these items grew to become. As soon as I bought to center and later highschool, I shortly realized that masculinity was forex.

That is the fact Latinx boys come of age in. Whereas patriarchal ideologies could be present in nearly each tradition and ethnicity, ours is rooted in a normalized machismo that rigidly enforces gender roles and glorifies dominance or “alpha” conduct. Deviation from socially acceptable norms is discouraged by means of teasing, ostracizing, and typically violence.

And but right here now we have Unhealthy — carrying attire, kissing males, and gracing the cowl of Attract with domino-style acrylics and a cascade of rhinestone tears beneath his eye. And he does it in a style that has traditionally propagated unhealthy attitudes about masculinity, pleasure, and honor. However how? Journalist and political activist Dr. Rosa Clemente thinks it is a signal of the occasions. “This era (millennials and Gen Z) is fed up with the previous methods,” she tells POPSUGAR. “They’re questioning every little thing. [Saying] I do not wish to be a ‘she.’ I do not wish to be a ‘he.’ I wish to be ‘they.’ I wish to be ‘them.'”

For Dr. Clemente, Unhealthy is consultant of the beliefs and values of his era. And it is sensible. Artists have all the time been capable of faucet into the zeitgeist, from the revolutionary and antiwar songs of ’60s rock to the socially acutely aware bars of ’90s hip-hop. Immediately’s millennial and Gen Z artists signify a era that has come of age in a globalized world the place totally different views are simply clicks away. There are not any givens. Gender, sexuality — it might probably all be challenged. However there’s one other crucial issue relating to Unhealthy’s enchantment, one which Dr. Clemente thinks might be crucial.

“He is genuine,” she says. Dr. Clemente factors to one in every of his newer movies as proof of this. “In the event you watch the video for ‘Titi Me Pregunto,’ in 4 minutes, it offers you his life story — our story, from the block in NYC to the bodegas, to the [Dominican presence]. It is his life.” It’s his life. One which shares elements with what so many Latinx children have skilled rising up. It is the bodegas; the overbearing, nosey family members; the block homies; the island. And this willingness to place himself on the market, all of himself, is as essential to his enchantment as it’s performative, with intention.

Immediately, the time period “performative” has change into shorthand for inauthentic. So it might sound contradictory to laud Unhealthy Bunny for being genuine after which name his actions performative moments later. However when Unhealthy performs carrying a skirt, or full-on switches genders like he does within the “Yo Perreo Sola” video, he understands the total attain of his platform and the ability of his phrases and actions. In brief, he is aware of the ability of efficiency. He knew it when he rallied Puerto Ricans from all around the island to assist oust our corrupt governor in 2019. He knew it when he wore a shirt saying “they killed Alexa” to carry consciousness to the killing of Alexa Negron Luciano. And he is aware of it every time he performs the music “Andrea,” an homage to domestic-violence sufferer Andrea Ruiz. Unhealthy Bunny is aware of the world is watching. And with every efficiency, he makes use of his time on stage to push boundaries and deconstruct the long-held concept of what it means to be a person.

“I’ve seen firsthand how highly effective ‘artwork’ could be. And regardless that it may be critiqued, what he is doing is vital. I imply, he isn’t simply the most important star within the US. He is the most important star on the planet.”

No, he isn’t excellent. Throughout our dialog, Clemente is fast to level out that Unhealthy’s model of reggaeton nonetheless embraces sure elements of misogyny, significantly concerning how ladies are sexualized in a few of his movies. However she additionally sees the large image. “I’ve seen firsthand how highly effective ‘artwork’ could be,” she says. “And regardless that it may be critiqued, what he is doing is vital. I imply, he isn’t simply the most important star within the US. He is the most important star on the planet.”

Once I first heard Unhealthy again in 2016, I did not know he’d go on to be the “greatest star on the planet.” I simply thought he made actually good music. He nonetheless makes actually good music. And after we speak about his boundary pushing and his trouncing of gender constructs, now we have to do not forget that nobody can be paying consideration if the discography that supported the message was missing in any method. Unhealthy is a real artist. He can take the perreo of the early 2000s, combine it with ’70s salsa, and high it off with at present’s entice to craft a sound that crosses generations in its enchantment. He is utilizing that expertise to maneuver his style in a extra inclusive path whereas on the similar time staying true to himself.

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