Becky G is only 25, but she’s already lived a few different lives in the music industry. After starting out as a precocious teen star, she morphed into a full-blown Latin music sensation — “a reverse crossover,” as she calls it. In between, she’s faced major difficulties, including a complicated lawsuit and a highly public breakup, yet still found a way to keep thriving. “I feel like the test dummy that’s been in I don’t know how many vehicles to make the best one,” she says, laughing. “I’m just like, ‘I’ve got a broken arm on this side, I’ve got one eyeball falling out on the other side, but I’m here, and I’m only going to get stronger.’ ”
Her upcoming album, Esquemas, is a testament to that. It’s Becky at her most confident and playful, exploring disco pop, electronic production, even touches of doo-wop. “By no means do I have it all figured out,” she says, “but I know I’m the closest I’ve ever been because I’m absolutely terrified. But if you’re not peeing your pants and something isn’t pushing you to grow, it’s probably not right for you.”
You’re experimenting with. a lot of new sounds people might not have expected on this album. What did you want to try on here?
For a really long time, I’ve always talked about not liking being put in a box, and I actually found that I was doing that to myself, if that makes sense, by finding my centerpiece songs and trying to create around those. I realized I was cutting myself short from all the other things I could be exploring. Growing up in L.A. is one of my greatest inspirations because there’s so much on every corner — culture, languages, food, and especially music. You can hear different sonics in the production, down to the melody, and each song has a space of its own. I wanted to own that as my superpower, versus it being just an artist singing songs just because.
Every single song, from “Baile Con Mi Ex” to “Dolores,” is really intentional. “Dolores” is inspired by my grandmother; my uncles always made fun of her because she’s always so emotional, so they called her “Dolores,” even though that’s not her name. I realize I also have a little of that in me and it turned into a song I was singing not just to my younger self but to my grandmother, my mother, my sister. So there’s a lot there.
It was so intentional to step outside the box, especially for my Spanish-speaking fans who might not be used to hearing certain sonics from me. That’s one thing I think is so unique about my experience in the industry: I did start singing in English, then went to Spanish, then went to both. So it was like the reverse crossover, then the crossover [laughs]. But I love that each song is a body of its own.
You’ve always made it a priority to collaborate with other women, and recently you were on “Pa Mis Muchachas” with Christina Aguilera, Nathy Peluso, and Nicki Nicole. Talk to me about empowering women through these songs.
It’s funny, because it started with “Sin Pijama” [a collaboration with Natti Natasha]. That was me challenging my own label. Everyone kept saying, “Well, if you think it’s such a hit, why would you want to share it?” I told them, “Hit songs happen every day. I want to make history.” And we did. We’re a force to reckon with now in the music industry. The way I walk into a room, when I see my female counterparts, it’s different. Instead of trying to make headlines about who is fighting about what, it’s about our record-breaking numbers.
You guys have changed the narrative — one example of that is “Mamiii,” with Karol G, which is all over the charts.
You know, me and Karol go way back. I remember being at one of the many Latin awards shows in Miami many years ago. I remember the tone of being on the [red] carpet changed a little bit because I was getting older, and someone in the interview asked me, “So, how do you feel now that there’s another ‘G’ here?” I was like, “Well, we need more of them. And it was that shift in mentality that I think, like I was saying, even the press wasn’t ready for, because you have two females, two Latinas, Karol G and Becky G. It was like, “Was that intentional? Who stole whose name?” and all this talk that was just so unnecessary. She’s Karol G from Colombia, she busted her ass when she was young to get to where she was, and she was pursuing the crossover, coming to the States, and it was her first time at this award show. She’s super-excited. The last thing she wants to hear is, “So how do you feel now?” I was like, “Yo, she’s such a sweetheart. This girl’s definitely going to pop up.” And she, years later, is definitely one of the top female Latinas changing the music industry.
How did the collaboration happen?
I was really excited about the idea of us doing something together for years now. I’ve sent her so many songs, embarrassingly, being like, “What do you think about this? Maybe this?” She was actually invited to be on “Sin Pijama.” I had originally invited her as well, and she had respectfully passed on the opportunity because the lyrics didn’t necessarily align with where she was at in that moment.
We were both experiencing success in our own way, but we were always waiting, like, “What’s going to be the song? It’s got to be the right one.” And I guess it happened when I wasn’t looking for it, because I had been working on this song with [reggaeton producer Ovy on the Drums]. During the holiday season, he had sent me a couple records, and I was really excited about this demo. The production wasn’t really much of what it is today, but I could hear through it, and I could hear that I really wanted to lean into it by putting some Mexican influence in there. That’s why I put the gritos in there.
There’s also an alternate intro that I wrote that was a ranchera intro that Karol loved. Ovy loved it so much that when he was in the studio working with Karol on her album, he played her the song. And I didn’t know any of this was happening, but I had a missed call from Karol. And then I saw a missed call from my manager, Ben. And he’s like, “Did you check your phone? Call her back.” So I call Karol and she’s in the studio with Ovy and she’s like, “I heard your song and I love it and I want to get on it.” In my head, I was just like, “Oh my God, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for.”
You’ve talked about being intentional about sharing parts of yourself. How do you balance that with how much people want to know?
I always try to do things with intention, even lyrics. I like to talk with my fans sometimes on social media, and I asked them what they were doing on Instagram. A girl responded, “I’m singing ‘Mamiii’ at the top of my lungs, like I’m hurt, but I’m in a happy, healthy relationship.” And I said, “Oh, my God. That’s so me.” People forget because they see [me in] a healthy relationship now, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced pain.
Having grown up on social media, so exposed, messed me up to the point where I struggle sometimes sharing now, knowing I’ll be judged. I’ve seen things where it was like, “No one asked for Becky G’s presence here.” And I’m like, “Well, damn, that’s how you feel? OK.” I’m continuing to do the work to process how these things make me feel and to protect my heart. I’m more thankful for the connections than I am upset about the negativity.
It sounds like you’ve done a lot of growing.
I’ve always wanted to be, excuse my language, but an “I don’t give a fuck” kind of person. But I just don’t have it in me. I give a fuck so much [laughs]. I care so much about everything that I do, everyone that I love. I really want to lean into that, especially with this new project. It’s fun for me to showcase the different sides of me, so it’s like, “Becky can be this cute, sweet little bubbly person, but she can also be sexy as hell. She can also be vulnerable as hell. She can sing a doo-wop record the same way she can sing a trap record, the same way she can sing a disco, roller-skating record.”
There have been difficult moments in your career — legal complications, frustrations with music labels. What does it mean to you to be able to be in this place where you’re creating music so freely?
It comes in waves. There’s definitely my own form of PTSD at the moment, experiencing the success that I’m having. And that’s just me being 100 percent honest, because there were so many times in my life that I now look back at that I realized I was experiencing imposter syndrome, feeling like I was only in the room because someone else put me there. Fast forward 11 years later, to still be here — it’s not because someone put me in the room. It’s because I’ve worked for it. And the truth is even the people who have hurt me in some shape or form have made me stronger and have made me better. I walk into a room with a different understanding of my own self and what it is that I want for myself.
You got asked to be a part of the “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” performance at the Oscars, another big moment for Latin music.
There’s this little girl in me that grew up in L.A. knowing that Inglewood wasn’t so far away from Hollywood, but it felt so far away. And to be at one of the biggest nights in Hollywood with incredible talent and a lot of specifically Latinx representation, it made me so proud. There was a moment backstage, where I told the cast, “I’m so thankful that I get to do this with you guys. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms, to be a part of this presentation, and let’s kill it. It’s not every day you get to perform at the Oscars.”