December 4, 2023

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How Young Miko Jumped From SoundCloud Latin Rapper to Billboard Hot 100 Artist on the Rise

5 min read
How Young Miko Jumped From SoundCloud Latin Rapper to Billboard Hot 100 Artist on the Rise

When Billboard Español spoke with Young Miko on Tuesday (Jun. 27) via Zoom, she had just achieved her first Hot 100 entry with “Classy 101,” alongside Colombian superstar Feid. Debuting the at No. 99 on the chart, the smooth reggaeton number brims with her confident flow and hushed vocals, paired with the Colombian star’s steamy, poetic swag. 

“It was definitely a shocker”, she says calmly but excitedly about seeing her name on the chart. “Usually one sees Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, or The Weeknd on the Hot 100. To see my name is very surreal, a reminder that this is really happening, and that people are consuming,” she tells Billboard Español

“Classy 101” also landed on Hot Latin Songs, currently at No. 15 on the tally, and previously earned Young Miko her first entry on the Billboard Global 200, peaking at No. 17. The achievements come fresh off releasing a risqué collab with Spanish artist Bad Gyal and Dominican dembow singer Tokischa, “Chulo pt.2.”

“We celebrated yesterday and I think I will continue to celebrate this week,” she adds about the recent achievement and release, “When I say ‘celebrate,’ I don’t mean go out and drink or anything like that, because at least this week that we are in preparations for a theater announcement, and we have been locked in rehearsals.”

To casual listeners, the rising rapper’s newfound chart presence seems to have come abruptly, after Young Miko shared the stage with Bad Bunny in their native Puerto Rico last year. Young Miko’s laidback approach to trap and reggaeton is singular and nonchalant: she maneuvers her queer identity and sexuality with a kitschy aesthetic on her 2022 debut album, Trap Kitty, which was released through the Wave Music Group. Yet her ascent required her to fight against all odds, navigate social media and drop viral tracks to fulfill what she describes as a once “platonic love” and “frustrated dream” in music. 

Born in the small town of Añasco, just north of Mayagüez, she remembers her dad listening to AC/DC, The Police and Bob Marley at home, while her mom was more of a rock en español fan: Enanitos Verdes, Juanes, Shakira, y La Oreja de Van Gogh. Her older brother was into Tupac and Biggie, and young María Victoria Ramírez de Arellano (real name) idolized “mostly women,” citing Missy Elliot as “one of my biggest inspirations,” as well as Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Lauryn Hill. During her Zoom call, she mentions being artistically inclined at young age, attending her first art class at 8 or 9 years old, and religiously watching Dragon Ball Z, YuGiOh! and Pokemon on Cartoon Network.

Encouraged by her family to explore her budding talent, she studied visual art at a university in Puerto Rico, where she eventually met graffiti and tattoo artists. “I ended up with a machine in my hand, and I started practicing on people who would lend themselves,” she recalls. The artist was really into Japanese style tattooing and Greek mythology. “I didn’t have a car or how to pay someone for gas to drive me to San Juan, where all the music studios were, and where all the movement was going on,” she says. “The goal was always to start tattooing so I could afford my music dreams and eventually let go of the machine.”

Growing up queer was still taboo: “Either you were ‘confused,’ or would get bullied,” she remembers of high school. Fortunately, leaving her small town led her to meet many like- and open-minded folks. “When I started writing music, I was like, f–k it, people already know I’m gay, and why would I sing to men? Respectfully,” she chuckles. “If I don’t like men, I’m not gonna dedicate a song to one.” A refreshing counterpart to Latin trap and reggaeton’s aggrandizing banter, her lyrical raunch and boldness with delicate vocal delivery have set her apart from the genre’s typical male perspective and wordplay.

With studio time, she began dropping tracks on SoundCloud as Young Miko (meaning “shaman of Christ” in Japanese) in 2018. The first song she released was “Quiero,” which garnered tens of thousands of streams. “Nobody knew who I was,” she says. “SoundCloud played a big role in letting me test these waters that I had never explored before, and to start seeing people’s reaction [on the platform].”

One of her first live performances was at a small bar in Mayagüez called Off the Wall. “When they announced that [I’d be there], the bar got full and people sang that song,” she recalls. “For a lot of people, I came out of nowhere and caught a drastic boom — but in reality, we’ve been doing this for a really long time. Fans who have been on SoundCloud can vouch for me.

“In Puerto Rico, SoundCloud was an era, around 2016 to 2019,” she continues. “Many artists that were very present in SoundCloud today are established artists, like Bad Bunny, Rauw Alejandro, Lyanno, Joyce Santana, Brray, and Alvarito Diaz. When you started making music, and you started under the category of SoundCloud rappers, not many people took you seriously, but [these artists] gained half a million to millions of streams in Puerto Rico. Being a tiny island, that’s a lot of streams. Nowadays they’re classics. You go to a Rauw concert and he sings SoundCloud songs with Lyanno at the Choliseo or the Hiram Bithorn [stadium], and the people know them in their entirety.”

The song that caught momentum for Young Miko was “105 Freestyle,” a sly trap number that earned her wider visibility, and eventually the artist caught the attention of Bad Bunny, who invited her last year to share the stage with him as part of a widely streamed event in one of the most important venues in Latin pop: Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Arelot. “To be able to have shared the stage with the biggest star in the world was definitely crazy, and to top it all off, at the Coliseo, such a historic place that so many artists have stepped on the scene,” she exclaims.  “He is not only the greatest artist in the world — it’s this guy does so much for my people, for women, and for our little archipelago.”

Via her unflinching rhymes and self-expression, Young Miko is also lending her voice to boost the LGBTQ+ community and women beyond her little island with a huge influence on music. She is currently on the road on her Trap Kitty World Tour, which runs through October.

Name: María Victoria Ramírez de Arellano Cardona.

Age: 25

Which Young Miko song do you recommend and why: “‘Riri’ or ‘Lisa.’ I think they really embody my energy and flow.”

Biggest Accomplishment: “Being who I am. I think that’s way more difficult than people put it to be.”

What’s Next: “A lot of music, a lot of collaborations. Right now we are on tour, I’m going to be in Latin America. We’re going to Spain for a week, then Argentina. Releasing a lot of content, so stay tuned, this is only the beginning.”

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