"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Friday, July 04, 2008,10:01 PM
The Quest for Hegemony
Words By: Raymundo Monell Figueroa

Greatness is what many have tried to achieve but have failed to do so. Several can call themselves “good” at what they do. Others are little more than average. But then there is a select group who posses a reservoir of God given talent. Such allows them to set themselves apart from the rest by emerging victorious in the struggle to get the doubters and skeptics to fully understand the genius behind their actions. For the Carolina, Puerto Rico native William Omar Landron Garces, that battle resulted in a lopsided conquest in his favor. And much like what New York City traffic looks like from atop a skyscraper, those who lost that fight look like ants from where he currently resides.

ULM caught up with Don Omar to discuss his upcoming album, the new acting career, additions to his label roster, and the path that got him here.

“The best thing about [reggaeton] music,” he said from his home in Puerto Rico, “is that it only permits the best to be present.” Looking to raise the bar in the latest addition to his impressive discography, Non Plus Ultra (Latin for Nothing Further Beyond), the ambitious endeavor aims at “nothing less than straight up perfection.” “To me [Non Plus Ultra] means that there ain’t nothing better,” he said about the album,
“and I want this project to be that way. You have to work very, very hard in order for your album to be the Non Plus Ultra of reggaeton music. But I look forward to that challenge.”

In his view, being the top artist in the genre has given him the opportunity to speak “from the perspective of a president,” which warrants him bringing up highly divisive issues like politics and religion. Furthermore, the Don is looking to achieve this without abandoning his roots as a reggaeton artist but attracting a broader audience by working
with people outside of the genre.

“I think within the responsibility of being who I am, and the independence that I want for myself,” he said. “The door has opened for me so that I could show people a different facet of myself and show who I am nowadays. I’m looking for all genres of music. I’m looking for Swizz Beatz ‘cause I wanna do a real banger. I’m looking for Kat Deluna ‘cause I really respect her and what she’s doing. Me and her could work within reggaeton but I really like dancehall the way she was doing it. That feminine voice is what the music industry is respecting right now.”

The 30-year-old music veteran also went on to confirm producer Wyclef Jean and singer Julieta Venega as collaborators on the project. It’s scheduled for a June/July release. “You have to respect the summer time,” he said. “I like that season because it gives all these youngsters who are just coming out of school looking to have a good time a chance to enjoy music. You have families together at the beach, people at the
clubs, the youth... They can come outside and focus more on enjoying their youth with friends.”


Throughout the years, Don Omar has effectively shown a great amount of versatility as an entertainer but 2008 promises to illustrate his talents outside the realm of music. During a concert at an amusement park in 2006, he announced his intentions to get into acting. By then of course, he had been in talks with major producers for possible
roles and just like that, he was Hollywood bound.

Never one to take anything for granted, he began his tutelage under the acclaimed Puerto Rican theater/film actress Miriam Colon. Best known to younger audiences as Tony Montana’s mother in the cult classic film, Scarface (1983), Colon has appeared in more than 50 television, theater, and film productions combined dating back to 1953.

As her apprentice, Don Omar deeply appreciates the knowledge he’s gained thus far. “I think it is an honor to get to know a woman,” he said, “who made me discover such an impressionable world that was so new and real like this passion I feel for the art of acting. She is simply brilliant.”

By the end of January 08’, he was already slated to join the cast of a highly anticipated movie. “I’ll be entering the cast of The Fast and the Furious 4,” he said of his first major role. “At the end of February I should have a script, go do photography, and from there I’ll be waiting for that new adventure. I’m getting a chance to put my training to use. This is definitely an opportunity that has been presented to me so I am certainly looking forward to making the most of it.”

Most of you may or may not know that Don is no stranger to the Fast/Furious franchise. At the end of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, his song “Bandoleros” (featuring Tego) comes on when Vin Diesel’s character is about to race the protagonist of the film just before the credits appear.


After the platinum success of 2004’s The Last Don (both standard and live/dvd editions), he founded All Star Records in 2005. To his delight, the singer turned actor/entrepreneur has seen the depth of his label
roster increase. That roster of talent now embodies Omar’s new label El Orfanato [The Orphanage], which replaces the old imprint and is made up of both women and men. “They are a super-talented group who have
all impressed me,” says Don.

While there are several different groups within the label Don comments on, “Marcy Place, who sing bachata. Their music is among those downloaded on the Internet most frequently. And that’s without even
having an album out. So as far as future projects are concerned, I can tell you about Marcy Place and El Orfanato. And our projects are always going to receive all the necessary attention because our top priority is
the success of the company.”

During the interview, Don Omar credited collaborations with Aventura as being one of the earliest factors that helped him gain recognition in New York City after arriving in 2002. It was an experience both parties enjoyed as “it was mutually beneficial.” So with a strong existing market for that music, it’s no wonder he made such acquisitions. Fans
should expect una descarga de bachata urbana in the coming months from his label.


The peace and tranquility he’s found upon reaching stardom are symbols of a long journey he’s traveled from the time he was coming up in the pueblo of Carolina where images of broken families, murder, and drugs were and still are a reality.

“You know that it’s hard,” he said of his childhood. “We live in a beautiful place but it’s hard to grow up here. Poverty is the order of the day. We are poor and us poor people never used to help each other. It was difficult because there were a lot of things that I saw that I’ll never forget. I can tell you that I can do bad but I can also do good. I prefer doing good but I learned everything from my barrio. I learned about good actions that can be done from the heart and about bad ones that have to be done out of necessity.”

With that said, it’s amazing to see how many have made it in reggaeton music from that area. Don Omar’s family hails from a part of Vistamar - a working class urbanizacion in Carolina that lies just outside of La Ceramica, which is viewed as the poorer of the two. About a block away, inside the boundaries of the latter, is where the siblings Lennox (from Zion y Lennox) and Mackie (From Yaga y Mackie) are from. Zion himself is also from Vistamar. Other notables outside of that immediate area who are also from Carolina include Tito El Bambino, Hector El Father, and Voltio.

declared, “we wouldn’t form salsa parties because we weren’t into it in those days but still we’ve always revered people like Gilberto [Santa Rosa], Hector Lavoe, and Ismael Rivera. Our thing was parties de marquecina [garage/front porch jams].

“Those were the type of things that at least to me and a lot of artists in this genre who also came from Carolina that made us continue this movement that is something we’ve experienced at a very young age.”

These parties provided local MCs and DJs with a platform to display their skills during the early stages of reggaeton. Of course, this was all the result of the innovations of a Panamanian music legend. “The impact that El General had when he came out with his music was worldwide,” Don said of the man who is considered the patriarch
of Spanish reggae. “That was global for all Latinos. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He changed me completely. For me it changed my life entirely because it’s music that affected what everybody is doing today.”

After working with Hector El Father in the late 90’s, Don Omar’s first taste of success came after the hit “Dale Don Dale”. He recanted an interesting story about the song and how it landed him his first professional gig at The Noise in Old San Juan.

“I remember when the song came out about 7 1/2 years ago,” said Omar. “I never thought I’d go in there to actually perform. They told me, ‘they’re calling you because they want you to perform at a club.’ And I said, ‘Wooowwww! How can this be?!’ I’ll never forget. I only got paid $150 to perform. I swear to God! Y tube que cantar Dale Don Dale 5 times because it was the only song I had. But believe me - that’s the moment that I thought to myself ‘wow I think people like me.’ I sung it 5 times and they didn’t want to let me leave the club!

“You had to meet certain standards to perform there and make it as an artist. The people who performed and went there regularly were the elite of the urban culture of Puerto Rico and they all welcomed me. Earlier that day I told myself, ‘pay great attention to what’s about to take place today because this is going to change your life.’”

Indeed it did. After that right of passage, the rest as they say, is history. He followed The Last Don with King of Kings (2006), which sold over 2.5 million albums worldwide. Last year, he headlined La Kalle’s Bling Blineo at Shea Stadium before 30,000 plus fans. Needless to say it was a night to make a statement.

“That was crazy bro,” he said about ending the concert. “It’s all about being the best. For some artists maybe - they get afraid of performing in front of so many people. I like it. Because you can prove, in front of the thousands of people who were at Shea Stadium that night who the real “King of Reggaeton” is.

“I’m always going to be addicted to performing in front of a screaming crowd. Even if its a place where there’s only 20 people, if there’s 5,000 or 10,000 I’m gonna sing wherever they allow me. Those are the types of things that keep me having a thirst for that; satisfying the people who love your music.”


Outside of his professional life, the Don makes time for his two sons and daughter with whom he is anything but his onstage persona. “With them I’m William,” he said, “Not Don. William. Papi. I’m trying to be a
hero to my kids. I’m trying to be the best father in the world. When daddy is working he’s still there even though he’s not present. And when he’s present it’s papi 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

For the last year, he’s been dating Puerto Rican journalist Jackie Guerrido from Despierta America. “It’s better for me,” said Don Omar about the convenience of being with someone in the business. “She can understand. She knows I’m flying around the world and that today I can be here and tomorrow I can be in Japan. And its good cause’ she can do that as well. I’m in a good situation and I feel happy in that atmosphere of emotion, love, and romance. It’s been great.”


Over the years, Don Omar’s strong relationship with his fans is something he’s always appreciated. But while his fame has coincided with the rise of reggaeton in general, what if the music were to suddenly suffer a drop in popularity?

“You have to think about that,” he said about the genre’s hypothetical decline. “Reggaeton is not only in Puerto Rico, it’s all over the world. It’s in Rome, Italy. London, England. South Korea. Egypt. Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua.... I can’t really say when reggaeton is going to end because every day it’s born in some part of the world. I have always been a musician, a singer. I love what I do. But my fans who mean so much to me, they allow me to do other things.

“My fans allow me to sing salsa, they allow me to sing merengue, bachata, a love song, to be an actor, and I thank God for it. But I want to be clear, if reggaeton disappears tomorrow, I’d probably be the only artist who could do something different.”

And that brings us full circle - straight to Don’s approach with the new album, his desire to expand El Orfanato’s market share, and finally, the fact that he’s setting his sights on the Hollywood film industry. All will test his limits as both an entertainer and businessman. You can interpret this as a show of foresight on his part prudently designed towards adapting to the environment and staying ahead of the curb. It’s the oldest known survival technique.

What’s at stake here in 2008 is not merely the continuation of his success story but rather Don Omar’s bid to become a powerful entity within the entertainment industry as a whole. Reggaeton dominance is all but assured but only time will tell if William Landron will be able to duplicate what he’s done in music in other arenas of the business.

But in the end, beneath all the glory and material success one can attain from achieving greatness, it still comes down to one simple thing. “Dedication,” he simply put. “Hard work and dedication gets you good
things. It gets you to good positions. In life, those who work hard will be compensated. I would love to always work in music. I don’t know how to do anything else. This is what I was born to do.”


posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤
Oriental Trading Company