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Here's why Miami is poised to become the epicenter of Latin music in the States

Ryan Pfeffer

Chances are, no matter where you went this year, you couldn’t escape “Despacito.” But it’s not Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi’s modest hit that most people in the U.S. remember, it’s Justin Bieber’s chart-climbing remix, which shot to the top of the Spanish and English Billboard charts. The song’s crossover success was unprecedented around the world. And in Miami, where Spanglish music has been around for years, it’s helped kick open the doors to mainstream success for artists on the rise.

“I feel like now Americans are starting to watch our [Latin] movement,” says 27-year-old singer Justin Quiles, lounging inside his Wynwood studio, a futuristic two-story warehouse where he records songs like “Egoista,” which he hopes will be the next global smash. Quiles, who was born in Connecticut and raised in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, is just one in a string of young musicians in Miami crafting a sound that mixes traditionally American styles with Latin influences to create something completely new—and undeniably appealing. “We used to remix English-language songs before. Now some Americans are remixing our Spanish songs,” says Quiles, who cites artists such as Biggie and Daddy Yankee as his influences. This new sound permeates the city. Take Miami Beach’s Raquel Sofía, another Puerto Rican native and a graduate of the University of Miami Frost School of Music, who blends jazz and rock into gorgeous Spanish love songs. Before both their times, local band Locos por Juana—whose bilingual songs combine reggae, funk and cumbia—were capturing diverse crowds.

In the wake of “Despacito,” these musicians are seeing an increase in opportunities thanks to the song’s global momentum. Sofía is about to drop a new album—and its first two singles have already garnered more than 50,000 streams each on Spotify. Quiles has noticed the shift too. He often books gigs around town at places such as LIV, in addition to his touring engagements throughout Latin America. “What L.A. has always been to Americans in the entertainment industry, Miami is to artists working in Latin music,” he says. “It’s now the center of it for sure.”

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