The most listened to song in the world this week is “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 52” by 22-year-old Argentinian producer Bizarrap and Spanish rapper Quevedo. With 88.3 million streams, the track tops both the Billboard Global Excl. US chart and Global 200 Chart It is only the second all-Spanish track to top the Global 200, following 2020’s “Dákiti” by Jhay Cortez and a then already well-established Bad Bunny.
But “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 52” is an outlier in every sense of the word. Its main artist is a producer who hides his face behind large sunglasses and a trademark baseball cap, and who, until “Vol. 52” had only placed three tracks on Billboard’s US-based Hot Latin Songs chart, all of which fell below the top 20 (“Vol. 52” debuted at No. 20 this week). Its featured artist, Quevedo, is an up-and-coming Spanish rapper who has never charted in the US. Their duality – it’s the first time a song from Argentina or Spain has topped the Global 200 – highlights an increasingly global playing field. Although Bizarrap has placed nine previous “Sessions” on the Global 200 (including those with Paulo Llondra, Residente, Nicky Jam and Anuel), “Vol. 52” charted in countries as diverse as Italy, Portugal and Saudi Arabia, where Bizarrap never had influenced before, says Federico “Fed” Lauriathe president of Bizarrap’s label, Dale Play Records.
It was Lauria who signed Bizarrap (real name: Gonzalo Conde) in 2019, as a 19-year-old producer with a thriving YouTube channel. Lauria, a respected indie concert promoter in Argentina, launched Dale Play Records in 2018, motivated by what he saw as a potentially massive urban music scene in his country, based on freestyle rap battles that artists uploaded to their YouTube channels and social media.
Lauria’s first signing was Duki, an Argentinian rapper who will play four sold-out stadium dates in Buenos Aires this fall and whom Lauria considers the leader of Argentina’s urban movement. After Duki, Lauria signed Nicki Nicole, a rising Argentinian trap/pop star who made her Coachella debut this year. It was Nicole who introduced Lauria to Bizarrap, with whom she recorded a session at the time.
“I researched him and I fell in love with the project and his talent and creativity,” says Lauria. If Bizarrap is now a novelist, three years ago he was a total anomaly. A teenage wunderkind producer who uploaded tracks to his YouTube channel, he worked out of his bedroom in his parents’ house. There he developed the “Sessions” concept as a platform for the development of urban acts: He provided the beats and the music, and the guest artist freestyled. Videos were filmed on location inside his bedroom studio. The first session featured Argentine rapper Kodigo and was titled “Bzrp Freestyle Sessions, Vol. 1.” Soon after, Bizarrap switched to “Bzrp Music Sessions”, but kept the concept intact: One session per artist. When Nicki Nicole came around in 2019, he was up on Vol. 13, but largely unknown outside Argentina. However, Lauria saw an opportunity for global influence.
“For me, he was the perfect bridge between the Argentine urban movement and the world,” he says. “You could already see his influence in Argentina. His sessions already had an effect.”
52 sessions later (they’re released roughly every three weeks), Bizarrap has topped the charts and Lauria has a growing label with a 20-track roster, distributed by The Orchard and with offices in Argentina, Miami, Mexico and Spain, where he spoke to Billboard about taking “Bzrp Music Sessions Vol. 52″ to No. 1.
You signed Bizarrap to Dale Play in 2019 as an artist, but he’s actually a producer. Why sign him as an artist?
I always saw him as an artist. The engagement was his. The place was his. After that, the range depends on each session and each artist. For me, he was the perfect bridge between the Argentine urban movement and the world. What happened to his sessions was already having an effect. He is a unique example of a producer who has the commitment of an artist. I have not seen that combination before to this degree. In addition, there is no language barrier. We have also worked with non-Hispanic artists.
What is a bizar rap session?
It’s a creative space, a free space, a cultural space, and it’s a space that very well represents the beginning of Argentina’s urban music movement. Our first successful one was [Vol. 13] with Nicki Nicole in 2019. She was the first woman to record with him and that session went to #1 in a bunch of countries and that’s when we realized what could happen.
From that moment we started to develop a more executory plan with more promotion and planning, but keeping the organic spirit of the sessions. All these sessions were filmed in his house in his home studio – that’s his bedroom – in his parents’ house where he used to live. Villano Antillano’s “Session No. 51,” [which peaked at No. 70 on the Global 200 last month] was filmed there. Now that we are going to film in other countries, we are trying to replicate that atmosphere of being in a bedroom in his house.
Biza has done 57 sessions, including those with big stars like Nicky Jam and Anuel. What made this one work so well?
He is growing a lot and his audience is growing session by session. In this case, the song is also very mainstream; it’s a hit.
do you do radio promo?
Very organic. We are obviously focusing on markets where we need to build his name, because this session is doing well in new markets like Italy, Portugal and Saudi Arabia. But our promo is not so much radio but PR and actions with the DSPs to let people know who Bizarrap is. Our focus is 100% based on the music. His most important asset is his A&R, so we have to figure out how to communicate those releases without losing the essence of where the sessions are done, which is his bedroom at home. Bizarrap is built on “anti-marketing.” His success comes not from big actions, but from bottom to top. His market builds with each session. I can’t say there’s been a turning point, and the fact that this session hit #1 doesn’t mean the next one will. Every session is different.
How does your promo work?
It starts [on his Instagram], and then it is multiplied via platforms such as Twitch and TikTok. Bizarrap started on YouTube where he uploaded the sessions and we [Dale Play] took audiences to consume on other platforms such as Spotify and Apple. We perform a number of actions to build anticipation before release. He is a great generator of content to tease upcoming sessions. Everything is very mysterious and because each session features a different artist, there is always an element of surprise. But he leaves no trace. With this session we did a promo with Burger King Spain where we invited fans to a specific Burger King restaurant to order a Bizarrap meal. Those who made it that day were treated to the meal with a small Bizarrap doll playing a clip of the new session. But we do not seek out these commercial agreements. It is inverted. Gonzalo has the ideas and we try to execute them. In this case, we reached an agreement with Burger King in 10 days.
What kind of deal do you have with Bizarrap?
He is a Dale Play artist, but our deal includes many options. Some releases are licenses, others include masters. We work very freely, but always linked to Dale Play.
Ironically, some of your biggest sessions have been with little-known acts, including Quevedo, who was not known outside of Spain. How did it come about?
Since Dale Play now has an office in Spain, we get a lot of information from here. As soon as we heard Quevedo’s music, both Gonzalo and I felt that he was a session artist. Gonzalo has that vision; he sees things before other people do.
Do you ever challenge his choices?
I talk to him daily. We talk a lot, we debate strategies, we disagree, but at the end of the day we respect his vision and I believe in his vision. That was the key. We combined my executive power with his artistic power.
Have you had artists say no and then say yes?
Many! [laughs]. But if the project works, if it works artistically, we are always open to another conversation.
What’s next? There have been some Twitter posts suggesting that there may be a Bad Bunny session in the future…
Bad Bunny is a staunch Biza supporter and in fact introduced Biza to Villano Antillano. But as for a session, only Benito and Noah can answer that question. [laughs]