Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez (born February 3, 1976), known professionally as Daddy Yankee, is a Puerto Rican singer, songwriter and rapper. He is known as the "King of Reggaetón" by music critics and fans alike. Daddy Yankee is the artist who coined the word reggaeton in 1994 to describe the new music genre that was emerging from Puerto Rico that synthesized hip-hop, Latin Caribbean music, and reggae rhythms with Spanish rapping and singing. He is often cited as an influence by other Latin urban performers.
Ayala was born in Río Piedras and was raised in the Villa Kennedy Housing Projects neighborhood. He aspired to be a professional baseball player and tried out for the Seattle Mariners of the Major League Baseball. Before he could be officially signed, he was hit by a stray round from an AK-47 rifle while taking a break from a studio recording session with reggaeton artist DJ Playero. Ayala spent roughly a year and a half recovering from the wound; the bullet was never removed from his hip, and he credits the shooting incident with allowing him to focus entirely on a music career. In 2004, Daddy Yankee released his international hit single "Gasolina", which is credited with introducing reggaeton to audiences worldwide, and making the music genre a global phenomenon. Since then, he has sold around 20 million records, making him one of the best-selling Latin music artists.
Daddy Yankee's album Barrio Fino made history when it became the top-selling Latin music album of the decade between 2000 and 2009. In 2017, Daddy Yankee, in collaboration with Latin pop singer Luis Fonsi, released the hit single "Despacito". It became the first Spanish-language song to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 since "Macarena" in 1996. The single gained global success. The video for "Despacito" on YouTube received its billionth view on April 20, 2017, and became the most-watched video on the platform. Its success led Daddy Yankee to become the most-listened artist worldwide on the streaming service Spotify in June 2017, the first Latin artist to do so.
As of 2017, Daddy Yankee has won 82 awards from 270 nominations since his rise to international fame in 2004. He has won five Latin Grammy Awards, two Billboard Music Awards, 14 Billboard Latin Music Awards, two Latin American Music Awards, eight Lo Nuestro Awards, an MTV Video Music Award, and six ASCAP Awards. He also received a Puerto Rican Walk of Fame star, special awards by People en Español magazine, and the Presencia Latina at Harvard University. He was named by CNN as the "Most Influential Hispanic Artist" of 2009, and included in Time 100 in 2006.