On this tropically humid Monday in July, however, it is still his so-called year of relaxation. “I’ve eaten about 70 croquetas,” he tells me in Spanish as still more plates arrive.
He’s been wearing the same outfit every day for days—a striped polo, moisture-wicking shorts, and squishy slides, all in buttery shades of beige. His thicket of curls is topped with a backward snapback. He has piano fingers, a cropped circle beard, and pristine teeth. The only stealth hints at his global superstardom—other than the fact that my cab driver just declared his fealty—are a few diamonds here and there, including on the face of what looks like a women’s Chanel watch on his wrist. His trademark septum piercing is conspicuously missing—he wanted to change it up, he said, to be more relaxed. He hasn’t even been working out lately.
“It is too much and your mental health can be impacted,” Martínez says when I ask about his well-being. “There are days where I feel strong and powerful,” but from time to time, he says, “I feel vulnerable. There are days where I feel like I can’t handle my own life, you know what I mean?”
Before Bad Bunny was Bad Bunny, he was actually a very good bunny: choirboy in the Catholic church where his mother, Lysaurie Ocasio, served as a devout congregant. “I learned that I was the best in the choir and I worked the hardest,” he says, laughing, though he’s not kidding. Church was hot and boring, but it affirmed his passion for music at a foundational age. Though he’s popularly known for spitting staccato beats, listen closely and his discography reveals an expansive, confident range. Even the seemingly offhand “eys” that punctuate his songs are filled with pathos.
Martínez was an imaginative child. The son of Ocasio, a teacher, and Tito Martínez, a truck driver, Benito Antonio eschewed sports, preferring to play-wrestle with action figures; his little brothers, Bernie and Bysael, hatched storylines for each toy. “I am a person who always liked to live in my own world,” he says. Lucha libre captivated all three boys, perhaps explaining why, even now, Martínez does not consider himself too prestigious to moonlight as a WWE star, appearing to slam a guitar into Mike “The Miz” Mizanin at Wrestlemania. “I liked everything—the creativity, the characters, the fact that each wrestler has his own entrance song, like a soundtrack that identifies you,” Martínez explains. The clothes, too. Those neon briefs and bedazzled belts laid the groundwork for Bad Bunny’s eventual ascent of the Met Gala steps in a Burberry boiler dress, or in backless Jacquemus, his white rosette cape scraping the carpet. Martínez never quite blended. “Benito was the class clown,” says Jomar Dávila, his personal photographer and friend since age 11. “He was always a very smart kid, too—super funny and outspoken.”
Influenced by his mother’s penchant for pop, his father’s traditional taste for salsa and merengue, and his personal pull to Latin trap, in 2016, he began uploading his own songs to SoundCloud. He anointed himself Bad Bunny after an infamous-among-his-family Easter photo. What happened next is legend: While enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, where he studied communications and bagged groceries at Econo on the side, one of his songs—“Diles” (“Tell Them”), a braggadocious track about his sexual prowess with a reverent nod to female pleasure—caught fire. His origin story carries a hint of the divine, though Martínez doesn’t attend Mass anymore. “God is everywhere,” he told me, “so why do I need to go to church?” He landed his first record deal.