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CULTURE | 09-06-2023 14:04

Bizarrap: From bedroom plans to topping the charts

Argentina’s premier producer and DJ has been on quite the journey – and last week’s release of another chart-topping single underlined his global stardom.

He is the most listened to Argentine artist in the world, but for most, his face remains a mystery.

Bizarrap (or Gonzalo Julián Conde, to his family at least), 24, is an urban music phenomenon with more than seven billion streams across platforms. He is a representative of a new generation of stars that have gone from bedrooms to global success.

In his case, the triumph has been supported by a brilliant marketing strategy that he himself was able to build.

Last week, Bizarrap released ‘BZRP Music Sessions #55,’ a new song in his series of collaborations, this time with Mexican singer Peso Pluma. To announce it, he uploaded a short animation film on his Instagram account, which in less than an hour garnered more than a million likes. 

Many people discovered the producer at the beginning of 2023, when his collaboration with Shakira thrust him into the global spotlight. It was the Colombian superstar's 10-year-old son Milan who suggested she record with the young producer. "He said, 'You have to do something with Bizarrap, he's the Argentine God'," she revealed in an interview.

Biza and Shak’s ‘BZRP Music Sessions #53’ – so far – has racked up more than 1.1 billion plays on Spotify and YouTube. The release entered the record books as the most-viewed Latin song in 24 hours on YouTube, with 63 million views.

Earlier this month, Time magazine named Bizarrap as one of the “10 leaders of the next generation," noting that "his meteoric but unconventional rise signals a shift in the [music] industry, proving that newcomers don't have to follow a set path to find their audience."

By 2022, Bizarrap was already the most listened to Argentinian and a sought-after producer, as evidenced by his collaborations with Spanish rapper Quevedo, Puerto Rican star Villano Antillano and Argentina's Nicki Nicole and Nathy Peluso.


The studio

In his collaborations, Bizarrap provides the musical track and lets the guest artist shine. "I like to put the artist in front of me, even their name comes before mine," he said in an interview with Forbes magazine last year. 

Most of his sessions were recorded in his family bedroom in the Ramos Mejía neighbourhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, with the same minimalist wallpaper and decor. 

"I want the producers who are 15 years old today to see that from your own room you can make several tracks with a hundred million [views] without any kind of guidelines or anyone to support you," he told the digital media outlet Filo News in 2021.

Among his early inspirations he counts family records (his father is an accountant, his mother has a degree in literature) and stars like Radiohead, PJ Harvey. And he had a revelation when he found electronic music, with artists like Skrillex and Flume proving inspirational.

Bizarrap began studying music at the age of 14. "He brought very good ideas and had a thirst for learning," Juliana Scellato, who was his piano teacher, told AFP in an interview, describing him as "an intelligent boy, very determined, a very transparent person, a boy from the neighbourhood."

When it comes to production, Biza is self-taught: "I really liked rap and electronic music and I downloaded the software to produce. I started learning on my own. I would take songs I liked, extract them 'a capella' and mix them," he told Forbes

Combining visual effects and gags with improvisation in those early videos in his ‘Combo Loco’ series (2017) was the origin of his stage name: a bizarre version of rap.

 

Exploiting the track 

In more ways than one, Bizarrap is the embodiment of a decade in which many young artists have risen to fame whilst ‘doing it themself’ in home studios. But, in the Argentine’s case, creations come with a healthy dose of strategy and professionalism.

Biza studied marketing and worked as a label manager at Warner Records for two years. That experience, he told Filo News, "was fundamental to understanding the industry."

His appearance, with thick black glasses covering his face and a large-visored cap, makes him pass by unnoticed on the street. Today, he even has a collection with his name on it through Adidas. 

"He's a strategist, a very tactical person," said Villano Antillano. 

"He sees what's going to happen, he knows where a song is going to go," marvelled Nicki Nicole.

At the end of April he performed his first solo shows in Buenos Aires, in front of 60,000 spectators in Palermo. It was an ambitious show featuring 3,000 square metres of screens and surround sound. 

His latest collaboration with Peso Pluma – which topped Spotify’s global streaming chart – comes on the back of a meteoric rise of the Mexican, who in March was the most-listened to artist on Spotify in his country. 

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by Tomás Viola, AFP

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