“Despacito” continues to be a musical phenomenon, not only breaking records on YouTube, racking up nearly four-and-a-half billion views to date, but also spending a record-breaking 16 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and earning multiple Grammy nominations. But just how did this song by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee become such a sensation in the first place? Billboard caught up with the duo to find out how “Despacito” came to life, and how Justin Bieber got involved.
As part of the “How It Went Down” video series, Fonsi explains to Billboard that the idea for the song was born one morning from the word “despacito,” which means “slowly” in English, and splitting up its syllables. “The first lyrics that came to my head was ‘Despacito, Vamo’ a hacerlo en una playa en Puerto Rico [which translates to "We’re gonna do it on a beach in Puerto Rico”],’ Fonsi says. “I loved the rhyme between ‘despacito,’ ‘Puerto Rico,’ ‘¡Ay, Bendito!’…it was gonna end up being a song very important for Puerto Rico.”
It was at that point that he called Daddy Yankee, who he describes as “pretty much the best guy in the genre.” Yankee shares that he then came to the studio and started freestyling. “Every time that I make music I think about my dad playing bongos in the living room, cause for some reason I got those attacks, the percussion’s attacking in my head. That energy, that fire.”
As for how popstar Justin Bieber was brought in for the track’s remix, Fonsi says that four months after the song was released and “already tearing up the charts in America and Europe” he got a call from Bieber’s camp “saying that he heard the song at a nightclub and that he wanted to do the remix,” to which Fonsi replied, “of course.”
“All he did was add his texture, he added a verse in the beginning in English, and he sang the song just like we did, just with his flavor,” Fonsi continues. “I think it’s amazing that such a big worldwide act wanted to sort of appeal to the Latin audience, wanted to take the time to get the pronunciation right in Spanish, so I tip my hat off to him. And I think it added a different layer to a song that was already big, and so I’m really grateful that he believed in the song and that everybody’s enjoying it.”
To hear the full story of how “Despacito” was created, watch the video above.