It took Daddy Yankee a long time to follow up Barrio Fino (2004), the most successful and influential reggaeton album to date, but when he finally unveiled El Cartel: The Big Boss three years later, the wait seemed worthwhile. It's a well-conceived album with a wealth of commercial potential. It not only pushes the hybrid Latin style forward creatively; it also broadens Daddy Yankee's appeal considerably, teaming him with pop-rap household names like Fergie and Akon while playing down some of Barrio Fino's Latino-specific lyrical themes in favor of potent club-bangers that are as conducive to body language as they are to Spanish. Admittedly, the three-year wait between Barrio Fino and El Cartel was eased by the December 2005 release of Barrio Fino en Directo. That CD/DVD package served a few purposes, beyond functioning as a profitable stopgap released just in time for the holiday shopping season. For one, it signaled the beginning of Daddy Yankee's relationship with Interscope; previously, he'd relied on the major labels only for distribution. Secondly, it repackaged the hits from Barrio Fino as live recordings, in the process showcasing Daddy Yankee's ability as a live performer with a willingness to tour internationally. Perhaps most importantly, though, Barrio Fino en Directo included a handful of strong new recordings -- including the singles "Rompe" (a number one Latin hit) and "Machucando" (number two), along with bilingual collaborations with Snoop Dogg ("Gangsta Zone") and Paul Wall ("Machete Reloaded") -- that were a clear indication of what could be expected on El Cartel. Indeed, El Cartel is largely comprised of both potential hits and mainstream-crossover collaborations (Fergie, Akon, will.i.am, Nicole Scherzinger, Scott Storch), with most of the latter also qualifying as the former. Highlights are numerous, and they're spread across the album: in particular, the nine-track stretch that extends from "Fuera de Control" (the only Luny Tunes production here, surprisingly) to "Papi Lover" is a nonstop delight, though the three-song stretch near the end of the album including "Corazón Divina," "Plane to PR," and "Me Quedaria" also stands tall and closes the album on a satisfying note.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: Nicole Scherzinger
feat: Hector el Father