Colombian superstar Karol G named her brilliant new album ‘KG0516’ after a fictional flight code because she wants it to feel like “a journey” for her millions of fans. Different tracks, she says, represent different destinations as the album pivots between “reggaetón and party songs” and “romantic songs and heartbreaking songs”.
The latter vibe is definitely represented by ‘Tusa’, her gigantic 2019 collaboration with Nicki Minaj. Named after a colloquial Colombian term for heartache, this super-emotional bop has now racked up a billion Spotify streams and a billion YouTube views – some seriously impressive numbers.
‘KG0516’, which also features dazzling cover art designed by David LaChapelle and further collaborations with the likes of J Balvin, Ludacris and Ozuna, looks set to continue Karol G’s incredible ascendance. And the artist born Carolina Giraldo Navarro isn’t done yet, either – here’s five things we learned during NME‘s wide-ranging interview with Karol G.
Nicki Minaj jumped on ‘Tusa’ after Karol G slid into her DMs
“One day I noticed that Nicki Minaj was following me on Instagram, and she started leaving comments on my pictures,” Karol recalls. Feeling emboldened, she decided to drop the rapper a message. “I was like: ‘I admire you so much, you’re a big inspiration for everybody, let’s do a collaboration’. And I was surprised that she said yes!”
Karol says Minaj was “crazy” about ‘Tusa’ from the start, and within a month the two artists were in LA together shooting the video. “It’s one of the most special collaborations of my life because it’s so surprising,” she says.
Seven years after Karol was rejected because “female artists can’t do reggaetón”, the same label signed her
In that first meeting, execs at Universal Latin advised Karol to focus on writing for other artists – but she and her father were having none of it. According to Karol, he told the bigwigs: “My daughter is not a songwriter for anyone: she’s a singer and her songs are going to make millions.” Karol admits that, at the time, she was worried her father’s response had “closed off the opportunities I had in that moment”.
But now, with the benefit of hindsight, Karol believes that “everything happened for a perfect reason”. She says she’s glad she “worked hard” to get to where she is today: an artist with more than 20 billion streams to her name. “I’d rather suffer doing something I love than do some other thing that I hate,” she says.
At the moment, she only sleeps for two hours a night
Because she’s so busy in the daytime, mainly recording new music and doing album promo, Karol finds that her best ideas come when her head hits the pillow. “And when I have a good idea I’ll be up all night thinking about it, and I always want to call someone to tell them about it,” she says.
Incredibly, she says that with two hours sleep a night, she’s “good” and “ready to work hard” all day. Is she some kind of superhero? “No, no, I’m not a superhero! If I don’t take care of myself, I’m going to look so old in a few years. So I know I have to take care of myself now – I have to do it.”
Her ultimate goal is to evolve into a true multi-hyphenate
Karol says she’s now taking acting lessons with a view to landing movie roles. “I’m also doing a lot of meetings because I want to evolve myself as a business girl,” she says, citing beauty and fashion as two areas we could see Karol G: The Brand leaning into. Further into the future, Karol says she wants to “be a mom and have time to take care of my babies and everything”.
She credits her own parents with instilling a strong sense of self-belief in her. “My father all the time was like: ‘Girl, don’t let that guy pay for anything for you, because then he’s going to think he owns you,” she says. “They were always like: ‘Don’t get frustrated [about anything]. If you believe in yourself, you’ll get it’.”
For Karol G, aesthetic is “everything” – because it puts a visual stamp on her songs
Because Karol’s recent single ‘Location’ is a unique fusion of country, reggaetón and hip-hop, she wanted the video to be “very different” as well. The concept she came up with? An epic desert rodeo, complete with dancing cowgirls. “People are always going to remember this song as [having] a cowgirl and cowboy vibe,” she says. “For me, it’s always important to put something in people’s minds that will make them remember the song. We really take care with all the details, the clothes and the choreography.”