Cardi B knew what she was doing when she got J Balvin and Bad Bunny to collaborate with her on "I Like It"; within days of her debut album Invasion of Privacy's release in April, the bilingual track quickly became the most-streamed song on the album. The track's infusion of Latin trap with Pete Rodriguez's 1967 boogaloo banger "I Like It Like That" — an early example of Bronx-born Latin popular music in the United States — sets the stage for the infectious power project from three of the most influential Latino players making music in the United States today.
The video opens with Cardi decked in beads and colorful fabrics, framed by a Mediterranean portico in Miami. Then, the (truly inspired) drop kicks off a slideshow of familiar Caribbean imagery of yearlong summer: shaved-ice piraguas, roosters, rustling palms. Framed by the slouch of bougainvilleas, Cardi gives you a somewhat corny line about being called a "spicy mami," yet the figure she paints against the whitewashed wall is that of a neighborhood santera burning sage and cultivating her own immortal likeness.
Puerto Rican trapero Bad Bunny hops in for a nighttime shot of a crowd dancing in a side street of Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, the viejos playing cards at a table (boogaloo was theirs first.) "This is the new religion," Bad Bunny says before shouting out the pan-"Latino gang" that both front and preceded the current movement.
Colombian reggaeton giant J Balvin continues the callback to the old guard by invoking its reina: "Como Celia Cruz tengo el azúcar," he sings from the green walls of Little Havana's Ball & Chain nightclub, a 1930s mob-haunt saloon graced by Billie Holiday and Count Basie. Now, the nightclub inhabits the video like a headquarters of a worldwide mission, its outpost at the center of Calle Ocho, the outpost of working-class Cuban America.
Balvin isn't afraid to brag about the trio's — and his own — success. His fifth studio album, Vibras, dropped last week, following up the success of "Mi Gente," the single that knocked "Despacito" (the most-streamed song of all time) off the Billboard Hot 100 last summer. Balvin ends his verse with a reminder that "donde quieras que viajes has escuchado 'Mi Gente' " — wherever you've traveled, you've heard his song, the name of which translates to "My People."
Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin each emerged from different corners of the Latino experience, all working-class and driven by an uncanny necessity to make the world listen to what they have to say — in Spanish. By joining forces like Celia and the Fania cohort of yore, the trio is ensuring that the current dominance of Latin pop persists while amplifying each other's voices in turn.