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Ones to Watch: Bad Gyal, the Goddess of Dancehall

It’s only Monday, but all we want to do is grab the crew and hit our favorite dance spot to obliterate the stress of the week. The lights are low, the speakers are bumping and in comes the intoxicating, synth-heavy, dancehall beat of a Bad Gyal song that has the allure to make almost anyone start moving.

The Catalan-born Spanish pop star, Alba Farelo, a.k.a Bad Gyal, has shaken up the Spanish music scene one dancehall/reggae-infused track at a time. With two mixtapes, a huge global following and a recent record deal with Interscope Records and Aftercluv, the artist, at only 22 years old, has already made huge strides in the world of dancehall. Farelo’s carefree mentality can be attributed to her childhood in the sleepy, seaside town of Vilassar de Mar, Catalonia. But ultimately, it is Farelo’s ambition and DGAF attitude that has fueled her success.

Farelo has a tri-lingual background in Catalan, Spanish, and English and is able to seamlessly shift between the three. Her ability to meld language with the fun-loving rhythms of dancehall and make it her own has crowned her the queen of dancehall. Milk caught up with Bad Gyal to find out more about her background, inspirations, and goals for the foreseeable future.  

How did you first decide on the name “Bad Gyal”?

I thought about this name because I was listening to a lot of music from Jamaica and dancehall music, and “Bad Gyal” was something I was hearing a lot in the songs, as you hear “mami” in the reggaeton songs. First, it was just my Instagram name, but when I started to do music I just kept the name.

How did growing up in Vilassar de Mar, Catalonia impact the way you create music?

I feel like the fact that I grew up in a village by the sea has a lot to do with who I am today and how I feel comfortable when I create. I need a lot of peace and have to feel chill and comfortable to write songs. I really need a chill environment and genuine vibes at the studio because at the end of the day, I am just used to regular people, and I am just that– a regular person. I like to be treated that way and feel comfortable.

The hypnotic beat, fast rhythm and fun-loving nature of your music draw influence from dancehall reggae, which is a popular genre in the Spanish music scene. How are you taking that sound and making it your own? How do you think the combination of Spanish, Catalan, and English elevates your music?

What is popular and what has been popular in Spain in music is reggaeton, which is music that comes from the dancehall beat. It comes from Jamaica, but I don’t think people in Spain knew what type of music the Jamaicans were doing. I feel like the fact that my music became big and popular here made more people interested in where this music comes from, who are the creators of this music and what are its origins.

The only way I know how to write songs is to be myself. I’m the type of artist who just speaks at the mic. I don’t really write at all before I go to the studio. I think that’s the way I make it my own. Just by being myself and using these kinds of rhythms. It is so natural to me because that’s the kind of music I’ve been listening to for years.

It’s the same with the language. I’ve been listening to music in English, in Patwa, and also in Spanish. I speak Spanish and now I could speak English as well, so why not use all the languages that I know how to speak?

Reggaeton has historically been a male-dominated genre. Why do you think having more female voices, such as yourself, will be important? How will it change the genre for the better?

I think that it is important because it puts a different kind of female in the spotlight. This is something that is starting to be popular now, like the attitude of the female in reggaeton music. Before, the kind of pop star that a female “should be” was a really concrete thing. Nowadays, I feel like not just in reggaeton, European music, in general, is popping right now and it’s in the mainstream. That is something good because it is letting the world know that there are other types of females and they have something different to say.

Set the scene: the perfect place or moment you can imagine where your music comes in blazing.

I feel like my music is for the club or a party, you know? To me, the perfect party is just a house party with you and your friends, your day ones. You’re high, you’re drunk and you play one of my songs and you feel the good vibes with the people that you love.

Who are some of your main artistic influences?

I listen to music from a lot of different places in the world. But if we’re talking about Jamaica, one of my biggest influences I would say is Vybz Kartel because he’s an artist that I’ve been listening to the most. I love the fact that he could do every type of song. He can do songs for the women, he can do songs for the men, he can do everything. In reggaeton, I have a lot of influences. Of course, when I was a kid, I liked Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Plan B. All of that music is so important to me. I’ve also been influenced in recent years with the wave here in Spain, in my own country, with the trends that we set here. I can’t escape from that.

How does it feel to see people from all over the world connecting with your music despite the language barrier? 

It feels really good because I come from a small village, so I never thought that would happen. The music that I love comes from places that are really far from where I’m from. So, to me, this feeling to be traveling and to be playing my own music around the world, it’s just amazing. I never thought that a girl like me from a small village close to Barcelona would make it because that’s not the usual thing.

On your most recent mixtape, “Worldwide Angel,” the track “Yo Sigo Iual” is kind of like an assurance that fame hasn’t changed you. As your career continues to grow, do you ever feel pressure to fit in or change? How do you stay connected to who you are?

Of course, I feel pressure. If you are in the business and you are connected with other people in the business, you realize how superficial it is and you feel the pressure and you feel it more as a woman. But I like to take the experiences where I don’t feel comfortable or don’t feel as sure of myself as usual and learn from them and learn that nobody is perfect. I think it’s much more comfortable to stay yourself than trying to fit in and not be happy. And the thing is, that when you have a lot of people following you, you have the power to share that with them­– to share that you’re a human being, and they love it because at the end of the day, we’re all human beings. People inside of them are tired of this superficial shit. They appreciate it so much when they see someone big just being natural.

Your musical style defies labels and categorization. What advice would you give up and coming artists who want to push boundaries and try something different?

I would tell them trust in yourself 100%. Trust in your concepts, in your ideas– fight for them. Fight for them because if you are yourself and you have something unique, I feel like you may struggle in the beginning, but you’ll be huge in the end. So yeah, I would tell them to believe in yourself and fight for what you do.

What’s next for you? What are some of your upcoming goals for the next mixtape/ep/lp?

I’ll be dropping a lot of music this year, and I would love to be able to do a song with someone I admire. I want to be big, bigger. I want to be worldwide big; I want to be on the radios everywhere. Like, I’m ambitious, so I have a lot of goals.

Stay tuned to Milk for more Ones to Watch.

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