LAMC Talks With Billboard Latin & White Lion Records: 5 Memorable Quotes
The Latin Alternative Music Conference is in full swing with its free virtual event, and on Thursday (April 28), the “LAMC Talks With Billboard Latin” featured a fireside chat between Elías De León, president and founder of White Lion Records, and Billboard‘s Leila Cobo.
Before the pair began the candid conversation, LAMC’s founder Tomas Cookman announced De Léon as one of the Founder Award honorees, which recognizes pathmakers who are “what help drive our industry and remind us that the love of music is an essential part of what we do.”
The Puerto Rican executive and reggaeton pioneer founded the indie label nearly 30 years ago in 1994 and, throughout the years, it has been the home to urbano stars such as Tego Calderon, Cosculluela and Calle 13. Now, on the label’s roster are Kiko El Crazy and Luar La L, among others.
Below are five of the most memorable quotes from the chat, during which De León talks his humble beginnings, explains why he will remain an indie label, and opines on the Residente and J Balvin tiraera.
A Fan First and Foremost
Before becoming an executive, De León was a fan of reggaeton and was part of the burgeoning reggaeton movement in Puerto Rico back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. “I was a fan of Vico C. I would go to all his concerts. He was the first one who showed us, people who lived in working-class neighborhoods, that we could be someone. It was also music we could identify with. Before, it was all tropical (merengue, salsa) music, but reggaeton became the music of our generation.”
The ‘Aha’ Moment
De León realized the movement was growing when he saw the youth dancing along to the music at parties. “I mean, I was part of that generation. I was only 16 years old when I knew I wanted to be part of this. When I saw everyone dancing, I knew something big was going to happen. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else but being a force behind the movement that was growing in the streets.”
In 1994, De León launched White Lion with the release of the company’s first album — a compilation of songs by the artists he had just signed — that was titled White Lion All Stars. “We’d go to the little stores or stand in a corner, and that’s where we’d sell the CDs. There were no opportunities with bigger labels, we had to do everything ourselves.” As for how the name of the company was born? “Someone told me, ‘Well your last name is De León and you’re white so … White Lion,’ and it just stuck.”
On Staying Indie
De León says he’s received many offers to purchase his company, but he’ll always remain independent. “I understand the business well and we continue to grow every day. I love what I do and I can’t put a price on what I’ve built. Its value goes beyond just money.”
On the Residente and J Balvin Diss Track
“Let me just say that there have always been tiraeras, since the genre began. Tiraeras were born here in Puerto Rico. Everyone knows, if someone takes aim at you, you aim back. It happened with Jhay Cortez and Rauw Alejandro not too long ago. Jhay released the tiraera and in less than 24 hours, Rauw had responded. They know how it works. And well, when it comes to Balvin, well, his turn came and this is the genre he represents, right?”
This week, the LAMC held its third annual virtual conference and, for the first time since 2019, the LAMC returns for an in-person event in New York set to take place July 6-9 at the Stewart Hotel. Registration for both the online and summer event is now open. For more information and to register, visit www.latinalternative.com.
Speakers for the online event, which runs until Friday (April 29), include Pepe Aguilar, Kany Garcia, Guaynaa, Carla Morrison, Fito Paez, Ana Tijoux. Artists who will be part of the in-person event will be announced in the upcoming weeks.
LAMC Talks With Billboard Latin & White Lion Records: 5 Memorable Quotes The Latin Alternative Music Conference is in full swing with its free virtual event, and on Thursday (April 28), the “LAMC Talks With Billboard Latin” featured a fireside chat between Elías De León, president and founder of White Lion Records, and Billboard‘s Leila Cobo.…