Hugely popular in their home country, Cuban group Gente de Zona ("People from the Neighborhood") combined reggaeton with traditional rhythms such as son and mambo. They recorded four hit albums and had been together for nearly 15 years before they finally broke out internationally via a collaboration with Latin megastar Enrique Iglesias.
Formed in 2000 in the Havana suburb of Alamar by Alexander Delgado and Michel "El Caro" Delgado (no relation), they started out as a hip-hop group, playing at parties and local clubs. El Caro left in 2005, and Alexander recruited two new members, Yosdany "Jacob Forever" Carmenates and Fernando "Nando Pro" Otero. Recognizing that his lyrics had always had a commercial bent, and wishing to appeal more broadly to all Cubans, Alexander switched to the then-popular genre of reggaeton, but melded it with the traditional Cuban genres with which he felt an affinity. After scoring a hit single with "Pa' la Gente de Mi Zona" in 2005, the group self-released its first, eponymous album, which yielded several further hits. In 2007 they signed with Italy's Planet Records, releasing their sophomore effort Lo Mejor Que Suena Ahora. The albums A Full and Oro: Lo Nuevo y lo Mejor followed in 2010 and 2012, respectively. The group became wildly popular in Cuba, with several of their singles topping the charts; their biggest hit there was the portentous "El Animal." In 2011 they even launched their own fragrance.
In 2012 Jacob and Nando left the group to pursue their own musical project, once again leaving Alexander as the sole remaining original member; he swiftly poached Randy Malcom Martinez from the popular timba band Charanga Habanera, and soldiered on. Expanding his interest in traditional music, he recruited a full band and collaborated with the orchestra Habana de Primera. Gente de Zona's international profile was raised via collaborations with Pitbull on "Vacaciones" and Dominican rapper El Cata on "Con la Ropa Puesta," which was a massive hit in Latin territories. Their 2014 collaboration with Enrique Iglesias, "Bailando," from his album Sex and Love, gave them their biggest international hit, going to number 12 in the U.S. Billboard chart. ~ John D. Buchanan