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Finding a Cancer Warrior Anthem in Daddy Yankee's 'Yo Contra Ti'

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In August of 2017, famous Porto Rican Reggaeton performer Daddy Yankee released a bilingual anthem for those battling cancer, “Yo Contra Ti (I Against You)” in collaboration with The Puerto Rican Symphony Orchestra. Reggaeton is a form of Latin rap that combines hip-hop, Latin and Caribbean music, with lyrics that can be in Spanish and/or in English. To write “Yo Contra Ti”, Daddy Yankee got the source of his inspiration from cancer patients affiliated with SGKPR (the Susan G. Komen Cancer Association, Puerto Rican branch). Daddy Yankee was the 2017 official spokesperson representing “The Race for the Cure, Puerto Rico.”

The music video opens with the profile of 30-year-old cancer patient, Jessie Reyes.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer on February 27, 2017. As the chemotherapy begins, Jessie is visibly in pain. But at the end of the therapy, she smiles at the camera to show she is not scared of cancer.

Next, the scene jumps to Jessie, who is shown wearing warrior tribal makeup, to represent she is a warrior against cancer. Looking at a blow-up image of her cancer, Jessie is shouting at it, mimicking Daddy Yankee’s lyrics. Other women battling cancer are also shown wearing styles of indigenous warrior makeup. At the end of the video, there is a dedication: “Dedicated to all warriors, who have fought and those who continue to fight the battle.”

Daddy Yankee raps in the first-person, describing all the emotions someone feels throughout the cancer process. In the beginning, the lyrics talk about the fear of being diagnosed: “I can hardly control my nerves. I have never in my life been so afraid.”  Then the psychological impact that a cancer diagnosis has on someone: “I have cancer; I stay in limbo, in a trance. In the blink of an eye, my world is an imbalance.” The choice of how to deal with cancer: “In me lies the decision, to be a victim or a warrior in this mission. My mind screams freedom, even if you are in prison.” And finally, the determination to fight cancer: “It’s me against you in this power struggle,” and “You’re not going to beat me, **** cancer.” These lyrics are an emotionally powerful attack on cancer.

In the description for “Yo Contra Ti,” Daddy Yankee said he wrote this song, “…because it is against an enemy that we all have directly or indirectly in common. My mission is to shoot the #cancer in order to give strength to all the warriors that are on the battlefield.” And, “There are no words to describe the degree of respect and admiration I have for you.” All profits of the digital downloads of “Yo Contra Ti” go to SGKPR.

Cancer has also affected Daddy Yankee’s mother. Before “Yo Contra Ti”, in 2010, Daddy Yankee had cancer as a topic for the music video for the song “La Despedida (The Farwell).” “La Despedida” is about the heartbreak of losing someone you deeply love. The story of the video shows a loved one who has cancer, while also showing him trying to understand and cope with the situation.

Sadly, according to SGKPR, every day in Puerto Rico, five women will be diagnosed with cancer. Cancer, according to statistics is the number one cause of death for women. The island, according to the U.S. Census, has a population of just over 3.4 million people (2016), with a female population of 52.4 percent.

During the past few years, cancer has hit my family hard. In 2015, Mom was diagnosed with stage two and three liposarcoma cancer. In 2016, I had an aunt diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I also had three loved ones pass away from cancer: a friend, a cousin, and uncle, all within six weeks of each other. As painful as it was just coping with Mom’s cancer, it felt like a knife going into my heart and turning with each new cancer death. It made me even more afraid of losing Mom.

I’m grateful to Daddy Yankee, one of my favorite contemporary performers, for his involvement in cancer awareness. After Mom watched “Yo Contra Ti”, she said, “This is the most powerful anti-cancer song I’ve heard. Daddy Yankee’s passion against cancer explodes.” To Daddy Yankee, Mom wanted to say, “I’m a 65 years-old, two-year survivor of one of the rarest abdominal cancers, liposarcoma cancer. Thank you for giving us your enthusiastic encouragement, to beat cancer. God bless you, mijo (a term of endearment).”

Gracias, Daddy. Gracias, con todo mi corazon. (Thank you, Daddy.  Thank you, with all of my heart.)

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Originally published: February 19, 2018
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