These are the best of times and then some for super producer Marco Masis Fernandez artistically known as Tainy. Just look at the past two years. He has scored a No. 1 global hit with the Cardi, J Balvin, Bad Bunny track, “I Like It.” He’s produced Grammy-winning projects for the individual J. Balvin (Vibras) and Bad Bunny (X 100pre) albums, in addition to Balvin & Bad Bunny’s duet project, Oasis. And formed a partnership with former Roc Nation executive Lex Borrero, to launch an artist incubator label (through Interscope) and management company, based in Miami called NEON16 [the name comes from Tainy’s love for Japanese culture-referring to the Tokyo neon signs, and the No. 16, the age that both he and Lex began their careers].
During this same period, Tainy has been busy launching his own career as a recording artist, charting no less than three singles on Billboard Latin Music and Top 100 Charts: “I Can’t Get Enough” w/Benny Blanco, J Balvin and Selena Gomez; “Callaita” featuring Bad Bunny; and“Adicto” w/Anuel AA and Ozuna.
Tainy is certainly no overnight sensation. The Puerto Rican-bred producer has been working at his craft for a decade and a half, obtaining his first production credits at the mere age of 16, and as one of the pioneering producers of Reggaeton—collaborating with a virtual who’s who of the genre: from Don Omar, Baby Ranks, Wisin & Yandel, to Daddy Yankee, and a host of others.
Named Billboard’s Top Latin Producer of 2019, and signed to a publishing deal via Sony/ATV, Tainy has won several BMI Awards. MIQ caught up with the songwriter-producer, to discuss culture, his NEON16 venture, his growing success, and the evolving Latin Urban sound.
You’ve been producing and writing for well over a decade, but now really seems to be your time as the go-to producer. Why do you think it’s all coming together now?
I think my sound has gone to a level where it’s at its best. It’s evolved as years have gone by. I feel like I am at a point where I can put my music up against anybody’s on any level…and side by side against many of the greats who I longed admired. Right now, the music is resonating and reaching a wider audience. My plan is to continue to build for the future. I’m still growing and learning as a producer, and all of these years of hard work have really paid off.
You mention the greats, who are some that inspired you?
I really grew up in the early 2000s being a fan of Pharrell & the Neptunes, Timbaland and Kanye West. Those are the people I was really inspired by. I’ve wanted to experience similar success and get my production to the level of theirs.
Being from Puerto Rico, those were some of the producers I was trying to emulate.
You’re based in Miami. We imagine you have quite a set-up of studio and office space.
It’s been over 6 months since we got a house in the mid-town area of Miami. It’s a really good area. So, if you’re near Brickell or South Beach, you don’t have to go very far to get to the studio. Two of the rooms are actual recording rooms. It feels like you’re in a great and creative environment. You’re in a cool house. The kitchen area and patio area are places where you can sit down, talk and chill. The rear part of the house are TVs, and because we love [Japanese] art, we have a lot of artwork. It’s a cool environment. The artists don’t feel boxed in like a stand-alone studio. People are learning
that we are here and are giving us great reviews.
What inspired you to join forces with former Roc Nation exec Lex Borrero to create NEON16 and begin developing talent directly underneath your brand?
At first, I was supposed to be working at Roc Nation as A&R, but things started to evolve. There were so many things I didn’t know or certain resources that I didn’t have, but those were areas that Lex already had the knowledge in. We have similar goals, and I knew us working together would be a good thing. My career started to grow even more. Some of the mistakes I made in the past, Lex was able to come in and help fix many of those problems. We were able to set some goals and help develop artists, other producers and songwriters who we felt were the next wave. We want to
leave our mark with this generation that we’re living in and grow Latin Urban music for the better.
Who are some of the artists coming through the incubator?
We just signed two artists to the label, Kris Floyd and Dylan Fuentes. We also have a great roster of producers and songwriters like Cris Chil, an awesome songwriter (Selena Gomez, J Balvin, Sean Paul); Albert Hype (Bad Bunny, J Balvin); and Manuel Lara & Jota Rosa (Thalia, Kali Uchi, Wisin Y Yandel).
You’ve had hits all around the world, but the “I Like It” record was enormously successful. How has that song in particular affected your career?
For me, there was before “I Like It,” and after “I Like It.” Everything changed after that. It’s insane! It really changed my career and people began to truly notice who I am. It was always a dream for me to cross over into the Anglo market, because again that’s what I listened to growing up. People notice you and look at you differently. It’s like you’re certified now. It’s been an amazing ride and a blessing to build my career. And, hopefully not the last one.
Are you having to turn down work, because ofthe onslaught of requests?
It happens [laughs]. The phone is ringing, and Lex’s phone is ringing even more. With
everything that’s happening, I am learning to prioritize. I kind of want to work everything at the same time, but I’m learning that’s impossible. I’m still learning to adjust. It’s a good problem to have.
Prior to the Cardi collaboration, you produced two incredibly successful albums with J Balvin (Vibras) and Bad Bunny (X100pre). Talk about the important connection you had with those artists, and how you came to produce the lion share of those projects?
Those two artists are super important and very special to me. It’s not something normal for an artist to come to a producer and say this is my vision, and you’re going to be the one to help it come to life. At least not on the Latin side. Meeting Balvin was a big moment for me. At first, we didn’t do music but connected on a personal level. Because we were closer in age, it was easier for us to connect. I have been doing this since I was 15/16 years-old and used to working with artists who were ten years older than me. So, working with Balvin was a different experience. We were able to connect as friends. Going through that process and having the artist put that kind of trust in you was an amazing process. It ultimately led us going to the Latin Grammys and winning [the 2018] Urban Music Album of the Year.
Bad Bunny reached out and said he wanted to work with a producer like me. That’s when J Balvin connected us. Bad Bunny was totally different. It was a crazy collection of ideas that I always wanted to try on an album, but wasn’t able to before, because it was too much of a risk. For me as a producer those are the things that are crazy exciting. I’ve seen it before with guys like Kanye, or what Timbaland did with Justin Timberlake. There were things with production or visually Bad Bunny wanted to achieve but he needed the right music to make it happen. Him winning [the 2019] Best Urban
Music Album at the Latin Grammys was phenomenal for us.
Reggaeton and the artists you’ve worked with have done so well throughout the Latin world. How important is it for you to experience success in the U.S.?
It’s amazing to have the audience of Latin America, Puerto Rico, places like Columbia and Argentina, Cuba, and the Dominican Republican – that’s where we grew up and that’s our culture. But it’s great getting that stamp of approval from different artists and fans in the United States – music we grew up listening to and admire. For them to say we love what you’re doing or wanting to collab with us is a goal we wanted to achieve.
Do you see a space for yourself in the U.S. Urban music culture—working more with African American Hip-Hop artists? Your production on the song, “Feel It Too” with Tory Lanez & Jesse Reyez is certainly a start.
Yes, we are. There are so many of these guys I’ve been a fan of – but maybe they never heard of me. But having a song like “I Like It” and an album by Bad Bunny closes the gap. There are a lot more people reaching out now – and people I’m running into at various sessions, so more things are beginning to happen.
We’re seeing your name receive top billing as an artist over the past year. Is there an album coming? And can fans of your production expect to hear you singing or rapping on your forthcoming projects?
We’re trying to see how we want to grow, create the brand, and move forward… letting people see who we are. I don’t think we will get to a level where you see me singing, but the songs and project would involve having a lot of artists come into my world creatively. As a producer, I’ve always had to defer to what the artist wants. I got more creative freedom with Bad Bunny’s album, but there are still things that I want to
create and have the artists come work with me. Hopefully in 2020, we can put the entire album out. The touring aspect is something we also have in mind; not just performing alongside a DJ but making it more of an experience like at a Festival where you can experience something that takes you on a journey through the things I’ve been working on. The ideas are endless.
Talk about the significance of your relationship with your publisher, Sony/ATV.
Sony/ATV has been with me for a long time, back when I first signed with EMI and they were absorbed into Sony/ATV. It’s been a cool family like atmosphere. I try to go to the offices every now and chat with the guys over there. They are always hands-on with everything that I’m doing and trying to accomplish, along with any goal, any benchmark or award we receive. I’m super grateful for them.
Interview Conducted by David A. Mitchell