Eighteen months ago, Noah Assad, who manages the Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny, was driving in L.A. when he heard his client’s music blasting from a car in the next lane. “I look to the right, and it’s a lady not understanding what Bunny’s saying, but she’s rapping, murmuring the words,” Assad recalls. “That’s when I found out: People who don’t even know Spanish are very interested in what we’re doing.”

Assad and Bad Bunny, a maverick manager-artist duo, have accomplished something unprecedented: conquering America’s pop mainstream — netting more than a billion streams in 2019 so far — without ever assimilating to it. And unlike Bad Bunny’s peers, who are all signed to major labels, Conejo Malo has achieved everything without that corporate backing, thanks in part to his manager’s savvy stewardship. 

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