Some people might know Medellín as the home of Pablo Escobar, a subject that has once again been catapulted into pop culture consciousness with the popularity of Netflix’s series Narcos. These days, though, Colombia’s second largest metro area, huddled in the Aburrá Valley of the Andes, is becoming much more well-known for its music scene than the exploits of narcotraficantes—and Karol G sits at the forefront. 

The 30-year-old Medellín native is currently the No. 1 female Latin artist in the world, according to signs at her shows, with billions of streams on YouTube and DSPs, and I’m in town to touch the people and check out the first date of her homecoming concerts. It’s a historic performance, after all. This is the hometown leg of her Bichota Tour (“Bichota” translates to “bad bitch,” for the uninitiated). She’s set to perform in front of 40,000 fans at Estadio Atanasio Girardot for two nights, the city’s biggest venue and home to their soccer team Atletico Nacional. Karol is the first female reggaeton artist to ever perform at the venue, and both nights are sold out. 

When I first landed in the city on Friday, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I must admit that I let the city’s reputation and a couple Google searches make me more paranoid than I should’ve been. All of those concerns and questions immediately went out the window when I arrived, and I felt the electricity as soon as I touched down. While waiting for my ride to Medellín, viejitas were outside of the airport selling arepas de choclo from wired carts, and they got pissed at me when I told them I didn’t have any cash. I said this to our driver Wilson and he laughed it off, saying that I missed out on some of the best arepas I would ever have. My guy Wilson gave me a breakdown of the ins and outs of a place he’s called home for the last 30 years and quickly put my worries to rest.

Leaving the José María Córdova airport, we drove through a massive tunnel that was made under a large mountain. Wilson talked about how the project was finally completed about two years ago and how important it had become in modernizing the city. Without the tunnel, it would’ve taken us hours to get to Medellín from the airport—now it only took us about 30 minutes or so. Without it, Medellín wouldn’t have been able to easily accommodate tourists for a weekend like this.