A Historic Weekend in Colombia For Karol G, Queen of Medellín

We went to Medellín, Colombia for Karol G’s massive homecoming performance at Estadio Atanasio Girardot. Here’s what happened during the historic weekend.

Karol G homecoming performance

Image via Karol G

Karol G homecoming performance

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.

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The first thing I noticed on the drive into town was Medellín’s vibrant graffiti scene. Now, I’m not talking about commissioned generic art murals here, which there are plenty of, I’m talking about that real shit: tags, throw-ups, bubble letters, various hand styles, cartoon character references. There’s really great graffiti out here. I even saw an MF DOOM tag in the back of the Del Rio Market where I had some arepas that tasted like buttah, baby. Hip-hop’s influence knows no bounds. It’s noticeably ingrained in more recent generations of Medellín youth. The latin trap scene is directly linked to this thing of ours here in the States, as well as dancehall and reggae in Jamaica. You mix all those cultures and genres and subgenres, and you start to scratch the surface of what’s been happening in Latin America since Daddy Yankee came through and crushed the buildings. Then Bad Bunny picked up the pieces, started to build some type of spaceship, and here we are now with a group of genre-defining artists that do Adele numbers in the Latin market. Medellín reminds me of Puerto Rico in a way, and the music scene has a lot to do with that. Latin rap has effectively replaced other Latin genres like salsa as the music of choice for younger generations, and it’s inescapable as it blares from speakers all over the city.

On a rainy Friday night, I went to an official pre-party that gave me an up-close look at Medellín’s incredible nightlife. On our way there, my driver navigated the Medellín hills like Lewis Hamilton as he whipped the clutch and hugged corners, dodging motorcyclists as they whizzed by. When I arrived, the line was out the door and I got drenched as the rain rushed down the awning, but my mood switched up once we finally made it inside. Everybody was either dancing or vibing out, the Aguardiente flowed, and the smell of Medellín kush was in the air as the DJs mixed old school reggaeton like “Guatauba” by Plan B and new school artists, like the woman of the moment: Karol G. Everyone at Discoteca Bolívar got me prepared for what I witnessed Saturday night at Estadio Atanasio Giradot. Medellín is different, as the kids say. Colombians know how to party.

Entering the stadium on Saturday night, there were parties in the stands hours before anyone took the stage. Karol joined a short list that includes Madonna and Beyoncé as the only women to perform here, and you could feel the significance in the air. The place erupted when she took the stage with an all-female band to perform one of her more recent tracks “SeJodioTo.” 

Karol G performance

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