Panama singer changes dubious nickname for U.S.

Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:19pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - The newest face of Latin rhythmic music comes with several twists: He hails from Panama, not Puerto Rico; he calls his style romantic reggae, not reggaeton; and in Mexico, where his success has given him entry to the U.S. market, he calls himself Nigga.

Felix Danilo Gomez, 27, who says his nickname came from a Panamanian singer's observation that "I sang like a black guy from Jamaica," has had the No. 1 song on Mexican radio for the past 10 weeks with "Te Quiero," according to Nielsen Music Control.

His self-titled album, released by EMI Televisa, climbed to No. 1 on the Mexican sales charts last month, with sales of more than 50,000 copies, according to trade group Amprofon.

Some tweaking has been done before the album comes out on January 15 in the United States, where he is known as Flex. Gomez recut the parts where he refers to his Mexican moniker, and the CD packaging will be reprinted with his U.S. name.

Rhythm and pop stations in the United States have adopted the single, which sounds like a cross between the retro pop of U.S. chart-topper Sean Kingston and melodic reggaeton. The song is currently No. 20 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart.

"It's a fusion of reggae music in Spanish with ballad lyrics," says Gomez. "Puerto Ricans liked it and did it their way. That's why reggaeton has a lot to do with what I do -- it's practically the same music, but they gave it a different name and they made it more internationally commercial."

Reuters/Billboard

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