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From Bad Bunny to Arcangel: Is Venezuelan Dirty Money Behind the Global Phenomenon of Reggaeton?

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There has been a lot of noise on social networks in these past few days about allegations that the record label of several urban Latin artists — including Bad Bunny (one of the biggest and most successful implicated) — was founded thanks to a $2 million investment made by a former official of the Venezuelan dictatorship.

Rimas Music is today one of the most powerful record companies in the world. Despite being founded recently (in 2014), the label has a lineup that any other entity would envy. In fact, it is in charge of the distribution of the work of Bad Bunny, who is recognized by Bloomberg as the most successful and biggest artist today (no other musician comes close to his success).

Apart from Bad Bunny, it distributes several of Latin music’s biggest reggaeton stars, such as Arcángel, Jowell & Randy, and Venezuelan Corina Smith.

Rimas has been working with Arcángel since his 2019 album Historias de un Capricornio. Similarly, he has been distributing Jowell & Randy’s music since 2016, Corina Smith’s since 2020, and Bad Bunny since he started in the industry just 4 years ago in 2018.

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The co-founder of Rimas, and representative of these great urban artists, is Puerto Rican Noah Assad, whom Rolling Stone Magazine listed as one of the 25 most important names in the music industry of the future.

Noah Assad is credited with producing and distributing Bad Bunny’s first album, X 100PRE, after the artist — who since childhood dreamed of becoming a singer — was discovered while working as a groceries bagger in a supermarket. Rimas Music was already four years old when it distributed the artist’s first album, which would become the company’s most valuable.

Today, thanks to a lawsuit by Noah Assad’s ex-wife — who claims half of the fortune that the producer amassed (a billion-dollar company) — we learned in detail about the origins of Rimas Music and how it came to be thanks to money from corruption in Venezuela.

An extensive article published by El American‘s Emmanuel Rondon digs into more detail about the lawsuit and its implications, but in short, this is what happened: Gretchen Marie Hernández Rivera not only is suing her ex-partner, Assad, but also Rafael Ricardo Jiménez Dan, who currently owns 51% of Rimas Music. Why? Because Jiménez Dan put up the capital to found the company: $2 million. And, in addition, he paid debts that Noah Assad had at the time.

Ricardo Jiménez Dan is a Venezuelan member of the armed forces who, from being Vice-Minister of Security in Hugo Chávez’s Ministry of Internal Relations (between 2006 and 2013), went on to live as a rich man in Weston, Florida. He was an official of one of the most corrupt governments in history, accused of Human Rights violations and drug trafficking by the Department of Justice.

This is what the lawsuit says: “In 2014, Assad met a Venezuelan national by the name of Rafael Ricardo Jimenez Dan, a former vice minister in the government of Hugo Chavez, who at the time had just left Venezuela.”

“Co-defendant Jimenez Dan loaned and/or invested money to open a recording studio. That same year, Rivera and Assad were able to make one of their dreams come true when Rimas Entertainment, LLC was founded with additional money contributed by the Venezuelan Jimenez Dan.”

What started with a $2 million investment turned into a billion-dollar industry (literally). And half of that is what the wife of the highly successful Noah Assad is claiming.

Bad Bunny and the other artists represented by Rimas Music may have no idea about any of the details of the lawsuit. They probably don’t even care. No one denies their talent. After all, talent is the main force behind the impressive successes of several of the artists represented by Noah Assad—who have managed to transcend the Latin world to bring urban music to be embraced by the entire world.

The merit of that is undeniable. Names like Bad Bunny, Jowell & Randy, and other artists who don’t work with Rimas like J Balvin have contributed to boosting urban music in Spanish to levels never seen before. It’s impressive and attributable to their talent without a doubt.

But sometimes talent needs someone to light the fuse. And in the case of the artists represented by Rimas Music, it was the $2 million stolen from a regime accused of spilling the blood of dissidents.

Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.