After making waves in the Latin music scene in the USA in 2009, musician Leslie Grace has quickly climbed up the charts and garnered critical acclaim for her music. And with her latest collaboration with music producer Boi-1da and rapper Meek Mill, remaking the iconic Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine song Conga for BACARDI, she’s quickly becoming a household name. Ahead, she opens up to ELLE in an exclusive chat about the challenges she’s faced as a female Latin American artist, her greatest inspirations, and more.
ELLE: What has the experience been like, collaborating with Boi-1da and Meek Mill on Conga?
Leslie Grace: Collaborating with Meek Mill and Boi-1da was such an honour. They are both people I respect and am fans of, so to create something special together upon our first link up was really cool! I worked really closely with Boi-1da on the track from beginning to end as I wrote new parts and we figured out what the structure of the song would be. Meek then heard the track later on after I had already recorded my vocals and hopped on with his incredible verse. And once it was time to shoot the video after long threads of lyric approvals, both Meek and Boi-1da were ready.
ELLE: As a Latin singer, what made you want to give the iconic Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine song a remake?
LG: First and foremost, I have an immense amount of respect for Gloria! She was one of the first huge international artists I had as a reference who sung both in Spanish and in English which was a dream of mine to succeed at doing. ‘Conga’, being one of her greatest hits with Miami Sound Machine, was a huge undertaking to remake. But when the idea was initially presented to Boi-1da and I by the BACARDĺ team, we could not pass up the opportunity to put our spin on this iconic record! We worked so diligently on the record to do it justice because this song means so much to people – starting with the Estefan’s and spreading all the way across the globe.
ELLE: What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face as an emerging Latin American female artist?
LG: Oh man… I am so privileged to do what I love and have people enjoy it in spite of all the hardships that come with pursuing any dream. I think the hardest thing for me has been preserving my own identity and trying to communicate it as genuinely as possible through my art. That part about the music business can get so murky because you feel the responsibility to perform and make so many people proud by making your identity meet their perception of you. But the day your dream becomes a trade off with who you are is the day that dream is no longer yours. I’m learning to prioritise my passion and message over perception so that those who receive my art can receive something true that I put my whole heart into. I feel this project is representative of that.
ELLE: What are some of your greatest inspirations?
LG: As I’ve said before and will continue to again and again Gloria was one of my earliest inspirations! Selena was another artist I truly looked up to all my life. Along with amazing vocalist and singer songwriters like Whitney Houston, India Arie, and Pharrell. All incredibly inspirational people to me.
ELLE: In your downtime, what is some of the music you enjoy listening to?
LG: Definitely India Arie on my chill days and when I need some self-affirmation. And if I need to liven up the party in me, I go for some Dominican classics by Juan Luis Guerra or Fernando Villalona. I actually have a Bollywood favourite that I listen to when I’m stressed and it’s one of my favourite songs in the world – Enna Sona by Arijit Singh from the movie Ok Jaanu. Something about his voice just soothes every worry I could ever have.
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ELLE: After a rough year for the entire global community, what does the future look like for you?
LG: I think the future for all of us looks like endless possibilities. I personally intend to savour every aspect of life to the best of my ability and use it all for my art. I’m looking forward to sharing so much new music and celebrating the release of In The Heights later this summer as well! Hoping we are all in a better place, within and without, by then. Until then though, I’ll continue to celebrate life as it is day by day.
The trio of world-renowned artists Leslie Grace, Meek Mill and Boi-1da have collaborated with BACARDI on remaking Gloria Estefan’s signature single, Conga. Watch the official video here: