"I woke up with seven million views," Trinidad Cardona explains matter-of-factly over the phone. The story of how his song "Jennifer" blew up and earned the 18-year-old Arizona-based artist a legion of fans in Brazil is a modern case study on the power and speed of the internet, but it's more than luck and randomness.
A viral moment was the catalyst, but talent, character, and charisma are all essential elements that got Trinidad Cardona where he is today. As a black/Mexican kid raised by two lesbian mothers and exposed to ignorance and adversity, Cardona has responded by embracing and promoting love and acceptance. His positivity is infectious, and his spirit is magnetic. He's got star qualities and the music to match, and as millions are getting exposed to it, they're all agreeing that it's something worth sharing.
First off, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Trinidad Cardona, I’m a artist coming out of Phoenix Arizona. I just turned 18 last month.
Are you still in high school?
I just finished high school, yes. So actually, no I’m not in high school. I’m finished with school.
So your song “Jennifer” really hooked me. Can you tell me about the song?
Dude, the song is one of the craziest stories because the song wasn’t even supposed to be a real song. Originally it was [Singing] “Cara-Cara-Cara-oline why you so fine” and then we were just goofing around in the bathroom one day and my homie started recording me and I wanted to sing the song. I knew it was going to go on social media so I had to switch it up and I started freestyling “Jennifer.”
Once it hit Facebook, that’s when it blew up. I got like seven million views. Literally, I woke up with seven million views, and the fans kept pushing it. They made a four-minute loop of that song, that little cell phone video. And it got a million views. That’s when I knew I had to make it a song. The fans pushed me to make that song.
When you recorded it, did you have anything planned for it?
Nah, I didn’t have anything planned. It was just a catchy little hook for me. You know, just one of those little tunes; it wasn’t supposed to be anything serious.
Why did you choose like to make multiple versions, and which one is your favorite one?
So the original, the one that’s looped—that’s a fan-made one. We just put that up because that’s the one the fans favorited. The rap remix is actually the official version and I’m happy with the record at the end of the day, but even that official version I would have cut. That was me paying for studio sessions that I couldn’t fully afford, and then I had a deadline to meet so the song was released and thank God the fans kept pushing it up. I’m still in love with the song either way.
You have a huge online following now. Did it come from that Facebook video going viral?
It was Facebook that pushed all the followers. When I first started blowing up on the internet, I actually had 80 thousand followers on Instagram, and I got hacked. I had to restart and I been chilling with 50 thousand. I actually just got myself to 50 thousand. But it all came from Facebook and being shared, and then some people posted on Youtube and that ended up racking up views, so it came from a little bit of everywhere but my main source was Facebook. It all started with Facebook.
What was the first moment when you realized something special was happening?
That goes back before “Jennifer” because before I was actually “famous”—not even a D-list celebrity, before I was a F-list celebrity—I was actually making a little bit of buzz in my city, talking to a couple important people. I started music two years ago.
It started out of boredom honestly. So, when I started doing music I ended up falling in love with it and then I realized my records aren’t bad and people are actually playing my records. I go into the city and I hear my records sometimes. Then I started falling in love with the creative process, so immediately I already knew I was going to fall in love with it and I was going to master it. Maybe two months before “Jennifer” really got popular on the internet, I started really thinking that this music thing is something serious, something that I’m about to indulge in.
I see a lot of people following each other in the music industry, and biting off of what other people do, and it's all one wave. I want people to do what they feel they need to do, what they want to do.
Gucci Mane and Ludacris have both shared your music right?
Yeah, a whole bunch of people.
Have any other big names in music shared it?
I remember Kelly Rowland had posted up my music, it was two other names that I forgot, but those are just on Facebook. Up to current time, a lot of people have heard my music. I got a message from Trinidad James the other day. I don’t know who could be hearing my music.
You have a lot of fans from Brazil, right? What’s the connection there?
The internet just makes people famous. That literally all came from Facebook, and it just happened to blow up in Brazil. That’s who ran with it. I’m glad the fan base is really taking a hold of everything. And it's super random, because I love Brazil. I had a love for Brazil before, so it was kind of a coincidence. It's super awesome.
Your music has a throwback feel to it, like a '90s R&B kind of feel to it. Is that an influence?
That is crazy, because '90s R&B is not really in my playlist. I started off as a rapper, and I don’t even listen to rap music too much. Lately, I’ve been into newer R&B. I started off with dancehall music, listening to cats like Vybz Kartel, Tommy Lee, and Popcaan. Then started moving over to Michael Jackson, then getting into the newer R&B and things of that nature. Today I was in a restaurant and I asked one of my friends what songs were playing and it was a whole bunch of '90s R&B so I’m starting to fall in love with it right now. But my influences don't even come from the '90s.
What music are you listening to these days?
I listen to a lot of jazz right now. So people like Grover Washington Jr., Jerry Bergonzi. They’ve been in my playlist like insane. But dancehall music is slowly creeping back into my mind. Everything comes in a phase, I had my dancehall music phase for a couple years and now its starting to come back. So dancehall is a big part of everything right now. That was before the whole Drake phase. [Laughs]
So what’s next for you? Are you planning to do music full time?
Definitely. This is already my full time job. Music is right now my life. I decided before “Jennifer” even blew up, I wanted to take this very serious so at this point, music is my full time job. That’s my career, man.
I want people to know that its OK to have tolerance, its OK for different people to be friends with each other—Different religions, different sexual orientations, anything. It's alright for everybody to be friends with each other.
What do you want your fans to take from your music?
Right now, man I wish I could show you guys some of the songs I have planned. I want people to take away that they really can be themselves, first of all, and that its OK to be that different person. People have been calling me eccentric, and I had to learn what that word means. So, I guess I’m eccentric and I want my fans to be OK with that. I want people to know its okay to be their own person, their own being. I see a lot of people following each other in the music industry, and biting off of what other people do, and it's all one wave. I want people to do what they feel they need to do, what they want to do.
No matter what background you come from, it doesn’t matter when it comes to building relationships. I grew up with two lesbian mothers and a father in prison, and I was raised around all women. Right now, I have a team of a whole bunch of guys around me, but we still all get along.
I’m black and Mexican as well, and then my mom’s wife is Puerto Rican. So it’s a matter of blending the different lines between cultures. There have been times I go into my friends' Mexican households, they see my Afro, and their mom wants me out of the house. They don’t want me in the house at all. It took a lot of blurring the lines and having people adjusting. I want people to know that its OK to have tolerance, its OK for different people to be friends with each other—different religions, different sexual orientations, anything. It's alright for everybody to be friends with each other. You just have to figure out a way to make things work. That’s the main takeaway I want people to think about when they hear Trinidad Cardona.