Tego Calderón was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in 1972. He grew up in Río Grande and Carolina, areas of Puerto Rico that maintain some of the strongest Afro-Caribbean influences on the island. Throughout his childhood Calderón was exposed by his parents to the groundbreaking music of salsa legend Ismael Rivera, as well as to Latin jazz. Determined to take his place in the music world, Tego explored a diversity of musical influences, transforming himself into an accomplished musician as well as vocalist. He attended the Escuela Libre de Música of Puerto Rico, where he concentrated on percussion studies, while also mastering composition and lyrics. Calderón graduated High School in Miami at which time Calderón was inspired by California gangsta rap troupe N.W.A., an inspiration which led to Calderón decision to become a rapper.
Moving back to Puerto Rico, Calderón also found a new appreciation for Jamaican dancehall performers and the newly emerging Reggaeton movement. Calderón began to forge his own multicultural rap style, earning a reputation as a street poet with a fresh musical approach. He credits fellow Puerto Rican hip-hop pioneer Vico C with inspiring him to rap in Spanish, instead of imitating the English catch phrases of African-American hip-hop. Establishing himself as a new voice of the streets, he made a series of appearances on best-selling Latin hip-hop compilations.
His first record, El Abayarde, released in 2002 and broke sales records in the then-underground Reggaeton genre, selling a remarkable 50,000 on the first day of its release, thus making Calderón into an overnight Latin superstar. Soon after, Calderón made history when he became the first rap artist to perform at the traditional National Day of Salsa celebration. In August 2003, Calderón headlined at New York’s Madison Square Garden prompting The New York Times to herald him as “the most forward-looking performer” of the artists on the bill, noting that “Mr. Calderón made the best case for Reggaeton as music with room to grow.”
By late 2004, Calderón was playing to sold-out crowds and acquiring a large number of non-Spanish-speaking fans in the audience, proving his appeal to be universal. As a result, Calderón has worked on collaborations and remixes with artists such as Fat Joe, Usher, 50 Cent, Cypress Hill, and Wyclef Jean, among many others. Calderón soon became the first Spanish-language artist to be featured on New York’s Power-105 as he began to garner Latin Grammy and Billboard Award nominations, a Source Award for “International Artist of the Year,” a Tu Música award, and nominations for La Gente and Lo Nuestro awards. Calderón’s music combines urban Hip Hop roughness with the poetic Caribbean rhythms transmitted by the early sounds of Salsa music, as he tells his stories through the poetry of both the spoken word and the always universal musical note.