La Barb!
Karol G
Credit: Courtesy of The Latin Recording Academy/Alexander Tamargo, Getty Images ©2020

Karol G may be performing "Tusa," her hit 2019 collaboration with Nicki Minaj, alone at the Latin Grammys on Thursday, but she knows the legendary rapper will be with her in spirit.

Her friendship with Minaj is just one of the many things Karol, born Carolina Giraldo Navarro, is grateful for this year. After surviving COVID-19, so much became apparent to the Urban Latina singer, including her need to reconnect with herself.

Karol spoke to EW about her 2020 evolution, how it's influencing her future, working with Minaj, and what fans can expect from her Latin Grammy performance airing Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. ET/PT live via Univision.

"It may sound strange to say this, but everything that happened to me this year is exactly what I needed," Karol tells EW exclusively in Spanish. "I feel like I've grown so much as an artist and a person. After 'Tusa's' success, I was under a lot of pressure about my next move. I also felt a little over-consumed by the industry which led me to lose myself a bit. I reached a point where I didn't feel I was enjoying the process, the evolution, or the success. 

"Throughout 2020, I've been able to take a step back and drown out the noise. I've reconnected with myself and found meaning again. It led me to this new creative burst so I'm back to planning where I'm going personally and professionally. Recently, I re-watched my old videos again and listened to my music. I fell in love again with all the things that inspired me to become an artist. It was empowering! Most importantly, I fell in love with myself again. It's been this journey of rediscovery that's made my path moving forward very clear."

Although Karol has been missing performing live, she won't have to wait long. Without an audience or media present, the Latin Grammys will go on with tight precautions in place to aid in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. And although Minaj will be watching from home, Karol will have her parents by her side as she waits to find out if any of her four nominations lead to Grammy gold.

"I think 'Tusa' was such a huge hit for Nicki and me because of how organically it all came together," she explains. "Working together has led to a beautiful friendship between us. She reached out to me after they announced our nominations for Song of the Year and Record of the Year and said, 'Hey queen, we're nominated again!' We were both very emotional. She's sad she won't be able to perform with me but she just had a baby and is taking a break to be with her family. But she sent me a very special message boosting me up and celebrating our success."

While reflecting on their time together working on "Tusa," Karol couldn't help but gush about when Minaj surprised her by singing in Spanish. She confirms it was all the rapper's idea, who Karol says is a huge fan of Latin music.

"I didn't help Nicki learn her parts in Spanish at all. It was the most surprising part of it all because I had no idea," Karol explains. "When she agreed to the collaboration, I sent her the music and my verses translated to English and told her to do whatever she wants with it. I gave her no parameters either, I trusted her implicitly. When she sent me what she'd come up with, I didn't even finish hearing it all. I stopped after I heard her sing the Spanish verse then ran around the house screaming because I was so happy!

"From the beginning, she told she was a huge fan of Latin music but I never imagined she'd sing in my native language. [Laughs] Working with her was so much fun and the final product was badass. Our experience together was so great, I dare dream we could collaborate more in the future."

Karol needn't have worried about the future, the release of her song "Bichota" in October was a hit. And with a renewed sense of self, she's knee-deep in planning her next album.

"All I can tease about my new album is that it's going to be my best one yet!" she said excitedly. "Fans can expect to hear it sometime in 2021. I'm working extra hard to ensure that the top album of 2021 is by a woman to inspire others that they can do it too. Let's open the door for others! Let's emerge from this year hopeful and full of gratitude."

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