This past February, Trinidad Cardona was delivering food out of his 1993 Nissan Sentra. “It had a zero star safety rating — I was like, ‘This is a death trap, low key,'” says Cardona. The Arizona native who was formerly signed to Island Records, was making ends meet by picking up “sketchy” odd jobs from Craigslist while remaining hopeful about his music career.
At the time, Cardona had no manager, no press agent, no label, no team. He had achieved viral status once before before with his song “Jennifer,” that landed him an initial deal with Island — “then things died down for a long time,” he says. His deal came to an end and nothing seemed to take off following the success of “Jennifer.”
Despite the lull, Cardona persevered. “I literally wrote down on a vision board four months ago, I’m going to get viral on TikTok,” he recalls. “Don’t know how, don’t know what. And boom, manifestations.”
Two months later, Cardona received a call from his mother who alerted him, by way of his younger sister, that his 2018 single, “Dinero,” was popping up all over TikTok. Cardona admits he didn’t know much about the app — which at the time wasn’t even downloaded onto his phone — but after getting on, he realized “Dinero” was featured repeatedly throughout users’ creations.
“I’m wildly calm,” says Cardona of the moment he noticed his song taking over TikTok. “Because I didn’t know what it meant. I’m still delivering food, I still got to go to work in a couple of hours.” In a matter of weeks, “Dinero,” recorded and released under Island and produced by D’Mile, became the No. 1 song on TikTok’s viral chart, topping two million creations and surpassing 65 million streams across platforms.
“TikTok is the future, it’s so unexplainable,” says Cardona. “I didn’t realize it was such a huge platform. It’s like all the social medias in one, it’s a good place to break music.”
Cardona says “Dinero” first went viral after being used on anime fight scene edits. Shortly after, TikTok users began doing dances to the track, catapulting it to the Billboard Global 200 chart two weeks ago.
Since then, “Dinero” has leapt 36 spots from its No. 82 debut to No. 46. It is currently 18 spots from making it onto the Hot 100. “This is a huge opportunity. This is much more than just a little moment,” says Cardona. “I’m about to take it all the way.”
During his interview with Billboard, Cardona is sitting in the driver’s seat of his newly-bought and newly-dented 2003 Lexus IS 300. “I promise I’m a good driver,” he jokes. The ever-positive 22-year-old singer reminisces on the tougher moments in his musical journey, mentioning his experience living in his car outside of a Walmart. “I was very discouraged. I didn’t know what to do,” he says. “But life takes care of you, just put your faith in something.”
Cardona weaves effortlessly between English and Spanish, embodying the experience of many multicultural kids. Through his stories, it’s clear that music was the path Cardona was pre-destined for; he points out that he only began pursuing music once his photography dreams broke along with his camera, that “Jennifer” was the first song he sang (he was rapping before), and that “Dinero” was one of the first songs he ever wrote.
With his recent streaming resurgence, Cardona is thinking about the future. While he says his music defies genres, the rising musician plans to lean deeper into Spanish fusion, an ode to his Mexican roots. “I really enjoyed making these Latin-type mix records,” he says. “[And] people like shaking their ass.”
Like he did with his newfound viral fame, Cardona plans to manifest his hopes of being the No. 1 artist in the world, making more “fun” music, and remaining active on TikTok. “I’m just an artist with nine lives, because I don’t get it,” he says. “It just came back to me like a boomerang.”