Über Cucu Diamantes
She was born Ileana Padron in Havana, Cuba, but it wasn't until she'd moved to New York City that CuCu Diamantes -- the singer, the socialite, the underground Latina icon -- emerged. There, Diamantes first joined up with fellow Cuban Juan Carlos Formell (son of Los Van Van's Juan Formell) to sing backup in his band Cuba Libre. Not long after, Diamantes was hired by Blue Note's A&R division. While there, she met producer/musician Andres Levin, and the two clicked immediately. They began writing songs together, and it was just a matter of time before Diamantes was pulling in acquaintances to form Yerba Buena, the Grammy-nominated group that folded funk, cumbia, Latin soul and hip-hop into an enticing stew. After two albums, the group's momentum slowed, and Diamantes struck out on her own in 2009 with the appropriately titled CuCuLand. It picked up where Yerba Buena left off, mingling that band's salsa/soul with personal, torchy songs and even more eclectic musical influences.