Gerardo Ortiz, born in Pasadena, California and raised in Mexico, began his singing career at a very young age. He spent part of his youth in the western state of Sinaloa, birthplace of the first generation of Mexican drug kingpins. From that early influence, Ortiz is known for singing about the exploits of Mexico's drug lords. These ballads about drug lords – know as "narcocorridos" - are sung to traditional folk melodies and rhythms and are a thriving genre of Mexican popular music. The singer has told interviewers that he began writing songs while still a youngster, often inspired by newspaper stories about the activities of drug traffickers and cartel gunslingers. In March, the Ortiz narrowly survived an ambush in Colima, Mexico, that claimed the life of his cousin and business manager and their driver. Ortiz was the big winner at the inaugural Billboard Mexican Music Awards in October, taking home six honors, including Artist of the Year, New Artist of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Albums Artist of the Year (for 2010's "Ni Hoy Ni Mañana" and this year's "Morir y Existir: En Vivo," both out on Del Records/Sony) and Norteño Artist of the Year. Ortiz also won Vocal Event Song of the Year for "Culiacán vs. Mazatlán," the Calibre 50 track where he was a featured artist.