“I want to try and make my own movement,” says J. Balvin, the rising reggaeton star, whose album “La Familia” was just released on Capitol Latin. “We are going to conquer the world.”
Maybe its not such a lofty goal for the Colombian artist, whose following extends from (logically) South America to (surprisingly) Romania, where he performed for a crowd of a reported ten thousand at one show of a recent Eastern European tour. The video for his single “Tranquila” has over 61 million views. “Sola,” the latest video from the new album, is nearing a million plays on Vevo.
In the United States, Balvin’s song “Yo Te lo Dije” seemed to come out of nowhere last summer to spend 14 weeks in the Top Ten of the Billboard Latin Rhythm Airplay chart, where it is currently at no. 11.
“People hadn’t heard Colombian reggaeton,” the 28-year-old artist from Medellín told Billboard. “We know that means we have to do something new.”
Balvin, who grew up listening to salsa and rock, played Nirvana and Metallica songs in a cover band before a period living in New York turned him on to hip hop.
“I fell in love not just with the music, but the marketing,” says Balvin, who speaks fluent English. “So I started doing hip hop, and then I was like I have to do something that really represents us. I want to make a special kind of reggaeton that’s more like hip hop; a Spanish version of American hip hop.”
After a discouraging period trying to make it in New York, Balvin ended up returning to Colombia.
“No one would sign me,” he remembers. “I went back to my country and started as a nobody here.” He gained a following in Colombia, and started touring South America. Over the past year, a global audience has found his music through social media.
“You have to do it step by step, little by little,” Balvin comments. “It takes risk, and having different sounds and topics and different vibes.”
With a nod to leading Latin urban artists who have walked in his shoes to superstardom, here are Balvin’s picks for five favorite videos from “la familia” of reggaeton.
1. Daddy Yankee, “Rompe”
"It’s a classic. I fell in love with the video because it’s a real hip hop video, not a reggaeton video. I love the way he mixes the reggaeton with hip hop."
2. Don Omar ft. Lucenzo, “Danza Kuduro”
"With 'Danza Kuduro' Don Omar did a real crazy job. I give him props for taking a risk to do this type of song and he made it happen. He’s the man. I love not only the song, but what happened with the song all over the world."
3. J Alvarez, “Junto al Amanecer”
"This song makes you feel like reggaeton is going back to a different vibe and is blowing up again in a crazy way. I really like what J Alvarez is doing, he’s from the new generation of reggaeton."
4. Wisin y Yandel ft. Chris brown and T Pain “Hay Algo Que Me Gusta de Ti”
"The crossover they did, to have Chris Brown and T Pain together with them, especially in the video, it makes you feel proud that Latino is being respected by hip hop. You can see in the video that the vibe was really good. I really like that connection between reggaeton and hip hop artists, and the beat is crazy!"
5. Wisin, “Que Vive la Vida”
Yandel, “Hablé de Ti”
"I really love what both Wisin and Yandel are doing as solo artists. Eventually, people will start missing them as a group, so I think they will end up getting back together for their fans."