New Latin Urban Panel: How Colombia & Puerto Rico Artists Are Revolutionizing the Genre

Michael Seto
J Alvarez, Artist, Plan B, Artist, Alex Sensation, Radio Dj, J Balvin, Artist, Nicky Jam, Artist, Farruko, Artist, Justin Quiles, Artist at the Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards, Miami, FL, on 29 April 2015.

One of the most anticipated panels of the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Conference, the “New Latin Urban Movement” put the spotlight on the genre’s hottest stars from Colombia and Puerto Rico. J Alvarez, J Balvin, Plan B, Farruko, Nicky Jam, and Justin Quiles took the stage for the panel, moderated by DJ Alex Sensation.

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In what proved to be one of the more jovial and insightful sessions of the conference, the panelists touched on how their generation has revolutionized the genre through the use of tropical sounds, the importance of mentoring younger artists, the use of social media as a powerful marketing tool, retaining authenticity, and what they want their legacy to be.

Nicky Jam -- whose “El Perdón” with Enrique Iglesias is currently No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart, where it has remained for 11 weeks -- proved to be the biggest jokester, recalling a conversation with Iglesias (complete with a comical impression of the Spanish heartthrob): “He calls me -- speaking in English even though he’s a Spaniard -- and was like, ‘Dude, you gotta do this song with me.’ Then he told me that he loved my story, that he had read all about how I started out in Puerto Rico, struggled for a while, then moved to Colombia, where I released new music and found success. I couldn’t believe it.”

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Nicky is not the only one who has found success in Colombia. One of the country’s hottest musical exports, J Balvin discussed how the storytelling aspect of his music has been the key to connecting with so many people. “This new generation is all about accessibility and realism. My music resonates because I sing about my problems, the good and bad times, and I show my emotions. It’s more than just party music,” said the “Ay Vamos” singer.

Alex Sensation commented on how unified the members of Latin urban’s new class are. As someone who has witnessed the genre’s evolution, that wasn’t always the case. Similar to hip-hop, reggaeton has had its notable rivalries (such as the short-lived Daddy Yankee vs. Don Omar one in the mid-2000s), but in recent years, both established artists as well as the emerging ones have embraced each other, collaborating more than ever and exchanging messages of support on social media.

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As Chencho and Maldy of Plan B put it ever so succinctly, “La union está en la fuerza (our strength comes from our unity).”

And as for the lack of females in the genre, the panelists seemed to be well aware of the need for more artists like Ivy Queen. Nicky Jam joked that the queen of reggaeton “is tougher than all of us up here, in every way.”

Here are some of the best soundbites from the panel, taken from our live tweets. Join the conversation using the hashtag #BBLatin.