‘We Made a Statement’: J Balvin on Making History at a Reggaeton-Heavy Latin Grammys (Exclusive)

Alexandra Gavillet

J Balvin photographed on Feb. 6, 2020 at MAPS Studio in Miami.

Ten years ago, J Balvin had his eye on the prize, hoping to one day nab a Latin Grammy nomination. Today, leading the pack with 13 mentions, he makes history as the artist with the most noms for a single Latin Grammy award show in its 21-year history.

“What speaks for you is your work. All the discipline throughout the years is a cause and effect,” Balvin tells Billboard in an exclusive interview. “This is truly beautiful because I’m a dreamer from Medellin, Colombia who wanted to make a statement and we achieved that.”

On Tuesday (Sept. 29) the Latin Recording Academy unveiled its full nominations including top contenders like Bad Bunny, Ozuna, and Anuel AA—a very different scene from last year’s list dominated by pop/tropical acts such as Alejandro Sanz, Rosalia, Juan Luis Guerra, and Fonseca.

The reggaeton-heavy nominations come a year after a wave of urbano artists expressed their concerns with the Latin Recording Academy for the lack of urban recognition in the main categories. Balvin, alongside other colleagues, was one of the leading force of the "Without Reggaeton there's no Latin Grammys" campaign on social media. Their protest, as he simply stated, is “for the culture and the movement.”

“It would be nice to be the big winner of the night but we already made a statement and that’s the most important thing,” he says. “This is for the youth, for the dreamers, for the reggaeton genre and the different ramifications of urban music.”

Nominated twice in multiple categories, including the coveted record of the year, album of the year, and the newly-added best reggaeton performance, Balvin’s nods reflect a genre where collaborations flourish. Though collabs have propelled the genre to expand and go global, Balvin assures that everything has a balance.

“There are moments for collaborations and moments to be solo,” he says. “I had practically no collaborations on ‘Colores’ because I wanted to see how I connect with fans by myself. I wouldn’t like to know that my career depends on someone else.”

For Balvin, the 2020 Latin Grammys is a sign that things are getting done the right way. “All new artists should be aware that there is a voting system, that they have to register for the Grammys, become part of the academy and vote for their dreams,” he advises.

Earlier this week, Balvin celebrated his career milestone with a throwback photo from 2010. On it, he’s seen posing next to the golden gramophone statuette. His main purpose? To continue inspiring his fans.

“Sometimes we become desperate and want things to happen right away, I include myself,” he admits. “It took me 10 years to get to this point but you have to enjoy the process because those memories don't come back either. I think the main thing is to create a solid foundation and not depend so much on social media or wanting to go viral. Few things go viral but hard work and discipline always lead you to success. Dream but work hard for that. It’ll take longer but it'll last.” he concludes.

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