There are many things in Jose that go deep into its namesake’s DNA, beginning with “7 de Mayo,” Balvin’s birth date, where, to a moody, minor backdrop, he raps his life’s story in intricate detail, something he’s never done before in song.
“The album was made thinking about myself and what I like to do,” says Balvin. “When I realized I didn’t have to box myself into a concept, like I did with Colores, I said, ‘The concept is me.'"
And “me” is many things: Old-school reggaetón, hardcore rap, dance-infused tracks, ballads. This me pairs up with big stars like Ozuna and Yandel, newcomers like Tokischa and María Becerra, up and coming stars like Myke Towers and Jhay Cortez and a couple of mainstream acts like Khalid and Skrillex.
Overwhelmingly, Jose sounds real and often raw, very different from the sometimes overworked sound and aesthetic of Colores. And yet, it’s anything but basic. Instead, by getting personal, Balvin has managed to produce some of his most universal fare yet.
While navigating 24 tracks could be daunting, here are five starters, handpicked by Balvin himself.
1. F40: Balvin is not given to boastful tracks. In “F40,” which opens the album, he does it in unique fashion, inviting Puerto Rican icon Arcangel not to sing or rap with him, but to talk about what it means to be a legend. “It’s the first time I do a track like that. It has all that nostalgic old reggaetón sound in the beginning, and the slow parts, [emulating] when they would slow down the drum beat. It has a lot of nostalgia and a lot of character.”