Jay Wheeler is one of the most promising urban acts of the moment, serenading fans with his romantic voice. But growing up in Puerto Rico wasn’t easy, he says in the new episode of Billboard’s “Growing Up.”
“When I was in school, I used to face a lot of bullying and it got worse in high school,” he says, adding that kids in school would slap him in the face and steal his backpack. “I don’t know why until this day, but I’m grateful I went through that because it made me a stronger person.”
He admits that even though music was his passion, he was scared of becoming an artist because he felt that people would make fun of him. In fact, the first time he went viral in 2016, with “Ahora Estoy Mejor,” was because a friend of his posted the video on Facebook.
His track “Por Tu Culpa” put him on the map in Puerto Rico and ultimately landed him an opportunity to work with DJ Nelson and Flow Music and his first major collaboration with Farruko. In April Wheeler earned his first No. 1 on Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart with “Viendo al Techo.”
But it was his Myke Towers-assisted “La Curiosidad” that changed his life.
“I bought my house because of that song,” he notes. “It just got nominated for a Latin Grammy. It’s still doing something, and I feel that it will continue doing something for a long time.”
Inspired by artists like K-Ci & JoJo, Boyz II Men and *NSYNC, the Puerto Rican artist is working on his all-English studio album Good Music for Bad Days, which he describes as a “dope challenge.”
The artist born José Ángel López Martínez owes all his success to his humble beginnings in Salinas, Puerto Rico. He explains that his mother had him at 17 and they lived in a small, wooden house built by his grandfather.
“It was beautiful growing up, but it wasn’t easy,” he says. “I’ll never forget the day my father told me: ‘Always be a leader, never a follower.’”
Watch the full episode above.