Paisa Prince

Since the last time we talked to J Balvin (cover of 2016 autumn edition), the Medellin born artist has soared to new heights and become one of a handful of urban Latin artists who have conquered the world. Hits such as 'Mi Gente' have become internet sensations and smashed the charts in previously unthinkable territories, including the UK. We catch up with the global superstar as his latest hit has been remixed by Beyoncé, to find out how he’s handling the success.
by: 
Jose Luis Seijas

Latino Life: How you doing man, congratulations on this year’s success. Last time we spoke I had my Turkish mates singing Ginza…now I have my kids and their school friends singing Mi Gente…you have truly gone global and it has been your biggest year so far…

J Balvin: Yes man, thanks. It has been my best year so far, I have been blessed with so much work, but it hasn’t been overnight…I have been doing this for ten years now so I am just collecting the fruits of hard work and also the work that my team has put in…

LL: What about Mi Gente, a great song and suddenly you have arguably the biggest artist of the last 10 years, Beyoncé, doing a remix, how was that?

JB: It was an incredible thing to happen, Mi gente has been the biggest song that I have put out and the we had the opportunity to work with Beyoncé and so…well you grab those opportunities and make them happen. The proceeds of that remix went to help people in Puerto Rico and other parts that were affected by natural disaster so it was all worth it.

LL: How do you keep yourself grounded with all the success?

JB: Well, I’m very close to my family and everything I’ve achieved is down to them. My dad is a strategic thinker and mother has an incredible human vibe. She teases me by saying that people say I think I'm a star, so I'm gonna have to shine for her (lol). I share the same values as they do, the universe, gratitude, good vibes and to have good manners; to always ask people how they are and to fight injustice. So we are close, infact recently we celebrated their anniversary...

 

 

LL: While other artists defined themselves as urban and even went as far as criticising reggaetón, you have always been very vocal about being a reggaetón artist, a proud ambassador of the genre…now you have Colombia’s three biggest stars, Juanes, Caros Vives and Shakira, all singing reggaeton: …how does that make you feel?

JB: Reggaetón has been good for everyone, it is great to see such massive artists who I admire doing the music I love and, in the end, it is all about the music. I had a dream of becoming a reggaetén singer. That was my focus, what I’ve been working for and now that’s happening. Colombia is a land with so much talent and we are all doing our thing.

LL: And yet, on seeing the artists that have most influenced you (see J Bavin's Fantasy Island Tracks), some might be surrpised to find a reggaetón artist being so into heavy metal! Who would you say are your most enduring influences?

JB: Yeah people mind find it surprising but in fact the biggest inspirations for me are Metallica, Nirvana , Michael Jackson , Drake , The Weekend and Pharrel Williams

LL: You represent that first generation of Colombia’s reggaetóneros, alongside a few others who are doing well, but is there a new talent that you think we should listen to?

JB: There is a massive amount of talent but there is someone who is really special, Manuel Turizo, he is the man to watch for.

LL: Really sorry about my ignorance but i thought he was Spanish!

JB: (laughs) no man he is a paisa from Medellin. He has his own style…a very talented guy who I believe is the one that deserves the most attention. He is producing very good music.

 

 

LL: There is something very unique about Colombian reggaetón. I love Puerto Rican reggaetón but you Colombians are doing a phenomenal job and have created a very unique sound, who are the people behind that sound?

JB: Well I have a very good team of producers but Sky and Mosty are the ones who have helped me create this sound. They are great Colombian producers.

LL: What is your approach to making; your songs don’t sound like anybody else’s...

JB: Our approach is that we are making music for the world, we are not making just Latin music of music for Latinos, we are making global music for everyone to enjoy. We are not focusing on one single market but we are trying to make the best possible music that we can produce.

LL: Last time you came to London was your debut and a sold out event. I was surprised at your line up! I was expecting you with a DJ and a hype man doing the second vocals and suddenly I see a you with a band, which is not very usual in reggaetón, in fact i don’t remember seeing a band like that in a reggaeton concert. But the delivery was great it really worked.

JB: Thanks man that is we are trying to do, give people a good time! I try to bring something new to the live show and yes you are right not many reggaetón acts use bands but I think it gives more to the audience to have the live musicians rather than just backing tracks. You can’t replace live human creativity!

LL: Indeed man, it was a great night…so now you are coming back to a iconic London venue, the O2 Brixton Academy, one of London hottest venues, how do you feel about that and what can we expect?

JB: I feel blessed man, to have the chance to come back to London. I haven't had the opportunity to hang out there too much but I love the elegance, the city ,the people. And ofcourse it's amazing to play in such an iconic venue it just great, I’ve got a great show, we are ready for it and we are bringing a lot more surprises than the last time.

LL: And lastly some quick questions...Your favourite word? 

JB: Ha ha...has to be Parsero (tranlastes as mate in medellin spanish)

LL: What book would you recommend to a friend?

JB: The power of Now 

LL: What or who makes you feel most optimistic about the world at the moment and why?

JB: Love and elevated conscience because people it's waking up

LL: Great to talk to you. Thank you very much

JB: Thank you and looking forward to see you in London!

J balvin will perfom in London at the o2 Brixton Academy on Sunday 28th January, Tickets here