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J Balvin is arguably – and statistically – one of the most successful musicians of our time. The Colombian largely credited with the revival of reggaeton boasts monthly streaming figures that put those of Drake, Cardi B, and Justin Bieber to shame. He cemented this fact even further with his sixth studio album Colores, which dropped earlier this year and proved that urban Latino music transcends translation.
We were supposed to interview and do a shoot with J Balvin in Berlin, but no one could have foreseen a pandemic that would have a quarter of the world’s population on lockdown. Instead, we caught up with the reggaeton star for a ‘Vibe Check,’ our series that checks in with guests from the Highsnobiety world to see how they are adjusting and adapting to life in quarantine. He dials in from his home in Medellin, Colombia, all smiles and decked in cheerful Colores merch. Our conversation with the singer is a reminder that with his music, spirit, and growing pile of wins, J Balvin is giving the world some-much needed color in these grey times.
First of all, congratulations to you on your new album. Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind it?
I think it's a simple but powerful concept, and I still ask myself why no one did it before. I'm happy that I'm part of this type of creative way to make music. It's just been an amazing journey. Every song represents a different color. Of course, every track on Colores has a special video about that color. It's really dope, because in this case we don't talk about songs, we talk straight up about colors. And the feedback has been really amazing.
You did things differently this time, not least of which because you barely had any features. What made you want to strip things back like that?
I just wanted to do it about me, I want people to connect with me, people that really love and like what I do. I don't have to always be with someone. I’m just always ready to keep refreshing myself and challenging myself to be better.
You collaborated with Takashi Murakami for the album art – how did that come about?
I've always been a big fan of Takashi Murakami, he is a great artist and a great person. So we started a conversation about working together. It was really quick, I told him, "I want to introduce you to the people that still don't know you or know about this type of art, and they might love it." He was like, "Yeah, of course, as long as it's for the culture, to keep elevating art, music. That's the best thing we can do." He absolutely said yes without hesitating.
Since it's all about colors, what is your favorite color?
The one you have on is my favorite color.
Yeah, “Negro” is actually my favorite song on the album as well.
Oh, that's funny. Yeah. It's a sexy song. It's a sexy song… “Negro” is definitely one of the tracks personally that I love the most on the album, it's sexy and it's true at the same time.
A lot of us are listening to your album from home since we can't do it justice and party. Are you quarantining as well?
Yeah, 100 percent. I take care of me, but I take care of others as well. I've got to think about my mom, I've got to think about my father, my grandfather — everybody's grandfather, everybody's grandmothers. The other people, we've got to take care of them.
Do you have any advice for people to pass the time at home? Any shows you've been binge-watching?
Yeah, I've been watching Vikings on Netflix. I mean that's the only thing I've been watching actually, because I've been doing promo this week from 9:00 in the morning to 7:00 PM. So I've been quite busy, which I'm grateful for. I'd rather be working than doing nothing, but doing nothing is okay too. It's alright to take time. This is a great moment for us too to rest.
How has this crisis actually affected your career?
It's been helping me to connect more with people and I think I have a great opportunity to give light and colors to the world with this album. In this tough moment, to bring colors, it's a blessing.
You have such a big influence on social media. Did you ever expect to have such an enormous platform?
I mean, I'm just me. I don't pretend to be no one else. I think people feel the energy, people always know when someone's faking it or not. So I just try to be me and they vibe with me. It's super cool. I'm grateful.
You recently performed at the Super Bowl, which is a huge deal, congratulations. Was that one of the biggest highlights of your career?
Yes, 100 percent! Yeah one of my biggest and happiest days of my life. As a person, as a dreamer and as an artist. It was a real statement.
Speaking of which, at the Super Bowl we spotted some very special Jordan 1s that you were wearing. Can we expect a release date soon? Is there a collab coming up?
Yeah, because of the coronavirus, they closed all the factories and stuff like that. But it's going to happen maybe around November. Yeah, Jordan 1s, the first time a Latino has ever done an official collab.
That's impressive! Has that been one of your dreams to go into the sneaker world as well?
Yeah. I always wanted to have my own Jordan. And I know this is just the beginning, so I’m really grateful for it.
Nothing seems impossible for you at this point. What is one goal you’ve set your sights on?
I just want to keep elevating reggaeton. To see the urban Spanish movement being everywhere. People feel our presence and know that we're here and that we're changing a lot of rules in the game.
You're actually one of the artists that most people would credit reggaeton’s global success to. Why do you think you’re the face of this movement?
Thank you! I mean, I'm not the face of reggaeton, I'm just a dreamer. Definitely Daddy Yankee is the one who opened the doors for us and we followed his lead. The new generations [of artists], we connect in different ways to our fans and there's new platforms. So I think he paved the way for us to keep elevating the culture.
Finally, what do you have to say to all the people out there — the “dreamers” as you call them — who are trying to make it like you?
My biggest advice is that you can dream everything you want, but you have to work for it too. It's not about just dreaming, because nothing’s going to happen with your dreams if you don’t work for it. So I think that the mix between hard work and a big dream or any dream, is always going to be the key to success.
You can stream J Balvin’s new album Colores here.