21 Things You Didn’t Know About Reggaeton Star J Balvin
Reggaeton is here to stay, and has been so for some years now. Latino musicians either start a career in this genre, or collaborate with the main voices of the industry. Among contemporary reggaeton artists, J Balvin has built a name for himself. This Colombian powerhouse mixes Latino grooves with sometimes incendiary lyrics that verge on the erotic and sometimes the political.
A true representative of youth urban cultures.
1. His full name is José Álvaro Osorio Balvin
Quite a telenovela name is you ask us! We can totally picture a cute Latina actress saying: “José Álvaro te amo”
2. He was born in 1985 (and he has a tattoo to make that clear)
See that tat just bellow his bellybutton: that is the year he was born. On May 7 to be precise.
3. He was born in Medellín smack in the middle of the drug wars. And he continues to live there.
Like many Colombians, particularly artists, born in the peak of the drug trade and the violence that engulfed the country during the 1980s, J Balvin has tried to escape the stereotypes while sublimating his past through music. He has refused to move to the United States, which would probably make more financial sense and help his career. He has said that he want to keep it real, be close to his loved ones and have daily reminders of where he comes from.
4. He grew up listening to grunge
Like many Latin American Youth of the 1990s, he grew up listening to bands like Nirvana. He also loved Metallica. He has incorporated sounds from both in his songs, as best he can. And we can’t blame him! The 1990s were amazing for moody bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. We sure miss those lumberjack jackets and Doc Martens boots!
5. Look at that tattoo on his knee!
Looks familiar? Yes, it is the Nirvana dopey smiley face. He stays true to his first influences.
6. He has even covered “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in live performances
Those who have been lucky enough to catch J Balvin in his grunge mood have seen him perform the 1990s anthem, channeling his inner Latino Kurt Cobain. The song is testament of the hardships of growing up feeling like no one understands you, which is a constant adolescent source of angst.
7. He fell in love with reggaeton when he became a fan of Daddy Yankee
Daddy Yankee gave legitimacy to reggaeton as a pop music genre that could also achieve musical quality. As an all-around performer Daddy Yankee inspired youth like J Balvin, who has said: ““I was such a fan that I was copying his style, the way he moved onstage, his flows, his raps”. Reggaeton is much harder than it looks, and setting yourself apart from the bunch is a feat that only the likes of Daddy Yankee and J Balvin have achieved.
8. He has also singled-out Snoop Dog as an influence
Critics have highlighted the way that J Balvin sings over the bears, instead of always rapping like most reggaeton artists. He owes this to Snoop Dog, whose mellow rap style combines aggressive melodies with more R&B inspired sounds. Snoop Dog is an unacknowledged influence in urban Latin music today, so it is great to see stars like J Balvin recognize this.
9. He collaborates with other stars like Cardi B and Bad Bunny
One of the reasons the genre has become so popular is the willingness of the most famous artists to collaborate. Putting their egos to the side, Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin collaborated in “I Like It”, total perreo material. Plenty of genres should learn from the reggaetoneros business smarts when it comes to joining forces.
10. He once worked as a house painter
He is not shy in admitting that he learnt the hardships of manual labor when he did roofing and house painting while working illegally in the United States while pursuing his dream of rich and fame in the Land of the Free. He is a testament of hard migrant labor. He grew up in a middle-class family that lost everything, so he understand and appreciates the value or earning what is yours.
11. He has been part of ComplexCon
This awesome convention is curated by the equally amazing Pharrell Williams and brings together the top minds in pop culture and art, as well as the renegades. J Balvin has been a proud participant. Colombia, represent!
12. He won the Latin Grammy for “Ay, Vamos”
His breakthrough into the mainstream came courtesy of the Best Urban Song Latin Grammy he won for “Ay Vamos”. Like a modern day Cinderella, he quickly went from obscurity to fame.
13. What does that “Familia” tat mean?
Very simple: it stands for his album La Familia, which spent 122 weeks on the Billboard chart. Not bad at all! But where does the title of the album come from? It honors J Balvin’s mother, who has severe health issues.
14. The meaning behind “6 AM”
One of the singer’s top hits is “6 AM”, with boricua singer Farruko. J Balvin has describes the tune as a Latino version of the movie The Hangover. Una cruda terrible!
15. He stood up to Donald Trump
He was slotted to sing in Miss USA 2015, but cancelled his participation due to Donald Trump’s insulting and racist comments against Latino immigrants. He sacrificed fame and exposure but stood up for his dignity and self-respect. Bien hecho, mijo!
16. He topped the Billboard Top Latin chart with Energia
His fourth studio album saw is career skyrocket as it ruled over the charts as soon as it was released. El que persevera alcanza.
17. The video for “Ginza” was watched 2 million times in 24 hours
On January 16, 2016, J Balvin released his single “Ginza”, premiering the awesome, sci-fi music video on Vevo. The video broke records and was watches two million times during its first day. This Colombian dynamo had truly broken into the mainstream.
18. And by now it has been watched almost a billion times!
783,398,497 times to be exact (at the time of writing). #DUHWINNING! The J Balvin phenomenon is only comparable to other global cases like the Korean Star PSY.
19. He started #LatinosSomosFamilia, a movement to help Venezuelan migrants in Colombia
The economic situation in Venezuela is dire. Thousands of Venezuelans are feeling the Maduro regime in search of a better life in Colombia. The situation in the border is terrible and J Balvin created the campaign #LatinosSomosFamilia to gather support for these refugees. Talented and caring, he is the whole package.
20. He survived a plane crash in 2016
In what the singer called “a miracle”, he came unscratched after the plane he was in with his family crashed right after liftoff in an The Bahamas. He shared the moment on Snapchat. August 2016 will always be ingrained in his memory!
21. He suffers from mental health issues
One of the reasons we love J Balvin is how outspoken he is about the tribulations of people that, like him, suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. He deals with these through meditation.