Who would have thought that almost 30 years after the inception of reggaeton, its biggest star would be a Medellín-born singer collaborating with one of hip-hop’s most storied producers? That’s the reality for J Balvin, who is gearing up to drop his new record Energía on June 24. For his second studio album, Balvin teamed up with Neptunes mastermind Pharrell Williams, who has worked with reggaeton stars like Daddy Yankee in the past, but never behind the boards. Then, in January, Balvin tweeted that he was in the studio with Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, and Big Sean. It’s safe to say that no reggaeton star has had this much success getting the hip-hop world’s attention, but it seems like the Colombian star is onto something here. As he told us when we caught up with him on the High Line last month, “That’s what I want: for the whole hip-hop industry at the global level to recognize that there’s a Latino doing everything he can to represent our movement.”
Critics and fans alike are expecting Balvin to achieve a crossover that’s genuine, forged out of passion and hard work instead of industry scheming. It’s easy to board the hype train, but it has been quite a long time since we’ve had a Latino artist poised for this kind of success, ready to be regarded on an equal level with hip-hop’s biggest artists. “I want to create a new perception of Latinos on a global level,” he reveals.
We caught up with Balvin in New York City to hear about his creative pressures, collaborating with Fuego, and the next stage of his career. Watch the clip above, and keep an eye out for Energía, coming June 24.