It’s easy to fall into tropes that hail hyped up artists as creative geniuses. That’s why it’s so important to remember that major reggaetoneros – like J Balvin, who just dropped his virtuosic new record Energía – rely on a vast team of collaborators to bring their musical visions to life. For his second studio album, Balvin cast a wider net, beyond the confines of his regular production house Infinity Music. Energía boasts features from huge names in the Anglo mainstream. From convincing Pharrell Williams to sing in Spanish to penning a sappy coffeehouse ballad with Justin Bieber’s go-to songwriter, here are the major players behind Balvin’s critically acclaimed new album.
Sky & Mosty
Sky & Mosty’s (aka Alejandro “Sky” Ramirez and Alejandro “Mosty” Patino, both 23) Medellín-brewed brand of reggaeton has shaken up the perreo charts again and again, most notably through Balvin’s production house, Infinity Music, which the singer shouts out on his songs almost as much as he does his own name (*J Balvin voice* J Balvin man). Mosty is in charge of recording, mixing, and writing, while Sky handles some writing and most production duties for the Infinity Music crew.
Their reggaeton romántico megahits have propelled the genre to bubblegum pop heights – loved-up beats that have transformed Balvin into the new face of the genre. Critics might say they’ve watered down the snarled, streetwise roots of the rhythm, but one thing’s for sure: Sky and Mosty have taken it to unprecedented international levels. For more on Sky & Mosty, read our profile in our piece on 10 Latin American Music Producers You Should Know.
Sky has writing credits on “Malvada,” “Safari,” “Bobo,” “Sigo Extrañándote,” “Primera Cita,” “Pierde Los Modales,” “Por Un Día,” “Acércate,” “Hola,” and “Ginza.” He has production credits on all of these tracks. He also sings on “Safari.”
Mosty has recording, mixing, and vocal production credits on “Veneno,” “Malvada,” “Bobo,” “Sigo Extrañándote,” “Primera Cita,” “Pierde Los Modales,” “Por Un Día,” “No Hay Título,” “Acércate,” “Snapchat,” “Hola,” and “Ginza.” He has mixing credits on “Solitario.”
He also has writing credits on “Malvada,” “Bobo,” “Sigo Extrañándote,” “Primera Cita,” “Pierde Los Modales,” “Por Un Día,” “No Hay Título,” “Acércate,” “Hola,” and “Ginza.”
Update, 7/27/2016, 7:16 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly identified Sky and Mosty’s stage names.
Born Bigram John Zayas, DVLP is arguably the lead architect of today’s trap en español sound. Zayas has most recently worked with Dominican MC Fuego on his Fireboy Forever II project – a major reason why Balvin’s hip-hop escapades sound so much like ol’ Fireboy. With a massive catalogue that includes production credits on Lil Wayne’s “Fireman,” Eminem’s “Rap God,” and even Rick Ross’ “Rich Forever,” Zayas may be the most qualified candidate for the Colombian reggaetonero to flirt with current hip-hop trends.
DVLP produced and co-wrote “Veneno” and “Snapchat.”
Fuego is the stage name of Miguel Durán, the quisqueyano MC whose aggressively dope Drake remixes first caught our eye in 2015. Most notably, he’s the man behind “Cuando Suena El Bling,” the only Spanish Drake remix that seemed to cross over into gringolandia’s Internet rap writer salon. On his Fireboy Forever II project, which dropped earlier this year, Fuego dabbles in trapchata and auto-tuned Future flows. The record cemented him as a rising talent in the Spanish-language hip-hop realm, and put him on the radar of underground club DJs and producers. As J Balvin’s close friend (and dabbing instructor, tbh), Fuego’s influence is all over this record; especially of note is Balvin’s Fuego-style ad-libbing on “Veneno” and “Snapchat.” “35 Pa Las 12,” a cut that originally appeared on Fireboy Forever II, closes out the record.
Fuego has writing credits on “Veneno,” “Snapchat,” and “35 Pa Las 12.”
Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd
After Balvin linked with Justin Bieber for the official Latino remix of “Sorry,” it seemed like the two singers couldn’t get enough of each other. The fruit of that remix and the subsequent late night studio hangs was a collaboration with Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, Bieber’s primary songwriter and one of the authors of Usher’s iconic song “Caught Up.”
Poo Bear is credited as a co-writer on “No Hay Título.”
Pharrell Williams *might* be the conductor of the J Balvin hype train. After meeting on the TODAY show last year, the Neptunes mastermind and Colombian reggaetonero hit it off. Balvin wasn’t ashamed to tease the budding friendship by slipping us Instagram clips and Snapchat videos of the two hanging out and filming music videos together. Since then, the pair recorded “Safari,” Energía’s lilting beach orgy soundtrack. In addition to hopping on the mic for the song (in Spanish, no less), Williams is credited as the sole producer on what will likely be Balvin’s next single.
Pharrell Williams produces and sings on “Safari.”
Update 7/29/2016, 10:55 a.m.: A previous version of this post stated that Pharrell and J Balvin met on Good Morning America. The two met on the TODAY show.
Often billed as Pharrell’s protégé, Bia (aka Bianca Landrau) is a Boricua rapper who first emerged on our radar all the way back in 2014, when she dropped her debut mixtape after appearing on Oxygen’s Sisterhood of Hip-Hop reality series. The Boston-born emcee has crowned herself the perico princess, and seems like a good fit for the hip-hop sensibilities Balvin embraces on Energía. Landrau is also a member of Pharrell’s i am OTHER label roster, and it’s likely the Neptunes producer suggested she come along for the ride. Bia delivers a #rare Spanish-language verse and is one of the album’s only female songwriters.
Bia has songwriting and singing credits on “Safari.”
Born René Cano, Bull Nene is another major scribe of reggaeton romántico. Cano has worked with Medellín upstart Maluma, as well as Reykon and Nicky Jam. The Infinity Music crew member started out singing as one half of reggaeton duo Jowan y Bull Nene. Though he’s taken up his pen in a more behind-the-scenes capacity as of late, the downtime has almost brought him more visibility. These days, Bull is churning out songs for some of the biggest in the game, including Balvin’s breakout hit “Ay Vamos.”
Bull Nene has writing credits on “Malvada,” “Bobo,” “Sigo Extrañándote,” “Pierde Los Modales,” “Acércate,” “Hola,” and “Ginza.”
Monterrey-born, Texas-raised rapper MLKMN has been doling out sunny, bilingual rhymes since the mid-2000s, when he transitioned from beatmaking to MCing. Though he’s been hard at work on his own projects, like the breezy reggae of his latest single “Who Cares,” he engineered the art direction of Energía – a task that encompassed designing the merch, cover art, and packaging of the album.
MLKMN art directed Energía.
Though he’s just embarking on his own solo musical adventure, Justin Quiles has garnered a reputation as one of reggaeton’s premier songwriters, working with the likes of Yandel, Maluma, and now J Balvin. He first struck solo gold with his single “Orgullo” and pop perreo hit “María,” the latter of which has racked up nearly 2 million YouTube hits.
Justin Quiles is credited as a songwriter on “Por Un Día” and “Primera Cita.”
Juanes’ “La Camisa Negra” is the song that everyone brought in for those “diversity” celebrations your well-intentioned white middle school teacher organized. Even though “La Camisa Negra” has reached “Suavemente” levels of tired, Juanes has managed to keep up a modest profile since his 2004 hit, releasing three studio albums. His latest effort is providing strings on his parce’s sappy coffeehouse ballad “No Hay Título.” Really, no hay título for the corniness of this song.
Juanes plays guitar on “No Hay Título.”
Along with Daddy Yankee, Yandel is one of two reggaeton heavyweights to grace J Balvin’s second studio album. The Ed Hardy enthusiast/low-key brand ambassador (and one half of superstar duo Wisin y Yandel, of course) graces Balvin’s old school-style perreo anthem “Acércate.” Seeing the new generation and the classic reggaetoneros link is a savvy move on Balvin’s part, and it’s a bright spot in the immaculate pop banger section of Energía.
Yandel features on “Acércate.”
If you don’t know who Daddy Yankee is, I suggest you cease reading Remezcla immediately. For real though – the mastermind behind “Gasolina,” the now ubiquitous reggaeton anthem that gringo Brooklyn DJs still deem acceptable to play, took time out of his beef-squashing joint tour with Don Omar to appear on “Pierde Los Modales,” J Balvin’s respectful nod to the classic reggaeton era. As evidenced by his snarled bars, the perreo king’s still got it.
Daddy Yankee features on “Pierde Los Modales.”