J Balvin is perhaps the most highly debated figure in today’s reggaeton landscape. The Colombian singer has been both criticized and celebrated, his meteoric rise to pop stardom hailed as a blessing for a decaying genre and simultaneously censured for its dubious racial politics. One thing’s for sure: J Balvin has an explosive career ahead of him, especially in light of his upcoming album, which is set to drop this year. He’s featured on the cover of The FADER’s Global Issue, and the interview within the magazine’s pages sheds some light on the reggaetonero’s artistic vision. You can read the entire interview over at their website, but here are five things we learned from the conversation:
Poo Bear, Justin Bieber's songwriter, co-wrote reggaeton songs for Balvin.
Justin “Poo Bear” Boyd, a songwriter who has worked with Bieber for many years, collaborated with J Balvin on some of the demos for his upcoming album. Ah, the power of Bieber rears its head again. J Balvin spoke about the collab with great enthusiasm, and it seems like the connection was genuine:
“It was incredible, to be making reggaeton with one of the most influential people in the world in music today. We’re breaking down all the walls of the market that tries to tell us we can’t do certain things. My medium is music, but my goal is to motivate people to dream.”
Balvin uses adult coloring books to unwind.
Mindfulness is all the rage in meditation circles these days, and it’s even reached the heights of reggaeton stardom. “That’s my hobby,” Balvin told The FADER. “I color mandalas. It helps me relax.”
Balvin isn't looking for an English-language crossover.
In one of the most powerful quotes from the conversation, Balvin captures what many Latino musicians hope for their careers. He echoes some of the crossover comments made by stars like Romeo Santos; it suggests the tide is turning for Latin music’s major stars.
“I want to keep making history in Spanish. I want to invite the mainstream into my world, and to my sound, and to what I’m doing. And I want mainstream artists to respect me, and accept Latino artists as equals, without us having to sing in English. I want them to know that I can compete globally with whomever, in Spanish. I want Rihanna to pick up my phone call. I want the biggest fashion designers in the world to send me clothes just like they send them to Kanye, and that’s starting to happen. One day designers will send me their whole catalogs for Christmas because they respect my art and I respect theirs.”
Balvin's dad worked as an economist.
Balvin had a turbulent childhood after his father’s company went out of business. He grew up in a wealthy neighborhood of Medellín, until the family was forced to leave.
Of the radical shift, Balvin says: “Because of that…I feel something like a chameleon. When I would go to the barrio, people saw me as a rich person, but when I’m around rich people they see me as someone from the ghetto. It’s all perceptions. I like moving between worlds. I feel equally comfortable in both.”
Balvin has to watch what he eats closely.
Like most major pop stars, Balvin is on a draconian diet. If he doesn’t follow it, who else is going to deliver the sweet reggaeton jams we have come to know and love? Estefanía Borges, who is Balvin’s health coach, has recommended clean eats like protein shakes and grilled chicken and veggies.