At one point in J Balvin’s new “Made in Medellín” podcast, the reggaetonero admits he’s constantly teetering between two worlds — one of stardom, and one of everyday life. “I know a lot about J Balvin and little about José,” he says, referencing himself by his given name, José Álvaro Osorio Balvin. “I dedicated myself a lot to the character.” Of course, keeping up the character of an urbano superstar can sometimes make it difficult for some to remember where they came from, but Balvin is certain that he’ll always be Josésito from Medellín. “Without José there is no J Balvin, I created that character,” he adds, “In the end that character is me, I can’t separate from him.” Although, he never said it’s easy.
He’s a star, but a star with problems. J Balvin has been forthright about his struggles with depression and anxiety; he’s tried his hand at speaking up for political issues (even if his gentle pangs of support fell on frustrated ears); he’s engaged in experimental, if not questionable, collaborations. Now on his own podcast, which launched on Spotify on January 23, he’s trying to piece his way through all of these moments, spanning the biggest troubles and successes of his life. It’s as honest a perspective we could expect from the reggaetonero, and the result is a podcast that will engage Balvin stans and urbano newcomers alike.
Spanning six episodes, the podcast doesn’t solely center around Balvin’s life and narration. The backdrop to his story is the Colombian city of Medellín itself, with its vibrant adoption of reggaeton as the basis for his own rise to success in the first place. Balvin pays homage to some of the genre’s legends, including Daddy Yankee, Don Omar and Wisin and Yandel. Otherwise, the episodes’ theatrics are sparse, yet thoughtfully produced — you’ll often hear a signature dembow beat thumping through, or the gentle hum of city chatter making its way to the surface.
Guest speakers drop in effortlessly, as if entering an existing conversation. There’s Alma, J Balvin’s mother, who reminds us that her son is “a multiplier of light;” his longtime friends, Andrés “Papa” López and Carlos Torres; and María “Mona” Osorio, Balvin’s former partner of 1o years, whose mention seems to soften Balvin’s voice. “She knows me more than I know myself,” he says.
“Made in Medellín” is full of these love stories — if not only between people, then that of a genre altogether.
You can listen to “Made in Medellín” below.