J Balvin

J Balvin

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About J Balvin

In an interview with Apple Music about his 2020 album Colores, J Balvin told a story about a guy who came up to him one day on the treadmill. He’d been watching Balvin, he said. Watching his influence, his impact, his good work. He felt inspired by him, quit drugs and gave his dreams another look. Fame was nice, but this, Balvin said, was the point. “When you throw in good energy, good vibes, people just start catching up to it.” More than a musician, Balvin has become a kind of role model, the emblem of Latino culture’s evolution—like hip-hop in the '80s—from a specialty market into a dominant force in mainstream pop. The guy at the gym wasn’t just seeing a star; he was seeing something he maybe thought couldn’t exist years before. Born José Álvaro Osorio Balvín in Medellín, Colombia, in 1985, Balvin grew up listening to rock music before falling in love with Daddy Yankee and reggaetón. He moved to the States as a teenager, first for a language exchange program in Oklahoma, then to New York City, before heading back to Colombia to start making music—a grassroots, home-first approach that Balvin has sustained throughout his career. Balvin’s biggest songs—from early singles like “6 AM” and “Ay Vamos” to 2017’s massive “Mi Gente” and the ROSALÍA collaboration “Con Altura”—are, in a sense, crossover Latin tracks, but not because they’re trying to cross over. If anything, Balvin, along with musicians like his collaborator Bad Bunny, represents a generation of Latino artists having global impact without having to cater to mainstream pop audiences—an approach that, ironically, helped reveal a changing understanding of who that mainstream audience actually is. In other words, they didn’t break into the conversation, they brought the conversation to them. And they’re having it in Spanish.

Medellin, Colombia
7 May 1985
Latin Urban
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