As if being two of the biggest and busiest artists working today wasn’t enough to make an album-length team-up between J Balvin and Bad Bunny a tricky project to pull off, there’s also the difference in the stars’ lifestyles. “I wake up at five in the morning,” Balvin tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, “and he goes to sleep at five in the morning. I’m ready to go to the gym and he’s ready to go to bed.” They are the odd couple of urban Latin music: Balvin, an experienced Colombian reggaetón singer who spent the last decade honoring and advancing the genre’s legacy; and Bunny, the flamboyant punk upstart who quickly made his name as one of the more unique acts in the trap en español scene. First teased on Ebro Darden’s Beats 1 show in 2018, the surprise joint album builds on the breakthrough moment of their contributions to Cardi B’s megahit “I Like It,” pushed along by a healthy dose of mutual admiration.
“It was like, ‘We have to do something,’” Bad Bunny says of the urgency in the wake of the chart-topping bilingual smash. “A project hasn’t been done in the Latin market from two huge artists with two different styles.” Their parallel lives in the tight-knit urbano scene initially brought them together, and while some of this material dates back to before they blew up, most of the album was completed before they both performed at Coachella in April 2019. As Balvin and Bunny originate from some of the most vibrant locales for Spanish-language music today—and with both representing their homelands proudly in their work—their union here on OASIS shines a brighter and deserving light on the flourishing urban Latin sound.
The natural chemistry the pair shared on “I Like It” and 2017’s one-off single “Si Tu Novio Te Deja Sola” proves even more potent over the course of these eight new tracks. On “QUE PRETENDES,” Balvin slinks around the taut reggaetón groove as Bunny’s sung bars, by contrast, bounce against its structure. For the retro-nodding “MOJAITA,” their divergent flirty techniques merge into a gratifying mix that highlights the individuality of their personal and popular appeals. Emotions run high across the pointed verses traded on “ODIO,” buoyed by a breezy beat. “YO LE LLEGO” presents trap dosed with a piquant salsa tincture, while the booze-soaked “LA CANCIÓN” mingles jazzy touches around a muted dembow.
Deviating from genre conventions has been crucial to both artists' come-ups, and that approach extends to OASIS. Veteran Argentinian heroes Los Enanitos Verdes add rock flair to “UN PESO,” while the Mr Eazi collaboration “COMO UN BEBÉ” bridges urbano with Afrobeats. As far as Bad Bunny is concerned, the project is about more than merely blending musical styles. “There’s a message here that goes beyond,” Bunny says. “It’s not like me and someone else from Puerto Rico. It’s something bigger.” Adds Balvin, “We just wanted to elevate our culture, you know? If I win, they win. If we win, we all win.”