In the mid-1990s, rapper-singer Nicky Jam, né Nick Rivera Caminero, took his first shot at making a hit single in English and Spanish with "Gotta Get It" off his debut album Distinto A Los Demás. Over the next two decades, his die-hard would watch in earnest as the part Puerto Rican, part Dominican artist hit a downward spiral due to drugs and alcohol abuse. Only thereafter did we get to see him survive the golden reggaetón era to become an icon in the Latin Urban scene that has made such a deep impression on American pop culture.
After spending years cranking out international hits that will live on in clubs across the world indefinitely, the “El Perdón” lyricist perhaps achieves his ultimate goal exactly one decade after his 2007 album The Black Carpet. And all 16 million of his followers couldn’t wait another day to hear the final version of his seventh studio album Fénix.
The 26-track LP kicks off with one of his strongest records on the project, appropriately titled “El Ganador” (“The Winner”). The intro to the album, produced by Johnattan Gaviria and Yhoan Manuel Jiménez, allows the 35-year-old reggaetonero to vent about the obstacles that prevented him from releasing his album.
He waxes poetics about everything he went through, from battling drug addiction to doing time behind bars to reaching the pinnacle of his career. He even gives his XXX: Return of Xander Cage co-star Vin Diesel a quick shout out and invited him to appear in the official video for "El Ganador," which dropped earlier this week.
After watching Nicky perform several of the songs from the album during the "Fenix Tour" made me crave the rest of the LP in its entirety. As I sifted through the tracklist, I was thrilled with the amount of English records that made it on album. Songs like “Without You” and “I Can’t Forget You” proves that Nicky Jam hasn’t lost his touch for creating songs that will entice Latinos and hip-hop heads alike.
Each record takes on a different persona even as they flow seamlessly, much like a feature length film. “El Amante” describes a slick love story about his attempt to convince a woman to leave her man to be with him. Meanwhile, he feels the burn from vengeful karma when his girl tries to leave him behind in the dust in “No Te Vayas.”
Veteran reggaetoneros hit the studio in full #SaltBae mode as they pepper their unique flows throughout Fenix, like Arcángel on “Despacio” and Plan B on “Por El Momento.” Daddy Yankee came through with the special delivery—twice, when he flowed over two records. Meanwhile, collaborative efforts with popular names like the legendary Sean Paul as well as J Balvin, Messiah and Cosculluela shine just as brightly.
Among all the behind-the-scenes characters involved with the record, producer Cristhian “Saga Whiteblack” Mena is definitely one who deserves more than an honorable mention. Not only did he hold down the mixing duties as the primary engineer, but the Colombian beatmaker also crafted songs like “Tu Hombre” featuring Daddy Yankee, “Si Tú La Ves” with Wisin, and the Grammy-award winning lead single “El Perdón.” He concerted the effort to make one of Nicky Jam’s most vital body of work to date with a full squad of other notable producers, including seasoned Miami producer Supa Dups, Egbert "Haze" Rosa, Tarik Johnston and more. Not to mention, his collaboration with Kid Ink on the remix of “With You Tonight (Hasta El Amanecer)” has simply opened the doors for more opportunities to work with more rappers from the U.S.
The borderline between Latin music and hip-hop have are more and more. While some Latin artists tend to try their luck making popular music, Nicky Jam isn’t one to compromise his true self in order to feed into what the mainstream expects of him. Despite the high demand for commercial, electronic club records, Jam manages to keep his integrity, remaining loyal to the lane he established for himself nearly 20 years ago, and he still continues to win.
Nicky Jam has already earned several Latin Grammys, Latin Billboard and Latin American Music awards in various categories with "El Perdón" alone. Now that we finally have the entire album, the Sony Music Latin artist is prone to receive his rightful props. There's no doubt in my mind that he'll keeping winning in 2017.