It’s been quite a week for J Balvin, but telling from his calm demeanor you would never know. He and his team are hanging out in New York’s Public Hotel, where he’s celebrating the success of his new album Vibras (“vibes” in Spanish) with his longtime spirits collaborator, Buchanan’s.
Vibras has set an insane amount of records. The album landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums and Sales chart, took the top spot at Apple Music for the most first-week streams for any 2018 Latin release and became one of the top streamed artists in the world on Spotify with over a billion streams. It’s a testament to Balvin’s mission of expanding his palate to the masses without losing his zest.
The vibrant album is not only a burst of reggaeton, Brazilian funk, and Afrobeat influences, but a reminder of how much the Columbian creative has grown.
“It’s an album for everybody and I’m super grateful because we’re taking the culture to another level,” he explains to VIBE VIVA. “It means a lot to me because I’m super grateful for everything that’s going on with the album right now.”
As fans waited for Balvin to make an appearance at the “Es Nuestro Momento” event, fellow Latino titan Alex Sensation sets the mood with faves from the album like “No Es Justo,” “Ambiente” as well as his huge collaborations like “X” with Nicky Jam and the remix to “Mi Gente” featuring Beyonce.
After appearing with Bey at Beychella, Balvin explains how he adapted queues from the singer for his upcoming tour named after his album. While the trek will launch during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept-Oct), Balvin is already thinking forward, a trait that’s aligned him with people like JAY-Z and Pharrell Williams.
“The music is getting to a certain level where we need to make the show look exactly as the feeling of the music,” he explains. “People deserve better and I owe it to myself to keep bigging up the culture.”
Below, Balvin shares dream collaborations like Rihanna and Kendrick Lamar, the importance of reggaeton and more.
What does the immediate accolades from Vibras mean to you?
J. Balvin: It means a lot to me because I’m super grateful for everything that’s going on with the album right now. The name of the album means “vibes” so that’s what I wanted to do with this album; make a vibe and create la vibras so even if you don’t understand Spanish, you can at least feel the energy and vibe from the music.
Overall, it’s an album for everybody because we’re taking the culture to another level. For example, with Buchanan’s, it’s like our nuestro momento project is very similar to what’s happening in Latinx culture.
It’s very similar to the progression of reggaeton and even when listening to the album, you don’t get the feel of just one genre.
You don’t have to. You know, reggaeton is what opened the doors for me and I’m always grateful for that. I’ll do reggaeton for life but, I want to show that I’m an artist who can do everything. That’s the sound of the album. It’s a vibe.
Right. I felt a little bit of everything in there. I felt Afrobeat, dancehall, all these inspirations.
Yeah, it has everything. Dancehall, Brazilian funk. It’s super Afro, it’s a black sound.
I love that you embrace that. When it comes to reggaeton, what do you think about the genre today?
It’s stronger than ever. I think this is the beginning of a new reggaeton era. The more time is passing, the bigger it will be. This is just the start.
You see that with the collaborations that have happened. You had the “Mi Gente” remix with Beyonce. Nicky Jam just did the “Icon” remix with Jaden Smith. Are there any folks from the hip-hop space you’d like to collaborate with?
There’s a lot. I’d love to work with people like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Bruno Mars and The Weeknd. We’re killing it right now with “I Like It” with Cardi B and Bad Bunny. It’s another impact on the culture. We’re not one hit wonders, we’re really here to take things to the next level.
You got to aim high, it only makes sense.
We’re just one song away. It’s just one moment away from making something happen.
You’re also speaking things into existence so I get it completely. How did your collab with Buchanan’s come about?
It’s crazy because we’re actually in our second year with them. We had the vision of where the culture was going and how the movement was getting more respect around the world. We’re also gearing up for the tour in September-October, which is Latin History Month, called the Vibras Tour so we’re going to be celebrating it with Buchanan’s. They’ve been working with me before a lot of things blew up.
“We’re not one hit wonders, we’re really here to take things to the next level.” -J Balvin
If you had to pair tracks from Vibras to the 12, 15 and 18 Premiums flavors, which ones would you choose?
The 12-Year should be the “Intro” of the album, getting to know the Vibras world and Buchanan’s world. Then we can go with the 15, which would be “Ahora,” which is a song that’s super smooth but not strong enough.
Then we go to the 18-Year, with “Peligrosa,” since it puts you at the right vibe.
What are you looking forward to the most while on tour?
This tour is going to change the whole game. The music is getting to a certain level where we need to make the show look exactly as the feeling of the music. People deserve better and I owe it to myself to keep bigging up the culture. It’s going to be different. Super special. It’s really life-changing for me, my team and fans because they’re going to see [the presentation] and say, “Ah, what happened here? It’s a full 180 from before.”
With time, artistic curiosity grows. You see that at Kendrick Lamar and Drake’s recent shows.
The more I get to know more artists, the more they inspire me. I was with Beyonce at Coachella and she inspired me a lot when it comes to production and her team’s work ethic. It’s about getting to those levels of entertaining the fans. We have to follow leaders like Beyonce. It made me really want to take this tour to the next level. Sound wise, graphics wise, lighting, effect, everything has to be big.
Of course, especially for the tour kicking off during Hispanic Heritage Month. You have so many Latinx creatives making waves these days. From you, Bad Bunny, Cardi to Amara La Negra. Given that there’s such an interest in Latinx sounds, do you see this opening the doors for Afro-Latinx artists that express other sounds of the culture?
Of course, because it wasn’t us who opened the doors per say. It was Daddy Yankee who opened them before us so many years ago. This has been a process; we didn’t come out of anywhere. There was Ricky Martin, and way before that, there was Fania Records (Celia Cruz, Willie Colón, Rubén Blades) all those in the salsa realm. We’ve just been part of the process.
I didn’t open the door, they crafted the keys that made it easy for us to walk in. Now it’s more open and things are just wider.