J Balvin: “Colombia to the world!”
Dialling in from his hometown of Medellín, reggaeton’s rainbow-haired ambassador discusses the transformative power of fashion, his kaleidoscopic capsule collection for Guess and his hot new hobby: motocross.
J Balvin is The Biggest Thing in reggaeton. With hair that’s sprayed leopard print one day and dyed tennis-ball-yellow the next, the charismatic Colombian born José Álvaro Osorio Balvin is one of the key artists who’s enhancing the genre’s popularity across the globe.
He’s topped both the US and UK charts alongside Cardi B with their 2018 smash I Like It, while Beyoncé released a remix of his 2017 hip-swinging dancehall hit Mi Gente sung in Spanish (and even invited him to perform it on stage with her as part of her 2018 Coachella headline performance).
As the face of the second generation of Musica Urbana, the 35-year-old singer has garnered over 40.4 million followers on Instagram – if you thought was a big number, then brace yourself for his streaming stats. In 2019 he was one of the only two artists in the world to succeed 10 billion views on YouTube within the year, and he is the eighth most streamed artist on Spotify with 50 million monthly listeners (that’s more than Beyoncé and Cardi).
Oh, and on top of that, he’s proper stylish. American designer Kaws and Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami are good mates of his (he’s got work by both on display in his home in Medellín), and Louis Vuitton’s creative director Virgil Abloh has made sure that Balvin is seated in his front row.
Now the Columbian superstar is collaborating with all-American brand Guess for a second clothing collection.
Shot in his hometown of Medellín by fashion photographer Tatiana Gerusova and styled by Sita Abellan, the GUESS x J Balvin Colores capsule is inspired by Balvin’s latest album, as well as his personal brand of national pride. Think: bold, unapologetic hoodies, tees and matching denim sets.
We hopped on Zoom with J Balvin ahead of the drop to discuss his recent album Colores and see how he’s holding up during the lockdown in Medellín.
Many artists have pushed back their new music releases during this time, why did you decide to go ahead and launch the new album?
I think there’s a moment where you have to stop thinking about the business aspect and do it with your heart. I knew that it wasn’t the best moment to drop an album, but for the fans, I thought they would like to listen to something new that could take them out of lockdown boredom.
Why did you decide to call it Colores?
It’s a simple but powerful concept. To me colours are a universal language like music. There’s so many different ways to connect to people but colour is one of the strongest ways, in my opinion.
What’s your favourite colour?
Let’s say I love the rainbow.
That’s cheating! How would you describe the collection to someone who hasn’t seen it?
It really goes with the whole concept of my album. The inspiration was involved with the colours of my city and my country. We shot the whole campaign in Medellin. We just wanted to do a big, colourful collection with a high vibration that makes you feel happy. Colombia to the world!
How would you describe your own personal style?
Well, I basically do whatever I want. As long as I feel comfortable and I’m not disrespecting anyone, I feel great. It also depends on the mood, that’s why I called it Colores. Sometimes you feel black, sometimes you feel blue, but if I’m feeling down, I’ll make sure to elevate my vibrations with bright colours.
What’s it like working with a label like Guess?
This is the second drop and it’s beautiful because they understand my point of view and they understand how powerful Latin music is. They know that it’s the new wave and they really understood that before everyone else.
How would you describe Medellín to someone who’s never been?
Everyone is always smiling and happy. They call it the “eternal spring” because that’s how the weather feels all the time.
How has isolation impacted your creative process?
I have to stay in one place so the only thing that gets to travel is my mind, which helps me be creative and push myself out of my comfort zone.
Have you picked up any new hobbies?
Motocross. I live in the mountains and there’s a forest nearby that I can go around on my bike.