J Balvin and Nicky Jam have practically become reggaetón royalty in recent years, but they don’t view their brand of reggaetón to be on par with what filled the airwaves in the early 2000s.
Both artists sat down with Billboard recently to discuss their journey to becoming global phenomenons, including why they wanted to change the idea that reggaetón is a misogynist genre for the sake of the many women and children who follow their music.
During a joint conversation with the magazine, ahead of the 2107 Latin Billboard Music Awards on April 27, journalist Leila Cobo mentioned that both artists had “largely avoided objectifying women in lyrics and video, which is common in reggaetón.”
In response, the 36-year-old Nicky Jam explained that given their broad audience, they need to make videos “where women look beautiful and conservative and are treated with respect, because the videos are seen by kids and adults.” He added that other reggaetón artists are targeting “one audience,” though he didn’t specify which, and didn’t have the same responsibility.
J Balvin, 31, added that he felt the need to change the notion that the genre objectifies women because of the women in his own life.
“Plus, we both have mothers, sisters, relatives,” J Balvin said. “Part of what we did is change that misconception that reggaetón is machista and misogynist. On the contrary, women are our biggest fans, and they inspire us.”
Some examples of their portrayal of women in lyrics and music videos include J Balvin’s hit “Ay Vamos,” a song about a couple who fights each other but loves each other in the end. In the video, the artist and his supposed girlfriend try to out prank each other.
Nicky Jam’s single “Hasta el Amanecer” has lyrics that do seem to have sexual undertones with verses that talk about wanting to be with a woman he just met until dawn. But the music video for the hit features the artist simply meeting a young woman at a laundry mat, trying to get her attention with his dance moves.
J Balvin and Nicky Jam, who is Puerto Rican but rebuilt his career in Medellín, are both the product of a boom of reggaetón stars coming out of Colombia. The two artists were friends long before their individual success, and continue to support each other as they go head to head in both the music charts and award nominations.
In a conversation with The Huffington Post, Nicky Jam explained what he feels set Colombian reggaetón apart.
“I just think the music is more catchy, and the lyrics are more cotidianos (day-to-day),” Nicky Jam said in Sept. 2016. “It talks about things that happen on a daily basis. Reggaeton from Puerto Rico is more about dancing music, reggaeton specifically. Now Puerto Ricans are starting to [focus more on lyrics], because they have the ability to do it.”
For J Balvin, it’s always been important to be both a leader in the genre and represent his native Colombia as an urban artist.
“There’s vallenato, there’s pop, there’s rock [in Colombia] but we need the urban part and thankfully we’ve been able to do it little by little,” the artist told HuffPost in 2014, after the success of his single ‘6 AM.’ “Obviously we’re still in the process of growth, but there’s been a clear vision for the public that there’s good Urban music coming from Colombia for the world.”
Read Nicky Jam and J Balvin’s entire conversation with Billboard here.