This morning, Shoboy and Nina had a very special artist visit at the studio. Nicky Jam started from the bottom, got to the top, lost his way, and has now rebuilt himself, becoming Hot Latin’s shining comeback kid.
You know Nicky Jam from his current hit “Forgiveness (El Perdón)” featuring Enrique Iglesias, but Nicky has been around for quite some time. He was discovered in Puerto Rico at just 11-years-old when he would freestyle while bagging groceries at the local mercado. One day, a woman overheard him, told him he had talent, and asked him to follow her.
So, Nicky explains, “I went with her. She took me to her husband… a CEO of a record company in Puerto Rico and she was like, ‘ok, rap for him.’ So I started rapping. I started freestyling for him and he was like, ‘wow, this guy’s money!'”
Unfortunately, his first album didn’t do too well, but the word on the street was that Nicky had the talent. He was fortunate enough to meet fellow Latino pop star Daddy Yankee, who at the time was already a legend. Yankee didn’t think Nicky’s album was that good either, but he liked his flow, so he asked him to be his backup singer for a show he had in the Dominican Republic.
And just from that, Daddy Yankee signed Nicky Jam and they became the toughest duo in the industry.
When Nicky was 20-years-old, he admits money and fame became too much for him. “I started doing alcohol, drugs, bad people around me,” he told Shoboy. And he knew he hit rock bottom when he couldn’t even put gas in his car. Daddy Yankee once again took a chance and tried to help Nicky focus, but walked away after he couldn’t get through to his friend.
Then, for about eight years, Nicky was doing covers in hotels and was able to see and focus on what was going on around him. So he stopped the drinking, the drugs, the bad food, he lost weight and was able to get himself on the right path again.
“When you love yourself, people love you. When you don’t care, people don’t care either.” ~Nicky Jam
It was around that time that Nicky found out that his fans in Colombia treated him as if he never fell off, so he visited to perform a few shows there — and never left. He slowly started to build his fan base back by posting freestyle videos online and eventually recorded four #1 songs in Colombia. And now, “El Perdón” is the second longest running song at #1 on the Hot Latin Charts, peaking at 26-weeks in a row, breaking Shakira‘s record with her 2005 hit “La Tortura”.
“You know what I think about that,” asked Nicky.”I’ll have gas for a long time in the car.”
Take one look at Nicky and the first thing you’ll notice are his tattoos (and that Nets hat!) — but he has two very special tats on his arm: The first, a portrait of his mother who lives in the Dominican Republic. He stayed with her until he was 8-years-old, but didn’t see her for a long time after that. Nicky confided that his mother was into alcohol and drugs as well, and he would always make attempts to go back to get her. He tried when he was 20 and again at 30-years-old with no luck, “So I said, ‘you know what, I’m gonna have to put her here on my arm so I can have her here,’ but now, we’re good.
“I think I’ve done everything in the music just to get her attention since I was a kid and she was far away,” says Nicky. “So I said… if I sing, she’ll come looking for me,” and it worked.
The second tattoo is a saying in Spanish that reads, “God bless people who love me, people that hate me, people that admire me, people who enjoy when I fall, my family, my fans, and God bless you for reading whatever I have on my arm.”
Nicky Jam is well known for his freestyle, so before he left, he busted a flow in Spanglish — which isn’t as easy as you would think, just because he grew up flowing in Spanish — and he nailed it!
Watch the full interview with Nicky Jam above.
–Kristen Accardi/Shoboy in the Morning