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Talking watches, Blue Ivy and crossing over with reggaeton star J Balvin

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J Balvin at the Forum Shops at Caesars.

His newly tinted neon-yellow hair made it easy to spot J Balvin in the tiny, jam-packed, brand-new TAG Heuer store at the Forum Shops at Caesars Wednesday night. The Colombian reggaetonero, whose current inescapable hit “Mi Gente” is sitting on No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart thanks in part to an assist from Beyoncé, is in Las Vegas for tonight’s Latin Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Las Vegas Weekly caught up with J during the in-store event, where he was right at home as one of Swiss watch company’s brand ambassadors.

So have you always been into watches? Yes, yes. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved accessories and watches to me are a piece of art. I couldn’t afford them at that time, and I still cannot afford some of them. But I love them. I think a watch says a lot about you without speaking.

Is it true that Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s daughter Blue Ivy is the reason Beyoncé jumped on the remix for “Mi Gente?” Yeah, she’s the one. I guess she fell in love with the song and was playing it like two million times a day, and I think Jay-Z and Beyoncé were like, “Okay, we’ve got to stop this, let’s do the song.” [Laughs.] But I guess she was a big fan of the song and I’m grateful.

It’s been compared, of course, to “Despacito,” another Spanish-language hit that got a big boost when an English-language artist contributed to a later version of the song. That [comparison] doesn’t bother me. I think it’s beautiful that “Despacito” and then another Latino song got that big. I’m grateful. The other thing about “Mi Gente” is it got to No. 1 globally before Beyoncé jumped on the remix. So that was like, wow, we made it, just us, and completely Spanish. Which is why she got on it.

It sticks in your head and makes you dance. You had to know it was going to be a hit. I did. It wasn’t so much of a surprise, it was more like this song is going to help me grow, and it has.

You are nominated for a few Latin Grammys this year and you’re also performing. Which part of that is more exciting for you? Winning a Grammy is always going to be good. I would love to have another one, absolutely. I have two and want as many as I can get. But when you have a show like this where you can show the world who you are … they’re both super important but at the end of the day the music is going to speak for you, so the show has to be amazing. I’m performing with Bad Bunny, French Montana and Steve Aoki.

You contributed to the remix of Montana’s “Unforgettable.” French is a real humble guy and I’m grateful we got [to do that], and that’s one of the biggest hits in the world this year. Steve Aoki is somebody I really love and he did a remix of “Mi Gente,” too. And Bad Bunny, he is that new wave of trap Latin music that I really love.

You’ve gotta get Aoki to take you to his house. It’s insane. He has a foam pit. Oh yeah, I already told him. I need at least two days so I can be jumping around everywhere and doing all that crazy stuff.

How’s your next album coming along? It’s already in progress. I think we’re just a couple songs away from closing it down. I’m ready to make another statement, another year, another blessing. I like to change and switch it up. I don’t want to sound like anybody else or sound the same, I always have to reinvent myself. I don’t want to be a follower, I want to be a leader and create new waves.

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Brock Radke

Brock Radke has been writing about Las Vegas for almost two decades. He currently serves as editor-at-large covering entertainment and ...

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