Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” DJ EFN checks in via livestream, while N.O.R.E. and the crew hold down the proceedings as they welcome first-time guest Nicky Jam.
Releasing a succession of hit singles, high-profile collaborations and successful albums, Nicky is now viewed as one of the cornerstones in reggaeton, and considered a living legend who was able to survive the times and turn his story into one of redemption. And with his new Netflix original series, “Nicky Jam: El Ganador,” gaining traction, his face and music should only become more familiar with casual fans stateside and abroad.
To help give fans a recap of the episode, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from Nicky Jam’s “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.
1. On Beginning His Music Career In Puerto Rico
Spending his formative years in the New England area, Nicky uprooted to Puerto Rico, a transition that helped put his music career on the fast-track. “I came from the states; right from Lawrence, Massachusetts,” he shares. “And I went to Puerto Rico. I ain’t know shit about Spanish, I just knew a little bit of Spanish. And I used to lie and say that I was half Jamaican cause I used to imitate Jamaicans. I had the whole vibe and I wasn’t saying shit, but people believed it, so that was my way in. ‘Yo, this kid is half Jamaican. He’s 12 years old, he can rap in English.’”
2. On Performing In Caserios In Puerto Rico
Building a buzz in Puerto Rico with fellow reggaeton pioneer Daddy Yankee, the two spread the goodwill from their success with the less fortunate, giving free performances in local caserios where poverty runs rampant. “Caserios is like the projects in Puerto Rico,” Nicky explains. “So, it’s like Christmas, you gotta do it everywhere, those were the stages for us. That was our stage. We didn’t have no show, so it was the caserios. And even when we became famous and we were doing, already, clubs and bigger stuff, we still had to give love to the caserios and do shows all over the caserios.”
3. On Being JAY-Z’s Tour Guide In Puerto Rico
Over the years, Nicky Jam has crossed paths with a number of icons and superstars, among them JAY-Z and Damon Dash, who he met as a youth during one of Jigga’s first visits to Puerto Rico. “I have a picture with JAY-Z and Damon Dash when I was like 12 years old,” he reveals. “They went to Puerto Rico. You know the group Original Flavor? I don’t know how JAY-Z ended up with them, they probably had a song together. [But] I was walking with JAY-Z all over Puerto Rico. I was his tour guide and I was taking him to spots and he wouldn’t even imagine that I am who I am today.”
4. On The Intent Behind His Netflix Show
This past April, following an initial run in Latin America, Nicky’s Netflix special “Nicky Jam: El Ganador” was released in North America. According to him, the motivation behind the series was to pass on a positive message to the youth. “My idea was to make kids learn and I wanted to make it graphic,” he shares. “So if you make it graphic, kids are gonna look at this and they’re going, ‘Okay, if he goes this route, this is gonna happen. If he go the right route, this is gonna happen. So, I just wanted people to see that. My mama, she was a crackhead, a drug addict. My dad, as well. And I Iived in the ‘80s, so I came from a really dark past.”
5. On His Love For Melody
When Nicky delves into his checkered backstory, N.O.R.E. juxtaposes his harsh experiences with the buoyant energy of his music, which the “X” rapper chalks up to his infatuation with melodies and his desire to play to the crowd’s interests. “This is the thing, I was always a melody guy when it came to the music,” he explains. “So melody wasn’t a rough thing in the past. Like, I could rap, but I was really good doing the melody and I got famous doing the melodies, doing melody hooks and all that. So, when I went through all this bad shit that I was going through, there was no way to do music relating to what was going on in my life ‘cause people respected me as just a guy that did melody music.”
6. On Reviving His Career In Colombia
After becoming one of the biggest stars in Puerto Rico’s music scene, Nicky ran into a rough patch due to a string of beefs and his drug abuse. In search of a new lease on life, he took his talents to Colombia where he was able to lean on his pioneer status while regaining his self-confidence and mojo. “Well, the thing is, in Puerto Rico, I wasn’t doing no shows, man,” he explains. “Nobody wanted to fuck with me. I had a bunch of street problems and I was in drugs and I was messed up... I was the embarrassment of reggaeton music. But, in Colombia, I was a legend ‘cause they listen so much. They even listen to music that in Puerto Rico, they didn’t like. Puerto Rico liked my hits, but Colombia loved my hits and the songs that weren’t really hits.”
7. On His Decision To Stop Using Drugs
An admitted former drug addict, Nicky points to one particular experience that caused him to abstain from any and all drugs, a decision he’s upheld for years on end. “I woke up, like around 7 o’clock in the morning,” he recalls. “I had another show in Bogata, a different city from Medellin, and I remember that I was feeling kind of weird. I took coffee, I was in the plane and all of a sudden, I’m trying to move my hands and I can’t move my hands. And I gotta concentrate to do every movement. So, I’m like, “Yo, shit, what the fuck is going on with me?” I guess I did so much drugs my whole life ‘cause I did ecstasy, I even did heroin; I didn’t do it by vein, but I did it by nose. I did so much drugs that it fucked up my nervous system and it fucked up my motor system.”
8. On The Impact Of His Fallout With Daddy Yankee
When Nicky fell out with longtime friend and collaborator Daddy Yankee, the split was yet another wake-up call, with Yankee going on to reach global success with his 2010 smash “Gasolina” while Nicky floundered on the brink of obscurity. However, with hindsight, he considers that experience and the backlash behind it as a blessing in disguise and a lesson learned. “That’s life,” Nicky reasons. “That’s what it’s all about. ‘Cause he was there for me and he was doing something good, he was trying to help me. And I was stupid and ignorant, and I paid for it. You get what you give. I gave bad energy, a bad mentality, I was stupid and I paid for that. Look at all the shit I went through, you saw it: jail, drugs, embarrassments, my music wasn’t popping. I wasn’t doing anything.”
9. On Working With Will Smith And His Acting Role In Bad Boys 3
One of the biggest highlights of Nicky’s resurgence was getting the opportunity to work alongside Will Smith on “Live It Up,” the official song for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. He gives the backstory on meeting Will and how that collaboration led to him earning a prominent role in the Bad Boys 3 film. “My relationship with Will started with his son,” he explains. “I did a remix for him, ‘Icon.’ So after that, they gave me the opportunity to do the World Cup song and I said I’ll do it if Will Smith is on it. They’re not gonna say no. FIFA, they don’t fuck around, they’re serious people. So, I told people I’m ready to do this, but I need Will Smith. And Will Smith’s never done the World Cup, so for him, it’s huge. So I said, ‘I already got him in the World Cup and I heard he’s doing Bad Boys...’ I’m like, ‘Yo, Will, I heard y’all doing Bad Boys again.’ But look at the answer he gave, he’s like, ‘Yup, that’s right. That’s right, we’re doing Bad Boys.’ I’m like, ‘You think I can get a part then?’ He’s like, ‘Hey, if you do the casting and you pass it, you good.’”