Photo: Natalia Aguilera
The Skyward Ascension Of Jhay Cortez: How The Latin Trap And Reggaetón Star Is Blurring The Lines Of Música Urbana
Puerto Rican superstar Jhay Cortez is turning up the heat, shooting for the stars, and proving exactly why he's risen to the top of Latin trap and reggaetón
Cortez's second full-length album arrives over two years after his wildly successful debut, Famouz, where he solidified himself as one of the most exhilarating up-and-comers in Latin trap and reggaetón. The record featured one inescapable single, "No Me Conoce," whose remix, starring Bad Bunny and J Balvin, accelerated Cortez to global stardom. "That's when everyone gave me a chance … but that's just the start of it," he tells GRAMMY.com.
Cortez's star ascended further when he featured in Bad Bunny's whirling hit "Dákiti" late last year. The song, which is currently nominated for Best Urban Song at the 2021 Latin GRAMMYs, landed in the Top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100, and debuted at No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs, among other chart achievements. Cortez, alongside Bad Bunny, even performed "Dákiti" in at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show. "It was something that I never imagined," he muses. "To be the first [Latin artist to sing in Spanish at the GRAMMYs] from this decade is super impressive for me."
Born in 1993 in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, Jesús Manuel Nieves Cortez split his childhood between his native island and Camden, New Jersey. While on the East Coast, young Jhay got schooled in hip-hop, taking lessons from some of the movement's most formidable rappers. He traced his roots in the Caribbean, where he immersed himself in the hotbed of reggaetón. "I have many different roots and inspirations from different [places]," he points out. "That is what really helped me to be able to create all these different things."
On Timelezz, Jhay Cortez turns up the heat, maneuvering between slinky and hard-hitting rhythms alchemized by producers Tainy, MVSIS, Taiko, and Cortez himself, among others. He shoots for the stars with EDM brilliance ("En Mi Cuarto," featuring Skrillex), then manages to hang from somewhere in the aether with trap-mospheric pop alongside indie darlings Buscabulla. Meanwhile, Cortez narrates stories of heartache, lust, and nights of debauchery. "It was really about evolving Jhay Cortez," he says.
GRAMMY.com caught up with the multi-hyphenate artist a day before he performed at J Balvin's NEON event in Las Vegas, also starring Karol G, Rauw Alejandro, and Tainy, where he offered a glimpse behind the scenes on what it's like to live in the shoes of Jhay Cortez.
This interview was conducted in Spanglish and translated to and edited in English for clarity.
What were some of the main goals you had when creating your new album, Timelezz?
One of my main goals was to evolve from Famouz. Not to make a better album, or to compete with it, but trying to make another part of myself. I felt like I was in a great moment where I [had] really good control over my voice. I have found my flow. My verses are better. The production and my mixing engineers are a lot better. So it was really [about] evolving Jhay Cortez. I have found myself now that I have total control of how I want to look visually, stylistically, and how I want to sound. Now it's about paying tribute to all of those things that helped me excel. Don Omar was the artist that inspired me to be an artist, to make music. I finally got [creative] control to play with everything that I loved growing up. My main goal was not to make an album, it was to create an experience.
You also step beyond reggaetón, like when you produced an EDM song alongside Skrillex. How did that collaboration come about?
When we completed the "Dákiti" video, I started producing "En Mi Cuarto." I had this whole idea and melodies for it. Then, one day, I was scrolling down Instagram and I came across Skrillex's profile, and I realized I wasn't following him. I'm like, "Shit, why am I not following Skrillex?" He was one of my biggest inspirations growing up. So when I saw his profile, it said, "follow back," and I went crazy. I wrote to him saying, "Respect. You were a big inspiration to me." Then he told me that he really liked my music too. Reggaetón is mostly my base, but I knew that if I wanted to take that record ["En Mi Cuarto"] to the next level, I had to give it to somebody that knows what to do. And who better than Skrillex? So, I sent that out to him. He really connected with it, and we just started working on it.
You mention Bad Bunny's "Dákiti," which you famously star in. It's a tremendous multi-record breaking hit, and you performed it at the 2020 GRAMMYs in Los Angeles. What was it like performing at one of the most important events in music?
It was something that I never imagined. Obviously, I had dreams of singing at the GRAMMYs, Latin GRAMMYs, or even singing at Premios Juventud or the Billboard [Music Awards]. But to perform at the actual GRAMMYs? I think the last [Spanish-singing] Latino [performing] was Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee [with "Despacito" in 2018], and then Ricky Martin. But to be the first from this decade is super impressive for me. I'm really grateful and feel blessed that I went through all these barriers as a Latino, and being able to get to places that no one imagined previously.
In your new album, you step into atmospheric pop by incorporating trap elements alongside New York-Puerto Rican duo Buscabulla in the outro track "Eternamente." What was that collaboration like?
They're one of my favorite bands. One day, somebody asked them on Instagram if they listened to urban music, and if they did, who. They wrote "Jhay Cortez." That really surprised me because I was already a fan of them. So I hit them up and invited them over to my house. I thought it was a great idea to have them on my album, because this album is everything that I like and have liked before. I knew then and there that I wanted to genuinely click with them. It's not all about me. It was really about making the moment, and if it was a vibe, and they agreed to it, then we would collaborate. But thank God that everything went better than we thought, and we did more than one song. We got to work on different things, so that for me is a dream come true.
You were born in Puerto Rico, but grew up in Camden, New Jersey. How did the geographical and cultural shift and getting exposed to an entirely new environment shape your creativity at such a young age?
That is what really helped me to be able to do all these different things. I have many different roots and inspirations from different [places]. I used to listen to Eminem, then 50 Cent, Don Omar, Arcángel, Drake, and then The Weeknd. I like salsa, and I like reggae group Cultura Profética. I have so many inspirations from so many different places that it's impossible not to take the best things out of each one of them and make cool things in reggaetón. That is one of the most important things that has helped me be able to emulate [my idols].
That's inspiration from across the board, from different genres and generations. So, for Timelezz, what music were you most influenced by?
I would say reggaetón's golden era, like Luny Tunes' Mas Flow, Don Omar, Hector El Father, Tego [Calderón], Wisin & Yandel. That's the era that I grew up in, when I really dreamed of making music like that. So it was a moment of being able to do what I always wanted to do as a kid, but having the ability to do it a little bit better — not better than them, just better in this era, better than anybody in this era. There's not a lot of people that know how to really mix, I would say, different eras of reggaetón and make it sound super dope. I was really just having fun.
Yeah, I started [songwriting] when I was 17 because I didn't work. I needed to make money somehow, so I said to myself, "Yo llego a donde quiero llegar" ("I'm going to where I want to go"). I had to make money and eat, so I started working. That was also my way to network and make connections. That also really helped me at the end.
Several years ago, you started blowing up, particularly with "No Me Conoce." That song has continued to resonate in my Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick since it was released over two years ago. That song was a massive moment for you.
That's when everybody gave me a chance, like, "Okay, he has something and maybe we should pay more attention to his music." I think that's how you prove yourself en este género ("in this genre"), in this music. It's all about the competition, how well you can do, and how big you can do it. That was my first big global hit. And that was just the start of it. But that's always going to be a special record for me because it was my first one.
Well, enjoy the rest of your time in Vegas. Are you also planning on checking out the city and gambling?
I'm not a big gambler — well, I gamble with clothes. I love buying clothes and shoes, so after this, I'm going to the mall. I've got to buy stuff for tomorrow's performance [at NEON]. I'm going to the studio, and I have a car, so I'm driving around. I'm definitely having fun in Vegas.
The 2021 Latin GRAMMYs, hosted by Ana Brenda Contreras, Carlos Rivera and Roselyn Sánchez, will air live on Univision on Thursday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. CT). It will also air on cable channel TNT at 19.00 (MEX) / 20.00 (PAN-COL) / 21.00 (VEN) / 22.00 (ARG/CHI), and on Televisa on Channel 5. Learn more about the 2021 Latin GRAMMYs Awards via the Latin Recording Academy's official website
Photo: Kelly Samson, Gallery Photography
Image courtesy of the Latin Recording Academy
How To Watch The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs Live: Performers Lineup, Nominations, Air Date, Time & More
Ahead of the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs on Thursday, Nov. 16, here is a complete guide to the Biggest Night in Latin Music, including all the performers, hosts, presenters and much more.
The Biggest Night in Latin Music is so close we can taste it!
Bearing the full title of the 24th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards, the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs ceremony will be held Thursday, Nov. 16.
Who is nominated for Latin GRAMMYs? Where and when will the 2023 Latin GRAMMY's air? Who will perform during the ceremony? You've got questions, we've got answers!
When Are The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs?
The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs — officially known as the 24th Latin GRAMMY Awards, will be broadcast Thursday, Nov. 16. at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. CT).
Where Are The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs Taking Place?
Just like the GRAMMYs, the Latin GRAMMYs are going global. For the first time ever, the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs will be held in Sevilla, Spain, at the and Exhibition Centre (FIBES). This marks the inaugural international telecast in the history of the Latin Recording Academy and its awards show.
How Can I Watch The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs?
On Nov. 16, the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs will air on Univision, UniMás and Galavisión in the U.S., and at 10:30 p.m. CET on Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE) in Spain. It will also air on cable channel TNT at 19:30 (MEX) / 20:30 (PAN-COL) / 21:30 (VEN) / 22:30 (ARG/CHI).
The ceremony will be aired in more than 80 countries globally. Be sure to check your local broadcasters for further airings.
Those in Brazil can enjoy the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs on the same date, exclusively on Bis and on Globoplay — which will graciously offer the broadcast free to non-subscribers.
Who Is Nominated At The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs?
All manner of leading lights from across the Latin music universe — from Christina Aguilera to Karol G to Rosalía — are nominated at this year's ceremony. For a full list of 2023 Latin GRAMMYs nominees, visit below.
Who Are The Performers At The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs?
Read More: More Performers Added To The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs: Rosalía, Shakira, Maluma, Sebastián Yatra, David Guetta, DJ Premier & More Announced; Anitta, Mon Laferte, Natalia Lafourcade, John Leguizamo & More Join As Presenters
Who Is Hosting The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs?
Latin GRAMMY winner and GRAMMY nominee Sebastián Yatra; Latin GRAMMY nominee and renowned actress Danna Paola; and fellow world-renowned actresses Roselyn Sánchez and Paz Vega will host the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs. For more info, visit below.
When is The 2023 Latin GRAMMY Premiere?
Prior to the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, the Latin GRAMMY Premiere will kick off with performances by current Latin GRAMMYs nominees Majo Aguilar, Paula Arenas, Mike Bahía, Vanesa Martín, Elena Rose, Thiaguinho, and Julieta Venegas.
Latin GRAMMY-nominated Brazilian singer Giulia Be and Spanish actor Miguel Ángel Muñoz will host the ceremony. For further information on the 2023 Latin GRAMMY Premiere, check below:
When Will Latin GRAMMY Week 2023 Take Place And What Are The Events?
Latin GRAMMY In The Schools: An educational program that helps inform and network music students with Latin music industry pros, and supports music departments that have financial limitations.
Lifetime Achievement & Trustees Special Awards Presentation: Several Latin music icons will be honored. Carmen Linares, Mijares, Arturo Sandoval, Simone, Soda Stereo, and Ana Torroja will receive this year's Lifetime Achievement Award, and Alex Acuña, Gustavo Santaolalla and Wisón Torres will receive the Trustees Award.
Leading Ladies Of Entertainment: This one-of-a-kind event spotlights and elevates the work of professional women in the arts and entertainment fields.
Nominees Reception: This intimate gathering will shine a light on the artists, producers, songwriters, and creators nominated at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs.
Best New Artist Showcase: This thrilling ceremony helps you get to know the new generation of music creators during Latin GRAMMY Week.
2023 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year Gala: At the Palacio de Congresos y Exposiciones (FIBES), the Latin Recording Academy will host the 2023 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year Gala in honor of multi-hyphenate Laura Pausini.
And, of course, Latin GRAMMY Week will crescendo with the Latin GRAMMYs! For more details, visit below.
What's New At The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs?
There's lots to look forward to! For instance:
It's the first Latin GRAMMYs in Sevilla, Spain.
Antonio Banderas will receive the President's Award.
These changes illuminate the global expansion of the Latin GRAMMYs and the Latin Recording Academy — not just through the international telecast in Spain, but the addition of the Best Portuguese-Language Urban Music Performance Latin GRAMMY category.
This is crucial for many reasons, chief among them that Portuguese-language music and Brazilian listenerships are a rapidly growing part of the Latin music universe.
In tandem — and as noted — the Latin Recording Academy, Canal Bis, Multishow and Globoplay have announced a three-year agreement to broadcast the annual Latin GRAMMY Awards in Brazil.
Offerings like the flamenco performance at the Latin GRAMMY Premiere to the Latin GRAMMY sessions flamenco episode underscore the Latin Recording Academy's commitment to digging deep into all corners of the landscape.
As Latin Recording Academy CEO Manuel Abud told RecordingAcademy.com in a 2023 interview, "It is our responsibility as an Academy to really support our artists and our creators in their quest to go global. That's why we're going international, and that's why we're doing it now."
How Can I Learn More About The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs Artwork?
Use #LatinGRAMMY on all social media platforms to join the social conversation during the Biggest Night in Latin Music — and as the Latin Recording Academy's sister academy, we'll see you there!
Image courtesy of the Latin Recording Academy
Rewatch The Latin GRAMMY Sessions: Exploring The Soul And Identity Of Flamenco
A new audiovisual flamenco piece, tied to the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, aired Friday, Nov. 10, as part of "The Latin GRAMMY Session" — and if you missed it, or want to revisit it, you can rewatch it below.
Flamenco is an indispensable part of the folkloric tapestry of the global music community And now, you can bask in a tribute to it — Latin GRAMMYs style.
A new audiovisual flamenco piece aired Friday, Nov. 10 at 8 a.m. EST, as part of "The Latin GRAMMY Session." The production showcased the cultural art and identity of Andalucia, while giving viewers a glimpse of the genre’s evolution. This piece was filmed in Grenada, at the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Hotel Grande Palace.
The sessions dove into the flamenco classics and influence on emerging artists in this generation — while showcasing the architecture, beauty and history of the spaces all under the direction of Latin GRAMMY winner Javier Limón.
Featured artists in this session include Latin GRAMMY nominee Carmen Linares, recipient of the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award, Latin GRAMMY winners Arcángel and Niña Pastori, alongside Lola Indigo, Alana Sinkëy, and Latin GRAMMY nominee Omar Montes, accompanied by dancer Belén López. You can watch the 52-minute presentation below:
Flamenco originated in Spain, where the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs will be held Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Conference and Exhibition Centre (FIBES) in Sevilla, Spain — the first-ever international show in Latin GRAMMY history.
This connects larger Spanish themes and cultural tie-ins to be seen at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs. For instance, the Spanish cinematic legend, actor Antonio Banderas, will receive the President’s Award from the Latin Recording Academy at the ceremony. More information can be found below:
In celebration of the International Day of Flamenco, which is also Nov. 16, all five current nominees in the Best Flamenco Album category — Israel Fernández, Diego Guerrero, Omar Montes, Niña Pastori, and Juanfe Pérez — will come together for a special performance at the 2023 Latin GRAMMY Premiere. Delivering a once-in-a-lifetime homage to the genre, the historic musical performance will celebrate both flamenco and its native Spain, which this year hosts the Latin GRAMMY Premiere and the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs.
Keep checking GRAMMY.com for more information ahead of the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs on Thursday — and don’t hesitate to visit LatinGRAMMY.com as well.
Photo courtesy of the Latin Recording Academy
Antonio Banderas To Receive The President's Award From The Latin Recording Academy At The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs
At the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, the heralded actor, director and entrepreneur will be awarded for his manifold contributions as a global ambassador of Latin cultural heritage.
And the Latin Recording Academy's 2023 President's Award goes to … the one and only Antonio Banderas! The Latin Recording Academy has today announced that the critically acclaimed Spanish actor, director and entrepreneur will be honored with the 2023 President's Award at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, which takes place Thursday, Nov. 16.
The President's Award honors extraordinary members of the Latin community who have worked to promote and advance arts and culture around the world. It has only been presented in exceptional cases throughout the history of the Latin Recording Academy — most recently to Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2017.
Banderas has been a steadfast promoter of the musical arts throughout his career, and in 2019 he founded the Teatro del Soho in his native Málaga, Spain.
The company has staged successful Spanish-language productions of iconic musicals like "Company" and "A Chorus Line," reinvigorating the city's live theater scene and making it accessible to new generations of spectators throughout the country with touring productions.
"We are delighted to present Antonio Banderas with the President's Award as we celebrate our first international edition of the Latin GRAMMY in Andalucía," said Manuel Abud, CEO of the Latin Recording Academy. "Antonio's outstanding and numerous contributions to the artistic community have made him a global ambassador of our cultural heritage."
The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, officially known as the 24th Latin GRAMMY Awards, will be broadcast from the Conference and Exhibition Centre (FIBES) in Sevilla (Andalucía), Spain, on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. CT) on Univision, UniMás and Galavisión in the U.S., and at 10:30 p.m. CET on Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE) in Spain. It will also air on cable channel TNT at 19:30 (MEX) / 20:30 (PAN-COL) / 21:30 (VEN) / 22:30 (ARG/CHI). The ceremony will be aired in over 80 countries worldwide. Check your local broadcasters for additional airings.