Nicky Jam – along with Will Smith and Era Istrefi – will give the World Cup one last thrill by performing the event’s official song, ‘Live It Up,’ at the grand finale. Get to know about this reggaeton rapper.
1. He blew up in the 1990s and early 2000s. Like a trio of dynamic strikers attacking the goal, Nicky Jam, 37, Will Smith, 49, and Era Istrefi, 24, combined to produce the official song of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, “Live It Up.” Right before France takes on Croatia in the World Cup final, Nicky and the other two will give Russia a show they’ll never forget, performing their official song to a packed house at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium. While Will Smith is the bigger name for the Americans (who, oddly enough, didn’t qualify for the World Cup) Nicky is one of reggaeton’s most prolific artists, helping popularize the genre during its explosion in the 1990s and early 2000s.
2. He’s actually from Boston. Born Nick Caminero to a Dominican father and a Puerto Rican father, Nick and his family moved from Massachusetts to Puerto Rico when he was ten years old. He was discovered at a grocery store, freestyle-rapping about the foods he was bagging. At 14-years-old, he released …Distinto a los Demas, per Billboard. “I used to open for these big singers — they were 20, 25 years old, and I was a kid with a Mickey Mouse voice, trying to speak Jamaican,” Nicky said. “I was like the little brother.”
3. Nicky’s career nosedived after he upset his mentor. Nicky, while underage, would sneak in to see Daddy Yankee, who would take Jam under his wing. The two collaborated on some major hits — “En la Cama,” “Guayando” – but it would all go south when he got involved in drugs and alcohol. “I was making too much money. I was too young,” he says. “I didn’t know how to deal.” Daddy Yankee even subtlety checked Nicky on a record, which had Nicky reply with a diss track of his own.
“That wasn’t a good choice, because he came with [2004 Billboard Hot 100 smash] ‘Gasolina.’ [I] looked stupid. He went his way, I went my way — and obviously my way didn’t go very well.”
4. He learned how to sing while in exile. After getting ethered like that, Nicky quit reggaeton for a while. He got a job singing lounge music for tourists at a hotel. While it was a low point, it helped him develop the singing voice that would see him bounce back when reggaetoneros became all the rage. “I was a rapper. I didn’t know I could sing. I saw a bunch of artists [succeeding] that didn’t have that. I was like, ‘I’m over here doing nothing — I should be there.’ ” In 2007, he moved to Colombia and found a reggaeton scene that welcomed him. In 2015, he pulled off the comeback, collaborating with Enrique Iglesias (who was a fan) on the chart-topping “El Perdón.”
5. Nicky and Will Smith are buds. Nicky has continued to top the charts since “El Perdón.” Having him and Will Smith team up for the World Cup’s official song makes sense. Will helped boost Nicky’s single with J Balvin, dancing around to “X” on his Instagram, per VIBE. The two chatted online and Nicky agreed to appear on Jaden Smith’s breakout, “Icon.”
“To record the Official Song for the FIFA World Cup is a lifetime achievement,” he said in the song’s official announcement. Not many artists have the privilege of being able to say they’ve been part of this. I’m so proud and happy, I can say to my grandkids ‘I’ve made it.’ “