J Balvin & Bad Bunny: “Oasis” (Album Review)

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Bad Bunny (left) & J Balvin (right)

The surprise joint-collaboration album by urbano titans J Balvin and Bad Bunny is a bid for world domination and a historic step for the budding genre.

Oasis is the new 31-minute joint collaboration project between urbano titans Bad Bunny and J Balvin and it is a historical blockbuster move for the budding genre. J Balvin is Colombia’s global ambassador of reggaeton, achieving worldwide fame the past few years on par with fellow Colombia artists Shakira and Maluma; Bad Bunny is Puerto Rico’s leader of Latin trap. Together the two artists combine their sounds, artistry and lyrical style to recreate the future of Caribbean culture and Spanish-language hip hop in their image and their heritages. There are plenty of drunken, wistful moments of nostalgia; there are plenty of big moments (matured and somewhat nonchalant at times). The two artists are formidable in craftic a energetic, ’90s-esque classic, perreo-primed reggaeton for the basic latin-music lover in all of us.

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Oasis Album cover featuring cartoon versions of Bad Bunny (left) and J Balvin (right)

The album opens with a chipper greeting from Balvin – “Welcome to the Oasis” he spits on “Mojaita,” a track produced by Sky Rompiendo (the go-to producer for both artists) that includes Jamaican dembow riddim and water droplets weaved together. After rapid-firing lyrics, Balvin and Bunny take off in a sprint and quickly transition into “Yo Le Llego,” a tough-talking track that declares the duo’s global eminence, setting up a mood for the rest of the album. They ride their lyrics over propulsive congas and a meandering salsa-adjacent loop as they list off all the Latin American countries they’ve conquered. But throughout an album that seems to display egoism and dominance, both artists leave room to reflect on their respective upbringings and career trajectories. The slowed-down tracks “La Cancion” and “Que Pretendes” are both one-two punch of somber dancehall that functions as a salve for baboso-inspired heartache. O

Between the two stars, Bad Bunny’s voice looms the largest on their joint feature. Bunny’s signature nasal Auto-Tune croon christens every song that he appears on, regardless of the genre and lyrical style of the song. Balvin is chameleonic wave-rider of the two; he seems to always be more content to go with the flow on the tracks he features or songs on (see his current collaboration with Spanish flamenco-pop singer Rosalia on their track “Con Altura”). He tends to be so chameloenic in style and octave that he sometimes feels like he is the guest feature on his own tracks – his collaboration effort with Beyonce on “Mi Gente” makes it seem like the track is wholly Beyonce’s and not the Colombian singer’s track. On the album, “Un Peso” sometimes feels like it was written by someone else for Balvin and not the other way around.

Stream the Album now through Spotify!

Nevertheless, both artists have successfully mastered their respective moody laments. Lyrically, Bad Bunny sidesteps some of the artistic wordplay and razor-sharp cultural references that have characterized some of his earlier work. Balvin shines through when he embraces the melodic, reggaeton suave textures that have catapulted him to his current fame. Yet both artists masterfully bounce of each other in their own respective ways. Instead of having one artist dominate over the other, a common issue seen in many joint-album collaborations, both artists stick to their respective lanes and only give so much as they can without overshadowing the other.

Oasis is a document and opus of how far both Balvin and Bunny have come and it is a blueprint of where they are headed. Many hip-hop albums within the 21st century have embraced the idea of a joint album format and Oasis echoes the intentions of that genre’s earlier ventures into this territory. The record overall is devoted celebrating good times, a healing sound that provides temporary relief from the violence and oppression that each artist respectively addresses in their communities.

JAKKAWI: A-

Essential Track(s): “Mojaita”, “Que Pretendes”, “Como un Bebe” (featuring Mr Eazi)

Music Video for single “Que Pretendes” featuring both artists; All rights of video and song owned by Bad Bunny, J Balvin, and UMG (on behalf of UMLE – Latino)
Released: June 28, 2019.
Genre(s): Latinpop.
Label: Universal Latin.
Featured Artist(s): Marciano Cantero, Mr Eazi.
Tour: N/A (as of publishing)
Vinyl Edition: Yes - through various outlets (as of publishing).

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