DJ Nelson and Jay Wheeler Explain Why Reggaeton Deserves Its Own Latin Grammys Category
"I just want the term 'reggaeton' to be recognized," says DJ Nelson. "To me, reggaeton is culture."
If you've ever wondered how reggaeton became so popular, look no further than DJ Nelson, who helped popularize the genre in the '90s (and also claims to have commercialized the term with Daddy Yankee). Born Nelson Díaz Martinez, he first made a name for himself as part of the Noise collective in San Juan, Puerto Rico, then went on to release his debut album Nel-Zone in 1997. He's also a producer, with notable credits on albums like Ivy Queen's En Mi Imperio and The Original Rude Girl and Wisin y Yandel's Los Reyes del Nuevo Milenio. Now he's celebrating 20 years in the business with a new album called INMORTAL, set to be released in December.
"We're going to have an album with endless styles and new music, as well as collaborations with people from the sixth generation of reggaeton," he tells People CHICA. "We're also bringing back legends on the album to not lose that old-school reggaeton influence. It's a very complete album."
Though reggaeton has undergone many changes as a genre since the early '90s, DJ Nelson isn't living in the past. "I feel very happy, and I try to stay updated so it's been very easy to collaborate," he says. "Things happen organically. I expected the change in the genre years ago."
The DJ started his record label, Flow Music, in 1996 and has signed artists like Las Guanábanas, Luny Tunes and J Alvarez. One of his most recent signees is Jay Wheeler, whose new album Platónico comes out November 29. "It was a name we found and thought was perfect," Wheeler says of the title. "I know a lot of songs will mark my fans' lives. My intention has always been to sing for them so they feel alive, for their heart. It's an excellent album and it's coming with big things."
Wheeler wants to work with anyone who has the same respect and passion for music that he does, and has already found that in working with DJ Nelson. "I have learned a lot because there's a lot left to learn, there are a lot of steps to continue to take," Wheeler says. "Although I feel like I am prepared because I have the best tools, which are provided by Flow Music."
Asked about the controversy over the Latin Grammys nominations, Nelson says that he feels the Academy isn't doing enough to honor reggaeton. As it stands now, reggaeton is incorporated under the much broader "urban" category, but Nelson doesn't understand why the genre doesn't have its own specific awards, like salsa or Tejano. "I just want the term to be recognized, and I feel that is the fight everyone in this genre is fighting," he explains. "To me, reggaeton is culture."