Nick Rivera Caminero, better known by his stage name, “Nicky Jam,” was born in Massachusetts to a Dominican mother and Puerto Rican father. Nicky Jam was one of the early pioneers of Reggaetón, a genre now famous throughout Latin America and around the world. When Nicky was 10 years old, he moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Nicky showed an early talent for music. Nicky and Daddy Yankee formed the duo “Los Cangris” in the late 1990s and released a number of songs that gained popularity on the island. However, in the meantime, Nicky’s personal life was being derailed by drug addiction and an out-of-control, promiscuous lifestyle. (Nicky served a 6-month prison sentence in 2002 for gun crimes.) In 2004, the duo ended in a bitter split. Nicky moved to Medellín, Colombia, where his career gained new life, while Daddy Yankee became a global icon.
For much of Nicky’s life, he had the habit of drinking heavily, doing cocaine, and popping Percocet pills (up to 30 a day). Drugs severely damaged his relationships and work, and almost got him killed, per his own testimony. The doctor said that it was either you get clean, or you are going to die (“Ya te quitas de las drogas, ya te nos mueras.”) In Medellín, Nicky was able to achieve his goal of quitting drugs, which he said empowered him to transform other areas of his life that needed work. Nicky reconciled with Daddy Yankee and recently did a number of interviews in which he opened up about his past.
Nicky’s childhood was not easy. Both of his parents struggled with drug addiction. Nicky experimented with crack at age 9 and began to use it more regularly at age 15. While his father did his best raising him, Nicky’s mother was emotionally, and often physically, absent throughout his childhood. Nicky said that a lack of maternal affection “drove me to do most of the things I did in my life.” Nicky said he forgave and reconciled with his mother years ago; he recognizes that her own life was not easy. Nicky’s goal is to help people, especially young people, understand the perils of drug addiction and poor life choices rooted in trauma and “the wrong mentality.”
Here are some of my favorite quotes from various interviews Nicky Jam has done (English translation followed by the original Spanish, where applicable.) FYI, I am not a big fan of a lot of Nicky’s music, especially from his early years. The values they portray are not my own and reflect in large part the unhinged lifestyle he was living. However, I find Nicky’s testimony to be raw and powerful. I applaud him for some of the positive changes he was able to make in his life. And for trying to help others avoid going down that same downward-spiraling path.
I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have my mom. I had a lot of friends who didn’t have their dad. But not to have your mom. . . That hit me hard. I think most of the things I did in my life were motivated by a desperate need for my mom. I just wanted my mom. And it was really painful to think she had abandoned me. I never did anything to justify her leaving me. Nothing at all.
Yo no entendía porque no tenía a mi mamá. Yo he tenido miles de amigos en el barrio que no han tenido a su papá, pero no tener a tu mamá. . . A mi me dio duro. Yo creo que la mayoría de las cosas que hice en la vida , todo fue buscando a mi mamá. Lo único que quería era a mi mamá. Y me dolía sentir que me abandonó. Y yo nunca hice nada para que me abandonara. Nada.Nicky Jam
My dad didn’t handle his drug problems. My mom did drugs too, so why not me?’ I mean, I had drugs all around me, and the foundation of everything is your home. It’s your family.Nicky Jam
Often, when it comes to addiction, the problem isn’t getting clean. The hard part is dealing with all the fears that led you to addiction in the first place. Those are different battles.
Muchas veces el problema del vicio no es quitarte del vicio. es volver a afrontar todos esos miedos que te llevaron al vicio en primero lugar. Entonces hay otra batalla.Nicky Jam
The simple fact of quitting drugs gave me the strength to change everything negative in my life. People started seeing me differently. When you love yourself, it attracts love from those around you. Nicky Jam was changing both physically and mentally.
El mero hecho de que podía quitarme de las drogas fue como el, el motor para yo cambiar todo lo negativo de mi vida. La gente empezó a verme diferente. Porque es cuando tú te quieres, la gente te quiere. Tanto físico como mentalmente, estaba cambiando Nicky Jam.Nicky Jam
For more, see How To Solve Addiction Simply (Jordan Peterson) | Help! I Am Angry With My Parents! (5 Critical Reminders). You can also visit the complete archive of articles on integrity.