Nuevo Culture

​​Why Was ‘Pepas’ So Damn Successful?

Jay Wheeler joins the growing list of Latine artists featured on Apple Music’s Up Next program. Previous profiles include fellow Puerto Rican star Bad Bunny, Natanael Cano, Khalid, H.E.R., and plenty of other big industry names. 

Created to showcase rising stars in music, the Up Next program selects a new artist every month and gives fans an up-close-and-personal look into who they are and where they’re heading in their burgeoning careers. 

“Being part of ‘Up Next’ means a lot for me and my career,” said Wheeler. “The film represents myself as an artist but also tells the story of that young man who not long ago dreamt of having a music career. Honestly, this is a film that is true to who I am and to be the first ‘Up Next’ artist of Apple Music for 2022 is an honor, something that I never imagined and definitely a unique experience.”

The mega-success of Wheeler’s 2020 hit “La Curiosidad” catapulted him to worldwide fame during a time riddled with uncertainty and pandemic lockdowns. But that didn’t stop the track from climbing the charts, eventually peaking at No. 1 on the Daily Top 100 chart in nine countries and spawning two star-studded remixes featuring artists like Myke Towers, Rauw Alejandro, Becky G, and more. 

“Jay Wheeler hit the scene right before we all got sucker-punched with confusion and a massive strain on life,” said Apple Music 1 host Sandra Peña. “Yet, we still found our way to his real-world romantic words and embraced him and his music no matter how lost we felt. Just a confirmation of how real his talent and connection with his fans is.”

In this month’s Up Next short, the Puerto Rican artist reflects on his self-growth journey since fame and where it all really began, even before his first hit single. At first, it seemed like Wheeler was an overnight sensation after his best friend uploaded a video of him singing “Querida Ex (Love Yourself Justin Bieber Rap Cover)” in a car back in 2016. This sudden wave of attention gave Wheeler the confidence to pursue music as more than just a hobby, leading him to release “Por Tu Culpa” in 2018. The track caught the attention of legendary reggaetón producer DJ Nelson, who eventually signed the artist to his record label, Flow Music. The duo went on to release Wheeler’s first two albums, ‘Platónico’ and ‘Platónicos,’ in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Wheeler shares how his seemingly rapid climb to the came with a lot of personal growth and self-reflection with previous struggles.

“I used to be in school, get bullied,” he said. “Everything started getting, piece by piece, together. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be rough. I’m going to cry. I’m going to suffer. I’m going to fall. I’m going to get up. And I’m going to always love, and I will never stop loving.”

The artist is now looking forward to further exploring his artistry and releasing new music in English in the near future. You can also catch Wheeler’s performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! tonight, Jan. 12.