Nicky was born to a Puerto Rican father and a Dominican mother. He later moved with his family to Barrio Obrero in Puerto Rico when he was ten years old. He has been in reggaeton since his youth. The name “Nicky Jam” was jokingly given to Rivera by a homeless man. Rivera’s family was low-income and as a minor he performed illegal work in a grocery store in order to help support them, improvising while bagging groceries. One day a music executive noticed his talent and signed him, and at the age of fourteen he recorded his first album “…Distinto A Los Demás“. The album was not successful, but it did gain him recognition in the music industry, and warranted the attention of some music producers such as DJ Joe, DJ Playero and DJ Chiklin.
After his first album, he continued working in the music industry, where he met Daddy Yankee when they were recording with Guatauba and DJ Playero. Daddy Yankee asked Rivera to work with him. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, they became friends and formed the unofficial Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam duo, also known as Los Cangris. They created many commercially successful singles including “Sabanas Blancas”, “Guayando”, “Sentirte” and many others. They also worked together on the album “Los Super Amigos” in 2000, which was never released. In 2001, Daddy Yankee released El Cartel II: Los Cangris, which Rivera took a small part in. Due to personal issues, they ended their friendship in 2004 and stopped working together. Rivera continued working as a solo artist and created many commercially successful singles. In 2012, after many years of splitting apart, they both recorded “El Party Me Llama” from the album Prestige and confirmed they had both settled their disagreements from years prior.