French DJ, producer, and singer Willy William got his start in the chart-topping group Collectif Métissé before launching a solo career. Eclipsing the European charts with his massive single "Ego" and going on to global recognition through a collaboration with reggaeton star J Balvin, he successfully combined self-aware, socially conscious lyrics with hard-partying music. Born on April 14, 1981 to Jamaican immigrant parents, Willy was brought up in the small town of Champagné, Pays de la Loire, in north-western France. He grew up in a music-loving household, exposed to a wide variety of styles, from French chanson to Haitian compas, at the house parties his parents hosted every weekend. As a young boy, he was fascinated with how things worked; in a bid to stop him taking things apart, his exasperated mother bought him a guitar, and his love affair with music-making began. He also learned to play keyboards, then later got into computer music. The first track he released was in 2003, a collaboration with DJ Flex entitled "B Boyz Shake da Body," which became a minor dancefloor hit.
His career really took off in 2009 when he moved to Bordeaux and joined the nascent Afro-Caribbean-oriented Collectif Métissé, who shot to instant fame after their debut single "Laisse-Toi Aller Bébé" went in at number two on the French charts. Numerous Top Ten singles followed, including the chart-topping "Debout pour Danser," and the group performed all over the world. During his time in the collective, William became well-known as a remixer, producing countless remixes for the likes of Big Ali, Robyn, Macklemore, and Jason Derulo, and pioneered the art of self-promotion through posting them for free download on streaming services like SoundCloud. In 2015, wishing to focus on his own productions, he left the collective and released his debut solo single, "Te Quiero." It was a modest success, but it was his next single, "Ego," which catapulted him to massive fame. Written and recorded in just one night, the tune -- dark and haunting, but with an infectiously danceable reggaeton beat -- became a runaway summer hit, going multi-platinum across Europe and eventually racking up over 200 million YouTube views. His 2016 debut album, Une Seule Vie, was released on the 541 label (part of the huge Belgian N.E.W.S. conglomerate) and distributed by Warner Music; it went to number 12 in France. In 2017 William had his first major global hit with "Mi Gente," a collaboration with Colombian reggaeton star J Balvin that went in at number three on the Billboard Latin chart. ~ John D. Buchanan