Coming up in a New York scene defined by the melodies of A Boogie wit da Hoodie and the aggressive drill of Pop Smoke, J.I., formerly known as J.I. The Prince of NY, managed to create his own lane while taking inspiration from his contemporaries. His obsession with New York Hip Hop started at a young age, and exposed him to rap legends like Nas and Jadakiss, though he brings a modern artistic vision to his career through use of social media apps like TikTok. 

His rise to fame started in 2016 when Jermaine Dupree, host of Lifetime’s The Rap Game, found his freestyles on Instagram and secured him a spot on the show. He experienced mild success from the show, although it wasn’t enough to keep him motivated. He went on a hiatus between 2017-2019, until he finally reached out to his old manager to restart his career. Later that same year, J.I. released Hood Life Krisis Vol. 1 with the breakout single “Need Me,” prompting a deal with Interscope Records. A natural born hustler, J.I. established his rap career with the same skills he used selling books and household items to put food on his table. He had a passion for English class in school, evidenced by the wordplay in his music.

The rapper describes his relationship with music as expansive and relentless: “J.I. is an artist who could pretty much step into any category of music, genre of music… I’ve made reggae, dancehall, reggaeton… I’ve done trap, I’ve done R&B, I look at myself like a musician,” he said in a 2020 interview with HotNewHipHop. 

Image via Interscope