In the new age of social media, the only way to become successful is through having a strong online presence. Fans need to know where to find you, and if you can manipulate the algorithm, then you have a fantastic shot of breaking through and becoming well-known to millions of people. For JELEEL!, TikTok has been the key driver for his success, although he is much more than just a viral flash in the pan. In fact, he is probably the most energetic artist you’ve ever seen.
Fans who saw the artist at Rolling Loud this past summer got a front-row seat to this energy that he describes as “real raw.” From backflips to crowd surfing, no one does it quite like JELEEL! Even watching his music videos, you can immediately tell that JELEEL! is someone who believes in his own music. It is a mix of hip-hop, hyper-pop, and pop-punk that is almost impossible not to appreciate. With songs like “DIVE IN!” and “JELEEL JUICE!” making huge noise on TikTok, JELEEL! has proven himself to have a great ear for hitmaking, and his talents are only going to improve from here on out.
Interestingly enough, JELEEL! is from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, which isn’t exactly the hotbed of hip-hop. As JELEEL! told us during the latest episode of “On The Come Up,” his parents came from Nigeria, and as a first-generation immigrant, he listened to Afrobeats. This eventually led to a love of hip-hop, where he became enamored with the music and energy of DMX. Since that time, JELEEL! has worked on crafting a sound of his own, and there is no denying that he is a unique character.
During JELEEL!’s “On The Come Up” feature, he gave us the scoop on his origin story, his biggest influences, as well as the advice he would give to a young artist working today.
HNHH: JELEEL!, where you from?
JELEEL!: I’m from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I’m from the smallest state.
How’d you get into music?
How did I get into music? I got into music because I wanted to be an athlete and it wasn’t working out. As you can tell I got an athlete’s build, but, God got better plans. So I started making music you know, and I fell in love and it felt like it was my calling. Something I didn’t feel before but it just felt right. So thank god.
Who are your musical inspirations?
Who are my musical inspirations? Man I love DMX, you know I always loved his energy and I loved how raw and how authentic he was… and he was very vulnerable, too, so I loved, I love that about D. So, I would say that’s my, like, one of my favorite artists, you know?
What was the turning point for you where you realized you were on your way to becoming successful in music?
The turning point where I realized I was onto a success point was when I started doing music because I felt like this was what I was supposed to do. So me just taking a leap and moving to L.A… being homeless was part of the story, you know? I’ve always known I was going to be successful doing this sh*t because I had God on my side, but once I hopped on TikTok last year it was game over.
If a music fan were to discover you today for the first time what song should they listen to first and why?
If a music fan was to discover me today the first song they should listen to by JELEEL is “Uncivilized”. Go go go go, go go go go.
Tell us about a valuable lesson you’ve learned during your come-up.
Okay, so a valuable lesson I’ve learned during my come-up is to completely be who you are. Be yourself. You don’t need to do anything to appease anybody. You don’t need to start, you know, popping pills and doing all these drugs… Like, be yourself if that’s not you don’t do it, you know. Like, for example, other people might have tattoos I don’t have tattoos because it’s not me, you know? I don’t smoke weed because it’s not me, you know? I just like to really just be me to the tee, you know. And I have a relationship with God so I like praying and, you know, I would say pray, too.
Faith is important.
Summarize your debut project and that can be, you know, mixtape… song… and what inspired that.
Okay, so my debut project… wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, which project? Project coming or the project I just released…
…your first song, let’s lean on them first songs. So when you first went to market with that song, what inspired you to create that song?
So the first project I dropped was called Angel From Heaven. Angel… JELEEL!’s an angel, you know. I feel like I’m floating every time I wake up. I feel like I’m on air you know. Walking on air. It feels good I feel like JELEEL! is… I got my wings you know. I’m finna fly so Angel From Heaven is just a fresh breath of air and it shows people a different side of JELEEL!, but still has that rage element, so. Angel From Heaven is a fresh breath of air, I would feel. I would say. You know so. Hey, if y’all ready, listen to it, too.
Tell us about your hometown and how it influences your music.
I’m from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. My parents are from Nigeria. I’m first generation and I grew up listening to Afrobeat so that was one of the first sounds I’ve heard, you know. Just been listening to that and also, like, I feel like I was born with a great ear because there was one time, there was a commercial playing at home and I would always try to like rewind that commercial in my mind and try to act like what the person was doing in the commercial because I loved the song so much. So I just felt like I had a great ear and I listened to Afrobeat. I listened to 50 Cent, DMX, like not really my hometown had anything to do with it. I feel like I just always had a strong ear, you know? And I loved what I love. I love Styles P, Jadakiss, all the legends you know. Yeah.
Have you ever been to Nigeria?
Of course, I’ve been to Nigeria too many times you know. I love Nigeria. I can’t wait to go perform there, you know. People don’t know I’m Nigerian but I love to tell them I’m Nigerian.
What part specifically?
Lagos. You know, so can’t wait to go to Lagos and turn that sh*t up. JELEEL!, yeahhhh.
And you mentioned you’re open to go to Nigeria to perform. Where do you hope your music career takes you overall?
I hope my music career takes me around the world and I make an impact… that’s what I’m really here for you know. I’m here to make an impact. I’m here to help people. I’m here to help people feel who JELEEL! is. I don’t care about the clout or the money. I just want people to feel good you know. So I’m just here for the people man. Yeah.
Tell me about your hometown and how it influences your music.
Okay, so my hometown is Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Rhode Island is an overlooked state. I’m overlooked. Underdog. Always felt like the underdog all my life. I was that kid that nobody wanted to pick. I was that kid that nobody really cared about, but seems like everyone peaks in high school, right? So, I’m here. I’m still the underdog, I’m still the one that people don’t think is real, they don’t see it but God has a plan it’s been written and they going to see it soon.
If you could create your dream song, what would it sound like and who would you feature on it?
So obviously DMX. DMX, he hopping on my song. Who else is hopping on my song? DMX. I’ll have Missy Elliott in there. I’ll have… wow. Ye, will have some Ye in there. I love 50 too so… it’ll just be a bunch of, like, raw energy man. Maybe, even Beyonce, she got some energy, too, you know. And it would sound like… it would sound impeccable. It would sound like something that the world has never heard before. Like, if you hear it, you might cure yourself from diseases. So that’s what I want it to sound like. I want my music to cure people, like, I want people to hear it and they feel, like, alive! Like, jolted with energy. Like, someone just put a JELEEL! juice battery pack in their back and they just feel like they going to ascend to heaven [laughs], you know. So I want that.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring musicians on the come-up, what would it be?
Okay, so the piece of advice I would give to aspiring musicians is to use TikTok. Use that TikTok app, yo. That sh*t helped me out. It might help you out. You just have to have good music and see where it goes. The branding is going to come. For me, I’ve always had the branding because that’s always been me but keep using your Tik Tok. And also like, I would say who gives a f*ck what n***as have to say. Like, people be talking sh*t all the time. They aren’t you. They don’t know. They’re not God. They don’t know the answers. Nobody knows the answers. You don’t know the answers Sway, you know? So just keep doing you… no one knows when they’re going to die. No one knows when they were going to be born, you know? So just keep flowing and moving. We just living and don’t be hard on yourself, you know? Everybody be too hard on themselves. Keep going. Keep praying. And keep flowing. Have good relationships with your friends. Keep good people around you, you know? So don’t be hard on yourself, we’re all just humans, you know? Yeah, that’s the advice I would say.