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Over the last few years, the Rhode Island-born artist JELEEL! has made head-spinning songs that tear through sounds and scenes with reckless abandon—whipping up raw rap anthemics, and throat-shredding vocals that recall the intensity of punk and metal. It’s ecstatic, overwhelming music, but it holds together because JELEEL! himself sits at the center, an intoxicatingly confident and magnetic presence with a unique ability to flawlessly weave through genres. It’s why his songs have started to blow up—everything he does pulses with potential energy, the thrill of not knowing exactly what might happen next.
Though JELEEL! has been percolating in the independent music landscape since 2019, he skyrocketed to fame thanks to his 2021 single, “DIVE IN!,” an breathless yet supremely cathartic 100 seconds, in which each second is laced with a joie de vivre wholly unique to JELEEL!’s mission. The track features JELEEL! screaming his bars with the force of a hardcore vocalist, while the drums bang and electronics whirr and buzz menacingly in the background. On the track, he sings, “When I feel like rollin’ up, I’ma slide in/ When I’m in my zonin’, uh, start the violence,” with unimaginable power. It’s a call to action on the floor of the club.
Songs like these are full of the genre-obliterating energy and boundless sonic experimentation that puts JELEEL! in a lane all of his own, one that has peaked the curiosity of millions of fans worldwide. “I’m always trying new things and as I was making the song “JULY! I decided to speed it up and it hit,” he says, referencing a head-turning early 2022 standout. “I was like, ‘Damn, this is the one.’ I wasn’t trying to make a record that fit into any particular genre or box, it was an experiment that just happened to hit.”
JELEEL! was born in Rhode Island to parents who had emigrated from Nigeria and frequently pressed their son to become a doctor, lawyer, or find some other occupation that could provide steady income and security. But JELEEL! was hellbent on a different path, one he began developing as a teenager, where he dictated life on his own terms and created a vision blending art, athletics, and an attention-grabbing charisma. “I had a vision, and I had the brand. I didn’t have a plan though because I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I had that drive,” he explains.
That drive has been a constant, even when times have been tough. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue music without a safety net and found himself homeless during his first year in the city. Between couch-surfing and sleeping in studios, he released his first project, the genre-blurring Angel from Heaven, in 2019, proving to himself that his best work emerged from following his wildest impulses. Shortly after, he began building a presence on TikTok, where the community embraced his honesty and passion. It also helps that JELEEL! has taken up a strong interest in MMA and weightlifting, which he shows off in music videos by doing backflips and smashing cinder blocks. No matter what he does, JELEEL! attacks it like he’s trying to change the world.
As JELEEL! continues to build on the success of “DIVE IN!” and the culture shifting “JELEEL JUICE!,” the young star is staying level-headed, mainly because going big was always part of his plan. “It’s all about being comfortable in uncomfortable situations, that’s where confidence comes from. I knew this would come eventually so I’m not fazed by it,” he explains. He’s on the
precipice of something huge and different from what anyone else in rap—or pop—is doing, but JELEEL! won’t be satisfied until he reaches his goal: “I’m going to make a huge, worldwide impact.”