We caught up with rising New York rapper J.I. about his recent tour and returning to his city.
To say Brooklyn rapper J.I. has the city behind him would be an understatement. The 18-year-old has been focused on his craft since the early age of 12 and experienced his first viral moment in 2016 with a freestyle that helped propel his career. Last year J.I. released two projects, Hood Life Crisis Vol. 1 and Hood Life Crisis Vol. 2, signed with Interscope Records in partnership with G*STARR ENT and has since completed his first headlining tour stopping in several cities including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas and many more.
J.I. even sold out three consecutive nights last week, in his own city, at the iconic SOBs with his family and local artists in attendance. His chemistry with the crowd was undeniable as girls screamed for the durag he threw and fans carried him as he crowd surfed. J.I. had a lot of fun touring and performing, but nothing meant more to him than reuniting with his family who attended all three nights at SOBs. While J.I. celebrates his success, he’s constantly focused on his future and values his family and friends above all else. Check out what else J.I. had to say in the full interview below.
The Knockturnal: How did it feel to sell out three consecutive shows at SOBs?
J.I.: It was dope I didn’t think we’d push three sold out dates, I was thinking maybe two shows. I didn’t even think we would sell out the way we sold-out and then the venue told me that I was the only artist to do that so that was amazing, but the response was amazing.
The Knockturnal: I attended the first night, 40 oz Van was there, Who all made it out? Was your family there all three nights?
The Knockturnal: How recently did you sign with Interscope?
J.I.: About three or four months ago.
The Knockturnal: Did you expect to get signed at such a young age?
J.I.: I hoped for it, but there was a point in time where I didn’t think it would happen, but then it happened. It’s always been a dream. I kind of gave myself an age limit- when I was 12 I said by the time I’m 14 I gotta do something as far as getting my name out there, I gotta start working. I said if I’m not signed by the time I’m 18 or 19 I gotta do something else.
The Knockturnal: How old were you the first time you wrote a song or freestyled?
J.I.: I was like 12, I had a Yamaha keyboard and I just put together this little melody with the piano and made a whole love song.
The Knockturnal: What pushed you to keep going?
J.I.: I knew what would happen in the long run if I succeeded. I’m not gonna lie I fell in love with the lifestyle as far as like being successful, wealthy, having people worship you, but that was never the reason why I did it, it came with it, but I had the love for music. I love making music. You do certain things and have an expectation of what could happen, but you never really know
The Knockturnal: In an interview with Kids Take Over, you mentioned some of the struggles you faced like getting kicked out, looking back at that do you feel like those trials and tribulations helped motivate you?
J.I.: That definitely gave me a drive. That’s crazy shoutout to my mom too, I just spoke to her for the first time yesterday too, we just made up yesterday. I just made things right with her yesterday. That was definitely inspiration, it felt like the whole world turned their back against me so I was like I’m just gonna do what I gotta for to, to succeed. Last night I was happy for real, I haven’t spoken to my mom in a year so that meant a lot to me. I was happy, everybody was there, my family-I have so many beautiful things going on in my life and that was the only thing I wasn’t at peace with until last night.
The Knockturnal: What was your first song to hit a million views or streams?
J.I.: It was 2016 and I did a freestyle to “Uber Everywhere.” That was my first official music video too and it hit a million.
The Knockturnal: What was your initial reaction after that first million?
J.I.: It hit a million probably a few months after I dropped it. When it had hit a million I was like wow this is crazy. I feel like anyone who uploads something to YouTube, they dream of getting a million views. It was dope, but I would say everything really started to take off this year. When everything hit me -my biggest record has 20 million views on YouTube in four, five months so that’s really what I’m stuck on now.
The Knockturnal: What’s the biggest positive change you’ve seen in the past 6 months?
J.I.: My bank account. I would definitely say my bank account because I remember in October I literally had $300 in my account and I remember talking to my video guy like I only have $300 this sh*t is horrible and they were like don’t worry give it a couple months. Now we got a couple zeroes in the bank account.
The Knockturnal: Does your team or family advise you to save rather than spend?
J.I: Yeah! Everybody! The funny thing is after October I started making a lot of money. I plan on investing in property. I got a little drip, it’s cool and all that, but I really wanna invest in property and expand my wealth.
The Knockturnal: In terms of music can you tell us what you’ve got on the way?
J.I: I’m coming with another project. I’ve probably got a couple of unreleased songs but I was just focused on touring. I’ve got a feature on the way with another well-known artist in the city. The next feature that’s coming out is from the last project because the last project had no features on it. It’s a remix with a video too. I got something with Lil Durk in the works and a bunch of people hit me up, I’m definitely about to cook up with Murda Beatz, PnB Rock, Tory Lanez, mad people.
The Knockturnal: Where do you think you’re gonna record most of this project? New York? Los Angeles?
J.I.: I love Los Angeles, we definitely going there to shoot a video. My manager wants me to record over there. I’m very antisocial when it comes to recording. I don’t like being around too many people and I just be nervous every time I come to a new studio or engineer.
The Knockturnal: When are you thinking of dropping your next project?
J.I: Within the next two months because I plan on going on another tour, and then possibly someone else’s tour.
The Knockturnal: Whats the reaction like when you go back to Franklin Ave and Crown Heights?
J.I.: Whenever I go there it’s nothing but love, I feel like the mayor over there because people know I’m from over there, like my neighborhood know I’m from over there, and I’m just getting bigger and bigger so they show me nothing but love.
The Knockturnal: Who do you think shows you more love though? Queens where you currently stay or Booklyn, where you grew up?
J.I.’s Manager: The Bronx. Bronx shows him a lot of love because they think he’s from the Bronx, he shot two videos over there.
The Knockturnal: Speaking of your videos, You’ve always got the whole block, whole gang, in them, are they from Brooklyn? Queens?
J.I.: I haven’t shot anything In Queens yet, I’ve shot in Brooklyn and The Bronx.
J.I.’s Manager: He brings all his friends from Brooklyn to every video, they travel to whatever borough we’re in.
The Knockturnal: So you grew up with everyone we see in your videos?
J.I.: That’s my family for real. I gotta incorporate them, I can’t change on nobody. You see the same faces in every video.