How JELEEL!’s “raw energy” inspires positivity through his genre-defiant music
While his career is only just getting started, JELEEL! has cracked the code in versatility as an artist and performer. Modern music is the most genreless it has ever been, and JELEEL! uses this to his advantage by seamlessly blending vastly different sounds while still retaining an entirely unique style. Beyond the music itself, the Rhode Island-born artist has an infectious sense of positivity, humor and charisma that not only makes him immediately likable but is the main throughline that elevates every track he has released thus far. The result is a collection of upbeat anthems that are charming, sincere and playfully accessible.
JELEEL! can credit some of his rise to TikTok videos that captured his strong personality and equally powerful music, and the young artist is grateful for the platform that social media has given him. Now in 2022, JELEEL! is set to bring his intense performances to the masses with a string of high-profile headlining runs and slots on some of hip-hop and pop’s biggest festivals. There’s no better time than now to dive into the bright and eclectic world of JELEEL!
Where are you at today, and where do you want to be in the future?
Right now I’m in the studio cooking up with the homie Aaron. Right now, I feel like I’m in a good space and am happy with how things are going. As far as where I want to go in the future, I just hope to be worldwide and let everyone feel that real, raw energy.
What’s your touring schedule like?
I’m gonna do three one-off shows in June where I’m headlining in New York, Chicago and LA. After that, I’m doing the Rolling Loud Festival in July.
What do you want people to take away from your live shows?
I always want to make sure that I’m completely present and that I can give people the best show of their life.
The energy that you have is so positive, and I imagine that comes from the heart. Have you always been this way?
I’ve always been positive. Even as a kid, I was so happy and energized and loved being outside.
I understand that TikTok was a huge part of your rise in popularity. What was the process like?
When I jumped on TikTok, things really started to change. I’d upload a video of me each day doing JELEEL! shit, and people would comment and react to it, so I would make content around that with my songs for people to listen to. Thank God for TikTok.
Who were your early musical influences?
I loved DMX. He was so raw, and he was himself. However, the first thing I found interesting was the Afrobeat music that my parents would play. I then started listening to some rock bands like Sum 41, System Of A Down and then everything from Paramore to Kanye West to Passion Pit. I was a SoundCloud fiend listening to everything. I like all different types of stuff.
Who would you love to tour with one day?
I think doing something with Post Malone would be fire. I feel like I would be a perfect match for his vibe.
Do you spend a lot of time in the studio?
I do, but I still like to have that balance and do other stuff too. I’m also a human being and need to go to the gym and work out, pray, go out and socialize. I’m always just being JELEEL!
I think it’s really cool how open you are about prayer and your faith when sometimes people want to leave that stuff out.
I don’t care what people say, and that’s just me.
Who do you credit with encouraging you to be yourself the way that you are?
I give credit to God, friends and family, but really that’s just the way that I’ve always been. I’ve been incrementally building confidence over time.
What songs of yours are the most personal to you?
I feel like you can’t put JELEEL! in a box, and I can’t wait to see all of the different sounds you do in the future.
I feel like people try to put me in a box, but it’s hard to because no one really knows what to call me. That’s why people call me a whole anime character. [Laughs.] I’m still learning. I’m just a student of art, and I’m just going to keep designing and learning. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m gonna get it.
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “JELEEL JUICE!”
This story appeared in issue #407, available below.