Courtesy of Cole Bennett

January 30, 2019

ROLNICK | On the Lookout: YNW Melly

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I’m a sucker for YouTube interviews. Hearing artists talk and converse, while consciously and even subconsciously comparing their tones of voice and slurs to their lyrics and sound is exciting. No Netflix and chill for me, but put on a Genius interview, and I’ll think about it.

YNW Melly is known for his recent track “Mixed Personalities,” which features none other than Kanye West. After learning about YNW Melly from a friend in the industry, I drowned myself in the dark abyss that is musician YouTube interviews. I stumbled across a No Jumper interview with the rapper, published in August 2018. Listening to the 19-year-old artist discuss his ongoing journey to fame and his mind-blowing experience with the American jail system truly had me stunned, especially since he is younger than I am.

Jamell Demons, now professionally known as YNW Melly, is the living proof of SoundCloud’s power in our modern music space. He is undoubtedly someone for “new-wave” rap lovers to keep an eye on this year. For those of you waist-deep in internship applications, Demons is what they call “proficient in SoundCloud.” Put that on your resume.

Born in a small town in Florida and raised in a secluded Mexican neighborhood, YNW Melly began rapping in the eighth grade and showcasing his talent on SoundCloud at only 15. Just two years after he began establishing his online music presence, he was sent to prison for discharging a weapon in close proximity to a school. In his No Jumper interview, YNW Melly opens up about his experience in jail, which he admits truly altered the course of his life and even accelerated his path to success. While locked up, Demons found God as a source of strength and began working harder than ever, when he crafted his most played track, “Murder On My Mind.”

The “Murder On My Mind” track comes with a story and a half. YNW Melly wrote its lyrics behind bars and eagerly awaited the moment in which he would be set free to find an appropriate beat for the track, but jail became a bigger roadblock than anticipated. Once he released the track, he was put right back in jail, as the lyrics were deemed a threat. In his words, he begins by reflecting on the difficulties faced in jail. There is somehow positivity in his pain when he raps, “I was locked up on Christmas . . . Ain’t get to hug my mama, couldn’t even give her no kisses.” He then proceeds to discuss none other than what the song’s title boasts, “I wake up in the morning I got murder on my mind . . . His face is on a T-Shirt and his family traumatized.” The lyrics become exceedingly gruesome but all the while, the beat goes harder.

YNW Melly recalls hearing about the track climbing over 1 million streams, while his newfound success was intangible behind bars. YNW Melly says he was aware that the song’s release would lead him to return to jail. Despite the song’s controversial subject matter, however, he had to release it. He had to transform his mind into music, as true artists do. What are “good” lyrics and what is “good” music, then, if not the truth? There’s some food for thought.

YNW Melly has since been released from jail and recently put out his new album, We All Shine. The album features Kanye West and Fredo Bang, with hits including “Hold Up,” “Rolling Loud,” and bonus track “Butter Pecan,” among others. To the surprise of many, one of his greatest inspirations is Ed Sheeran, however true fans can detect similarities in the way that pure melody is so crucial to both artists’ work. As he continues to mature, we can expect to see the talented, independent rapper working with more big names and climbing toward his long-term goal of signing fifty artists to a label. I believe that we can all be excited to watch YNW Melly grow up right in front of our eyes, both personally and musically.

Juliette Rolnick is a junior in The College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached [email protected]. Eyes Wide Shut runs alternate Thursdays this semester.