Rapper J.I. The Prince Of NY On Becoming A Social Media Sensation

With nearly one million fans following him on social media, Brooklyn rapper J.I. the Prince of NY first caught the eye of legendary rapper/producer/executive Jermaine Dupri after posting his freestyles on Instagram. Soon after, he dropped his debut single “No Static” and now has more than 47 million viewers of his YouTube channel and more than 60 million streams of his music in the US.

Born Justin Irvin Rivera, J.I. said he “grew up wanting to be bigger than life itself” and received some of his early influences from iconic artists like Tupac Shakur, Big Pun and DMX. Right now, he is on his first headlining tour making stops in all major cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles before wrapping up in New York.

The Brooklyn rapper took time out of touring to chat with us about how it feels to have a headlining tour, his latest project Hood Life Krisis Vol. 2 and how he became a social media sensation.

Photo Credit: Interscope Geffen A&M

In the fall, you released Hood Life Krisis Vol. 1, a seven-track project featuring the single “Need Me” (now at over 7 million streams on Spotify).  Did you ever think it would be as big a hit as it has become?

Honestly, no. I had the confidence it would take off and be something big, but didn’t expect the exposure it received.

Tell us a little bit about Hood Life Krisis Vol. 2 that released just last month.

That project I wanted to put together differently than the first project. The main focus was on recording.

Tell us about your experience on “The Rap Game” back in 2016 and how that changed you as an artist.

Prior to being on the TV show, I had never had that experience before. It wasn’t easy. The work ethic is different when it comes to TV. I learned that the more you work, the more you develop your skills as an artist.

Photo Credit: Interscope Geffen A&M

How did it feel when you were signed to Interscope Records?

It was dope. It felt like I was finally being rewarded. The labels look at the momentum you’ve got and you kind of have to redevelop yourself. I have done that by putting out new bodies of work.

With nearly one million followers on Instagram, how did you develop such an impressive fan base?

I feel like the fans just came on. Social media played a big role and a lot of artists use those apps. There was a point in time when I couldn’t get more than 500,000 followers. It was about two and a half years and I just couldn’t break 500K. I try not to expose a lot of my personal life on social media. The only time I really go on is when I have some news to tell my fans or I have new music coming out.

This year, you are on your first headlining tour, many dates of which are sold out. How does that feel?

It’s amazing. I’m definitely happy. As far as main cities, they’re sold out. When I am traveling, I miss my family, but not a lot of people get to travel and see the world. I feel like I am very lucky to be able to do that.

Photo Credit: Interscope Geffen A&M