Updated: Apr 10, 2019
Written by Jelani Driskell
Illustration by Jaden Dixon
In Big Mood, staff writer Jelani Driskell highlights the people behind the vibe, profiling the little-known artists behind the cutting edge of music.
In 2015, I heard the song “Ultimate” by Denzel Curry. A monumental banger, the song drew me in with its obvious influences from the Atlanta trap music scene, though Curry’s rapid-fire style of rapping made it sound truly unique. This track opened me up to a world of rap music from budding underground artists in Florida, among them Kodak Black, XXXTENTACION, Ski Mask the Slump God, and Yung Bans. What I found appealing about their music was the use of a dark tone, the high energy, and the cadences which were fundamentally different from mainstream sound at the time. When I looked into this music more, I noticed one name that came up continually in relation to the South Florida music scene, and was introduced to one of my new favorite artists: Ronny J.
Ronny J is a producer and artist hailing from Camden, New Jersey. In moving to Florida for college, he met Denzel Curry through a mutual friend and started getting involved with the local rap scene. Ronny J’s production style to date is mostly characterized by rumbling, heavily distorted 808 bass, eerie samples, scratchy hi hats, and tight drum patterns. In the Florida rap scene that’s seemingly predicated on youthful recklessness and aggression, Ronny J surely amplifies that energy through production. His music is ideal for any setting where people are looking to get energized way beyond reason; people who, like Ronny J’s music, are probably the type to get a rush from watching horror movies, or someone who would shotgun an energy drink.
Beyond that, what’s special about Ronny J is the versatility of his music. Rooted in a very new wave sound, he is still able to work with artists that are reminiscent of an older generation in which virtuosic rapping is prioritized over melodic crooning. As much as he’s worked with entirely new wave artists like Smokepurrp and Lil Pump, he recently got a number of producer credits on Eminem’s most recent project, Kamikaze, which infamously critiques the emerging sound of modern hip hop. In the midst of an extremely polarizing rap climate, Ronny J stands in the center, finding ways to appeal to all sides of the debate.
Due to his rising stock and a cult-like following behind him, last year Ronny J was signed as an artist and producer on Atlantic Records, so you can expect to see his name come up more frequently alongside many high profile artists in the future (he’ll be labelmates with Cardi B, A Boogie, Lil Uzi Vert, and a host of others). With undeniable energy, Ronny J can provide the perfect soundtrack for an intense workout, or even just punching holes through walls. Enjoy responsibly!