From the moment he decided to go after music, JELEEL! was inevitable. It hardly happened overnight, but his long road to success recently took a significant turn when the artist signed with 10K Projects. The signing happened around five years after he moved to Los Angeles, without a plan, to pursue music full-time. 10K, meanwhile, is the label of digital favorites like Internet Money and Trippie Redd. Like most of their artists, 10K Projects is young and ambitious, but the company is also well funded and able to take big swings, an advantage when attracting buzzy new talent. 

And JELEEL! Is just that. After years building an online following with a steady stream of positivity, backflips, and great music, JELEEL! entered the new 10K offices safe in the knowledge that big things await. 

“They’ve never seen something like me,” the singer, rapper, and producer says from a seat on the wraparound balcony. There’s a tree canopy leading into the canyon below, and JELEEL!’s voice competes with the chattering birds and neighboring landscapers. He munches thoughtfully on some seaweed, looking out over Hollywood. “They’ve never seen someone that has a big body but a small voice. They say, ‘Oh, he’s too big. He’s just a gimmick, he’s a TikTok artist.’ They don’t consider me a real artist, but they’ll see soon... I’m like, “I’m going to be JELEEL! to the fullest.”

“I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I had a vision. If I kept ripping my shirt and backflipping, screaming, ‘JELEEL!’ on Melrose, someone was going to find out about me.”

That much has always been true. Since embarking on his musical journey in 2018, JELEEL! has been methodical. He first gained traction in college, performing locally in Baltimore and opening for Sean Paul at Loyolapalooza just before graduating. Two weeks later he was in Los Angeles. “I didn’t have a plan,” he says. “I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I had a vision. If I kept ripping my shirt and backflipping, screaming, ‘JELEEL!’ on Melrose, someone was going to find out about me.”

The first years were hard. There were times JELEEL! didn’t have a place to sleep. Even when his first album, 2019’s Angel from Heaven, generated plenty of interest from labels, “nothing came from it,” JELEEL! says. “Because there was no data, my numbers weren’t there.” 

The album still kicked off a period of incredible productivity. The Generation Z EP arrived in 2020, and JELEEL! had a breakthrough moment in 2021 with “Dive In!” The music began to spread, helped no doubt by JELEEL!’s inescapable catch phrase. “JELEEL, YEAH!” began to echo across the internet, and by the time he signed with 10K, JELEEL! was already streaming in the millions.

He has remained composed throughout, with a surety explained by faith. JELEEL! Is soft-spoken, but he speaks with a fervence that cuts through the dry California air. His fans will understand—every JELEEL! song is a supernova of energy and emotion, thumping trap drums trading detonations with huge power chords and bubbly synths. Then the clouds will suddenly part, and a gentle string and synth arrangement will break through. JELEEL!’s voice is at the center of it all, switching easily between the tender and abrasive ends of his vocal range with all the might of someone easily mistaken for a bodybuilder. 

The trick lies in balance. It’s a necessary component to a career in music, and essential to landing a backflip. JELEEL! can do both.

He can also rip shirts. It’s all part of the live show, but JELEEL’s energy onstage would fall flat without the innate musical talent. When he started writing and singing, the newness of music paired nicely with JELEEL!’s training mentality established as a student athlete: he was voracious in his musical study, and spent time developing a live show to match the energy of his songs, inspired by the wrestling heroes of his youth. Anyone who’s scene him live can attest: a JELEEL! Show is equal parts music and theater. 

Clearly, JELEEL! is leaning into his diversity of talents. Gymnastics is his latest interest, and while it’s still early days, headspins were mentioned. 

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