In the past few decades, Brooklyn’s gritty environment has given rise to several iconic rappers: Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, Fabolous and Pop Smoke, to name a few. But, in an era where a number of artists have glamorized a lifestyle they never lived, it’s difficult to find authenticity.
Enter Melvoni. The rising 17-year-old Jamaican American rapper from Flatbush has slowly made a name for himself by drawing on his rough childhood to create some raw music. Growing up alongside his older brother, hip-hop star Lil Tjay, Melvoni said his family didn’t have much.
“It’s like every other Brooklyn experience,” he said on “Making It,” a co-production between In The Know and Complex’s Pigeon & Planes. “Struggles but you don’t really know it’s the struggle.”
The rapper said he, along with six other people, stayed in a one-bedroom apartment, where his family washed their clothes in the bathroom. His mother would give him about $3 to split between himself and his sister. To make ends meet, Melvoni — at just 12 years old — would work at a supermarket from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. while hustling on the side.
“[The] majority of people would consider where I come from, like, a negative place,” he admitted. “But I’ve always been surrounded by positivity.”
At the age of 15, Melvoni made his foray into music by releasing “Beautiful Girls,” a bass-heavy twist on Sean Kingston’s single of the same name. After recognizing his talent, his family subsequently threw their support behind him, encouraging him to pursue a career in hip-hop.
“Before I recorded, I was telling my mom I was going to the studio and s*** like that,” he recalled. “She didn’t believe me … But when I recorded it, I brought it home, and I was playing it for her. At first, she didn’t even believe it was me.”
The next year, in 2019, Melvoni released “Memories,” an unusual but catchy track in which the artist raps about his early life over an acoustic guitar. The song, which has received over 1.3 million views on YouTube, earned praise from publications like Pitchfork, which claimed it was “only a matter of time” until the song would be played “from every Bluetooth speaker as New York City high schools dismiss.”
In March, the Epic Records artist released “WHO TF IS MELVONI,” a five-track EP that has only increased his clout. It includes “No Man’s Land,” the rapper’s most successful single to date. With over 5 million plays on Spotify, it touches on the challenges of growing up in Brooklyn while showcasing the rapper’s vocals.
Melvoni said he doesn’t plan on slowing down until he becomes fully mainstream.
“Where would I be in 10 years?” he said. “I’ll be in my big a** house with the same friends I came up with and a girl that actually cares about me.”
In The Know teamed up with Pigeons & Planes to highlight up-and-coming hip-hop stars. “Making It” tells the stories of their journeys and documents how self-made stars rise to prominence in the digital era.
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