He's teamed up with Kanye and is signed to Young Thug's label
YNW Melly recently made headlines after being arrested for the alleged murders of two members of his own rap crew. But who is the rising star?
He’s been labelled as “a true child of SoundCloud” and has released two albums so far, the last coming in January. Here’s everything you need to know.
Who is YNW Melly?
Real name Jamell Demons, the rapper was born in May 1999 in Gifford, Florida. His music career started at 15, with Melly uploading songs on SoundCloud before worked with the likes of Lil B (‘Like The 80s’), signing with Young Thug‘s YSL Records label and, recently, teamed up with Kanye West on his only charting single to date (‘Multiple Personalities).
The “YNW” in his name stands for”Young N***a World”, while his music has attracted almost 5 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone.
He cites Chris Brown, Michael Jackson and Lil Wayne as his biggest influences, but has also said that he grew up listening to artists as varying as Drake, James Brown, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift (“all type of shit”).
XXL have noted how the rapper is “known for his mesh of vivid bars about the street alongside vulnerable moments in love”.
What has he released so far?
YNW Melly’s biggest track to date, ‘Murder On My Mind’, was initially uploaded to SoundCloud in March 2017, before featuring on the rapper’s 2018 debut full-length ‘I Am You’. A video for it was released in August 2018, so far racking up 88 million views.
Melly told Genius that he wrote the song while in jail and how he almost didn’t follow through on recording it: “I was locked up, for the first time. I was like 16, 15. I literally woke up in the jail cell and I was like, ‘Wake up in the morning, I got murder on my mind. AK-47, MAC-11, Glocks, and nine’s.’ And then the bitch was like, ‘Get up, get up. Time to get up.’ Like yeah, fuck that song… Ain’t nobody know I could rap. I just seen everybody talking about how they could rap and all this shit and I’m like n****s garbage. So I’m like fuck it.”
With his popularity growing, Melly took to Instagram in December 2018 to post a selfie of himself with Kanye, describing West as the “GOAT” (greatest of all time) in the caption.
In a recent interview, Melly explained how he came to work with Kanye. “His people played [my music] to him in Paris… they said Kanye fucked with my music. They texted me that but I didn’t text back because I was like, ‘Kanye don’t fuck with no Melly. What the fuck’,” he recalled, adding: “Kanye’s a cool person… he doesn’t fuck with a lot of people, I know that, so I knew I needed to turn up.”
The resulting collab, ‘Multiple Personalities’, was released in January 2019, charting at No.73 and going gold in process. Both Kanye and Melly appear in its Cole Bennett-directed video while the pair go back-to-back with AutoTuned harmonies.
The song tackles the topic of mental health struggles, with Kanye delivering the chorus: “I think I got mixed personalities / This bitch switched up my whole mentality / This girl, she got mixed personalities / One day she’s happy, then she mad at me.”
Melly released his latest album ‘We All Shine’ in January 2019. It reached number 27 in the US charts. Pitchfork wrote of the album: “Melly’s power comes from converting solemnity into enthusiasm, making sweet things of sour situations… When YNW Melly is on, it seems like he can make any banal string of words pop.”
The review added: “His music is less actively aggressive in sound, if not content. Sometimes his ghoulish melisma resembles Trippie Redd‘s, while some of his flows and melodies feel indebted to Lil Uzi Vert. He’ll dip in and out of melodic phrases like Young Thug. A true child of SoundCloud, he is most interested in hitting the right note.”
‘We All Shine’ followed on from 2018’s I Am You’ and Melly’s ‘Collect Call’ EP, released in 2017. Its artwork is below.
Melly’s latest track, ‘Gang (First Day Out)’, was released just a week prior to his arrest on 8 February. The title references the rapper being released on bail after his arrest on misdemeanour marijuana charges in January. Its SoundCloud upload came with artwork featuring a photo of the rapper meeting Lil Uzi Vert, while its video saw Melly meeting many rap peers, including Trippie Redd and Rae Sremmurd.
Is there a documentary?
In December 2018, Melly released a 20 minute-long documentary to YouTube. The doc followed the rapper, showing interviews with his family as well as YNW Juvy and YNW Sakchaser.
“I am your favourite rapper,” Melly says at the start of the film. “I don’t care who the fuck you like. I’m your favourite singer. I don’t care who they are, I am them. I watched every video they did, every mistake they made, every good thing they did, every sound they made. I know that shit and I know how to do it, so how the fuck can I not be your favourite rapper?”
Why has he been arrested?
On 13 February, Demons was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder in Florida. The arrest was in relation to the deaths of two of Melly’s YNW crew, Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams, 21, and Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas Jr, 19, who were shot dead on 26 October of last year. The upcoming star was arrested alongside YNW Bortlen (real name Cortlen Henry).
Miramar Police say the rapper, 19, shot the pair and staged the crime scene with accomplice Henry to make it appear like the two men had been killed in a drive-by shooting. Henry is said to have driven the victims to an emergency room after they sustained multiple gunshot wounds. The pair were pronounced dead upon arrival.
“Jamell Demons, a.k.a. YNW Melly & Cortlen Henry have been arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder. The victims, Anthony Williams & Christopher Thomas Jr., were killed on 10/26/2018,” a police statement read.
Has YNW Melly responded to the charges?
Following the deaths of Williams and Thomas, Melly’s attorney released a statement saying: “He’s sad, he’s upset, obviously. Those were his best friends.”
Responding to the arrest on an Instagram post, Melly said he had voluntarily turned himself into police.
“To all my fans and supporters no I did not get locked up in Washington , but I am turning myself in today I want you guys to know I love you and appreciate every single one of y’all, a couple months ago I lost my two brothers by violence and now the system want to find justice.”
He went on to describe the allegations as “rumours and lies”, writing: “Unfortunately a lot of rumors and lies are being said but no worries god is with me and my brother @ynw.bortlen and we want y’all to remember it’s a ynw Family I love you @ynwsakchaser1 and @ynwjuvy #freeus”.
What are his prior offences?
In 2017, Melly served a year-long jail sentence after being charged with firing a gun at three students at a nearby high school. According to a local news report, the rapper was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of discharging a firearm in public. Nobody was injured in the incident.
On 30 June 2018, he was arrested in Fort Myers, Florida for possession of weapon or ammunition by a convicted felon, marijuana possession and being in possession of drug paraphernalia.
On 3 January 2019, Demons was arrested again for possession of marijuana and handling drug equipment.