STAY CONNECTED! STAY ON POINT!
Maybe it’s something in those mystical murky waters of the Gulf Coast that has produced some of the most explosive musical talents across all genres. Artists as diverse as rock legend Janis Joplin and soul ensemble Neville Brothers to platinum rapper Lil Wayne and Southern hip hop trailblazers UGK all draw influences from those balmy bayous that stretch from the Lone Star State to the Sunshine State.
Nestled somewhere in between is the port city of Mobile, Ala., home to another great musician set to make his mark on the world– J Simon. Setting flames in those same Southern states as his predecessors, he comes from the bottom of the map at the foot of the Bible belt, and he has been holding his city down for several summers with five mixtapes and a string of runaway hit singles.
Formerly known as Rellik the Dirt Road Pimp, this multi-talented musical maestro disposes of his alter-ego and is set to drop his forthcoming Boondock Global-released project Rellik DRP Is J Simon. Like a breath of fresh air, he blends rock, R&B, funk, soul and jazz with a signature hardcore lyricism and pushes the envelope with lead single “Owe Me.” But this is just the beginning.
“This is the introduction of J Simon,” he explains. “I spent so many years promoting a character that I created but the world never got to know J Simon, the person who created this character…My music sounds so much different from other artists because I’m doing what feels good, what’s real. I’m not trying to fit in.”
That strong determination is rooted in humble upbringing in the Mobile suburb of Saraland. Born Jerel Simon and raised mainly by his grandmother, J has been in love with the sound of music for as long as he can remember.
His granny bought him his first trumpet when he was 11 and on any given Sunday, young Jerel could be found at Church of God Pentecostal playing his horn or singing heavenly praises in the choir stand. And in school, he wowed his band instructor with a natural ability to master his craft.
But although he loved playing his horn and writing R&B songs, J was most interested in rap music. Introduced to hip hop by his Aunt Kheressa, she took him to first rap concert headlining MC Hammer. She outfitted the youngster in shiny shoes, baggy pants, a fresh haircut full of lines and s-curls to top it all off. He was so fresh and so clean that Hammer invited him on the stage and the half-pint dancing machine tore the stage up.
He started rapping the very next day. “I’ve always been an entertainer,” he recalls. “Every time my family would come into town or we have a family reunion, they would have me pull out the horn or sing a song I wrote.”
Rated the best trumpet player from middle through high school, his talents earned him a full music scholarship to the University of South Alabama after graduation. While at USA, he entered into a school talent show. J rapped behind a live band and mixed a trumpet solo into his performance. Needless to say, he won the competition and performed so well that word got back to a retired football player who had recently launched a label. After auditioning for the CEO, J was signed to the label and getting paid top dollar to run the studio.
“He bought me a 1964 Chevy Impala because I was running the studio, making $750-$1,000 week,” J admits. “I figured out a band director only makes $24,000-$30,000 a year and I was making more than the band director. So why the hell am I here?”
Within a few months, he dropped out of school to work at the studio full time. Shortly after, Shake 20 Records released compilation album Southern Hospitality featuring all the artists on the label but spotlighting Rellik the Dirt Road Pimp. As fate would have it, the label CEO got caught up in a drug sweep shortly after the album’s release.
The police shut the studio down, took all the cars and were watching J’s every move like a hawk. “I gambled and left school,” Simon admits. “At that point, I ain’t have nothing. It left me naked. I couldn’t do anying. I couldn’t move around…I didn’t want to go back home because I felt like everything my mother and grandmother were helping me do had gone to waste.”
In the midst of sleeping from house to house, some big time street cats offered to give him some drugs to sell. With no other options, he took them up on their offer until he could get back on his feet.
“I was pushed into it because it was at my disposal,” he remembers, “and I had no other money coming in from nowhere.”
Despite the hare times, he started his own label Boondock Global and teamed up with Hitt House Records to release his solo debut project The Last Born. The regional hype around the album afforded him the opportunity to tour the country with Grammy-winning R&B singer Dave Hollister.
Keeping his name hot in the streets, he came back with mixtape series Mob Up Vol. 1 and 2 and followed with King of the Backwoods hosted by Dub G and Rellik the Dirt Road Pimp Heroin Edition hosted by Bigg V.
Now with a brand new sound and image, he reinvents himself with upcoming project Rellik DRP Is J Simon. Inspired by the loss of his mother Sheila Simon who succumbed to diabetes on October 3, 2013, the project is unlike anything you’ve ever heard. J Simon breaks away from all boundaries with the futuristic groove of EDM-inspired “So Alive,” rock/alternative-infused “O.V.” and amped-up strip club anthem “Do It For Daddy.” Without question, J Simon is next in line take rap music to the next plateau.
“This is the best music I’ve ever made because I’m free. I don’t have answer to what the industry is doing. I don’t have to sound like anybody else,” Simon contends. “I don’t have to focus on what everyone else is doing besides myself. A lot of these cats are here today and gone tomorrow because there’s no value to it. But music is in me. That’s what I do. I’m passionate about it.”