Buzzing Staten Island rapper CJ discusses his upcoming project, "Loyalty Over Royalty," French Montana's guidance, "Whoopty" & his unexpected connection to Method Man in the inaugural instalment of HNHH's "Rise & Grind."
Rise & Grind is a brand new editorial series, meant to introduce and dissect new, buzzing, or underground artists.
Staten Island rapper CJ has been a buzzing name on the East Coast since the release of "Whoopty." The Indian music-sampling beat's grown in familiarity over the years with artists like Memo 600 & King Von, Pop Smoke, and more tackling the production, but it was the success of CJ's version that propelled it into the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Following it up with "Bop," CJ's now getting ready to make a formal introduction to the masses with his major-label debut, Royalty Over Loyalty, executive produced by French Montana.
Ahead of its release at the end of this week, get a bit more familiar with CJ, as we launch the first installment of HNHH's Rise & Grind series, where we have up-and-coming talent answer 10 basic questions before diving into a brief Q&A.
Stay tuned for a new installment of Rise & Grind every Monday.
Rise & Grind: CJ. Image via artist.
I was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. It’s a small town, ya know? Ain’t much come outta Staten Island ever since Wu-Tang Clan. That was 20, 25 years ago, so to have that on my back is a blessing.
I’m a Capricorn. I say a hard worker. We’re true to working hard and getting things done. Ever since I was little I always had a love for music and I always told myself one day I’m going to turn it into a career. And I was just perfecting my craft when I was young.
Top 5: D.O.A:
Every day is a different goal I set for myself. Even getting a hundred million views on YouTube and a hundred million streams, every day I set a new goal. We just dropped a “Bop” video. That got 2.5 million views in less than two days. So, if we can get I wanna say 5 million in the next day or two, that’s a goal I’m setting.
Studio Habits & Essentials:
The lights gotta be very dim. I don’t like too much light. I just gotta catch a vibe.
What are three things I need in the studio? Definitely water, for sure. When you rapping, you be parched. Some snacks, just to get a little snack on. And then… what else? I think that’s really it. I’m not too, ya know -- I’m simple. [Laughs]
I was on YouTube one day, just scrolling through instrumental and that sample had caught my attention. And the song is produced by a producer named Pxcoyo. He’s from Romania. The knock on the beat was just crazy. I was like “ Yeah I definitely gotta jump on this and see what I could do with it.” I locked in the studio and made magic.
When I first shot [the “Whoopty” video], I knew it was gonna go viral, but I thought it was gonna be on some more tristate, around New York. I thought it would’ve made some noise. But, I definitely didn’t think it would blow up the way it did.
[Cardi B & Offset’s co-signs are] a blessing. Those are people I was listening to while I was coming up. So, for them to co-sign me and be behind me and just support me, it’s a blessing. It’s like a surreal moment watching those people reach out.
My first bars? Nah, that was a little while ago.
I started rapping around the age of 14 years old. And I started taking it more seriously around 19, 20. I think, let me see… Nah I definitely don’t [remember]. I think it was to Bobby Shmurda “Hot N***a.” I had recorded on my first track ever [over that beat].
I got the chance to perform in Orlando. This was back in October, I believe. It was a crowd of 2,500 to 3,000 people. It was [for] a Voter’s Rally event and it was just crazy. Just seeing those kids out there and just seeing them singing word for word. It was an amazing feeling.
I’m into video games, heavy. I like playing video games in my free time. I got the PS5. I’m playing more like sports games. Like NBA 2K, UFC. We do the fighting games, we do the Mortal Kombat. Whenever I get the time I just hop on the game. I got the guys up here at the house with me so we just play.
We just dropped the new song “Bop”, it’s out right now. We’re at 2.6, 2.7 million views on YouTube by now. I’m dropping my EP. It’s called, Loyalty Over Royalty, in February so stay tuned for that. That’s gonna be crazy. That’s gonna be super dope. And then we’re working on that album.
Rise & Grind: CJ. Image via artist
What was the choice behind dropping “Bop” as the follow-up to “Whoopty”?
It was just the energy of the record. It gave that “Whoopty” feel, that “Whoopty” energy. It’s a little more slow tempo, but it still makes you want to get up and dance, you know what I’m sayin’? And the first thing that came to my head when I heard it was like a bop. So I was like, “Yeah. I’ma run with that name,” and it’s doing pretty good.
I feed off [the energy in the studio]. If they are rocking with the beat or they rockin with the hook, it kind of just pushes me. It’s just their facial expressions. They give you that look like “Whoa.” Like, “this is fire.” So, I just ran with it. I feel like you kind of know off the rip once you get that feel. You know, sometimes you catch a chill in your body real quick and you know it’s one of those.
How did French Montana become the executive producer of Loyalty Over Royalty?
Shout out to French. You know, that’s family. He just wanted to help out on this project and just give me some guidance. I’m seven months in the game. He’s been in the game for a little while. He knows the ins-and-outs of this industry. He just wanted to guide me in the right direction and help me with this project. But yeah, shout out to French. That’s family right there. Definitely expect something from me and French.
After Cardi B & Offset co-signed “Whoopty,” should we expect a collaboration on the horizon?
We haven’t spoken about potentially working on something, but Offset and Cardi did reach out. They’re just showing love and just embracing me.
Who can we expect on Loyalty Over Royalty?
Like, I said I definitely got something with French on there. This is really just my introduction to the industry. I didn’t want to get too crazy with features and flood the whole EP with features, so I kind of just kept it a little to myself and just got some records with just me. But definitely the next project, definitely expect some more features.
Tell me about working with Tekashi 6ix9ine during the height of his career.
Yeah, he was buzzing at the moment. He had his [first] two hit records out. I had the opportunity to work with him while he was hot. You know, we jumped in the studio and we locked in.
Favorite Wu-Tang member?
Gotta be Meth. I ain’t gonna lie, that’s my guy. Actually, I know his son. I knew him when I was in high school and I used to go by his house and stuff like that. So, we kind of know each other a little bit.
In my opinion, he was kind of the face of the whole Wu-Tang Clan situation and then just watching him in movies growing up. So, shout out to Meth. I used to go by the crib, I used to go by the house a lot.
I believe he had showed love, but me and him haven’t really reconnected ever since “Whoopty” came out.