Clean, positive, and uplifting. That’s how up-and-coming young MC Lil’ J describes his Hollywood Records debut, “All About J,” which was released April 9. “The whole album is about having fun,” the rapper says, “hanging out with the girls and hanging out with my boys.”
The 16-year-old’s debut joins the growing ranks of black teen acts who are rapidly gaining in popularity, including B2K, Lil’ Romeo, Lil’ Bow Wow, and Corey. It features 17 rap tunes geared toward younger fans, especially females between the ages of 12 and 19.
Indicative of the album’s content is first single “It’s the Weekend.” The Jermaine Dupri-produced party track was released last November. The single topped Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales chart and No. 53 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. The track also appears on the soundtrack of Nickelodeon’s new movie “Clockstoppers,” and its video debuted on BET’s “106 & Park.”
The remainder of the album’s mainstream R&B/hip-hop/pop/rock-flavored cuts were helmed by guest producers Clark Kent, L.T. Hutton, Beau Dozier, Jelly Roll, and L.E.S. Dakar. Dakar is part of Orlando, Fla.-based Trans-Continental Records (‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys, O-Town), which recorded the demo that helped Lil’ J secure his Hollywood contract.
One of five siblings, the Long Beach, Calif., resident says the “Lil’ J” moniker stems from his real name, Jonathan (his last name is McDaniel), and his small stature. “I’ve always liked music, ever since I was 5 years old,” Lil’ J says. “Starting off, I wanted to be like Michael Jackson. But I couldn’t sing, so I decided to rap.”
That deep-seated love of music prompted a 9-year-old Lil’ J to steal the show during an LL Cool J in-store autograph session. Turning on his boom box, he did an impromptu performance. Impressed by the youngster’s determination, LL Cool J later invited Lil’ J to join him onstage at L.A.’s House of Blues.
Ten years of various California talent shows later, Lil’ J says everything thus far has “really been fun. I’ve been visiting schools across the country and performing for students who have good grades and attendance [records].”
Excerpted from the April 13, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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