Dominican-American Rapper Justin Rarri Is More Than a Viral Sensation

Photo by Cian Moore.

You can read this text in Spanish here. Translation by Debora Olalla. 

Bicultural togetherness is displayed by artists, who through connections of diasporic, regional and homegrown sounds, have brought people together by merely engaging and embracing their cultural roots. This act is an essential part of the experiences that fall under the Latinx community and society. Bronx born-and-raised rapper Justin Rarri put this in perspective this past April. A video teasing the young Dominican-American rapper’s latest melodic-trap “2 Seater,” sampling bachata legend Luis Vargas 1994 hit “Loco De Amor,” caught the attention of not just the Dominican-American sphere, but Latinx internet entirely.

At just 17, Rarri has already released a debut mixtape (4EVARARRi) whose hit track “W2LEEZY” garnered over 10 million views and was co-signed by the NFL and Los Angeles Lakers following his signing to Interscope in late 2019. So far, he’s amassed over 50 million streams across his catalog and more than 700,00 monthly listeners on Spotify.

The “2 SEATER” snippet presented the intro and sample, which played the Spanish guitar’s sharp strings. The strings later laid under its 808’s, crafting a beat familiar and unique to both cultures. The clip went viral, and the Dominican twitter population had no idea how to act, excitedly demanding a full version.

“I remember throughout my entire childhood hearing it. There wasn’t a party without the song,” Justin told Remezcla. Like other forms of Dominican music, bachata has traditionally served as both restorative and reflective nostalgia; it seamlessly brings people together in moments of heartbreak, dance, celebration, and ordinary day-to-day moments. “The original sample is a classic in the culture, so being able to sample it and get the clearance from Luis Vargas and his team meant a lot. It pretty much just solidified the rest of the vision for the song,” shared family member and co-producer of the track, Sum Yunghai. The song has since secured over 1.5 million views on YouTube since it dropped.

Dropping his latest ep YOUNGEST IN KHARGE this past July, his glorification in the scene is due to his eclectic flow and delivery, melodic beats, and clever lyricism. The 11-track project includes collaborations with Lil Poppa on the earlier released track “STRONG,” with New York rapper Smoove’ L on “DEPARTED” and the latest braggadocious hit, “NEIGHBORHOOD SUPPLIER” featuring Stunna 4 Vegas.

Born Adrian Justin Bauz to Dominican-American parents, he grew up with influences shaped by their Dominicanyork experience, with styles including rap, Jamaican reggae and dancehall, and Spanish-language music of the Caribbean. His memories relating to music and his parents consist of his father blasting Lil Wayne and hearing everything from 50 Cent to Luis Vargas with his mother. Growing up between Queensbridge and Washington Heights, his most lucid and favorite memory dates back to when he discovered he could rap. “I got into rapping at 11-years old, that’s when I started picking my own music,” said the rapper. “At 11, I fell in love with the sound.” He credits A$AP Rocky’s “F**kin Problems” with Drake, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar as the track that motivated him to pursue a career. Falling in love with the beat, he curiously began learning about finding beats through YouTube.

Listening to a variety of rappers, he fell in love with the art of flowing. “At first, I was attracted to how people flowed in the songs. That made me want to do it and make my own,” said Rarri, adding Kodak Black, Future, and Young Thug to the list of inspirations. “Everything I rap about is influenced by the hood,” said the rapper.

His flow illustrates the many experiences he lives as a teen who just got out of the hood, everything that goes on a day-to-day basis, to fun wordplay as heard on “NEIGHBORHOOD SUPPLIER” first verse: “Bitch, I put the B in beast mode, and without it, I’d still be in east mode. You can catch me all over the east coast.” As an effortless, straight-talking lyricist whose flow delivers rhymes on his lifestyle, the mellow and calm rapper recognizes that this is just the beginning: “I’m still growing up, so most of it is stuff that is still happening now.”

The rapper worked on perfecting his style throughout his pre-teen years, but his move to Pennsylvania to live with his mother played an immense role in pursuing music seriously. Linking with Yunghai, the two began to collaborate on records. Working on a mix, the two obtained local super, and Rarri earned an immense following in Pennsylvania. Releasing “Opps” in 2018, a song he considers a “warm-up track,” was his first song that earned millions of views on YouTube, now at nearly 2 million views. It served him well as a practice track; shortly after, with lessons learned and attentive to the promotion, Rarri and Yunghai released “W2LEEZY.”

Rarri is a part of the uninterrupted plethora of artists in the current hip-hop youth scene and is aware of the learning experiences thrown his way. “The industry taught me how to move wiser, what kind of people I have around me. I’ve seen a lot of groups with yes men around them,” he said. Emphasizing the importance of having the right people around you adds, “People who aren’t doing the right thing. People that want to be in the spotlight too much.”

So far, 2020 has proven to be an exceptional year for the artist and his growing visibility. Justin Rarri is quickly making his way from underdog to throning himself as one of the genre’s most exciting up-and-coming acts to date.