J.I. the Prince of New York_

INTERVIEW: J.I. the Prince of New York Talks Finding His Sound & Accepting His Flowers

Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla.

If you’re thinking of ways to show your admiration for J.I., flowers won’t be necessary – figuratively or literally. It’s not that the 22-year-old rapper doesn’t want your finest floral arrangements or praises, but there’s only one person whose flowers matter to him. “A girl asked me, ‘How would you feel if you if I gave you flowers?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never gotten flowers,’” he tells Remezcla. “I feel like you could give me my flowers now, and you could be like, ‘Yo, you’re the king of New York.’ And I wouldn’t feel like it. That’s why I said I’ll accept my flowers later. I’ll accept them when Jesus gives them to me.”

The surefire way to stand 10 toes down on that sentiment was by titling his upcoming project I’ll Accept My Flowers Later, to be released later this year. The lead single, “Redemption,” sets a precedence of what to expect on the album, with lyrics laden with maturity and growth. After 10 years in the industry, evolution is to be expected, and J.I. has never strayed away from channeling personal experiences into his craft, as evident throughout One Way or Another and Hood Life Krisis, Vol. 1, 2, and 3. “This record is different because I’m literally speaking to you, line by line. I’m having a conversation with you,” he says.

Born Justin Irvin Rivera, life has always been J.I.’s greatest muse. When fully entering the creative process, he admits to being inspired by past traumas and even the most recent situations he’s dealing with. “The beat has to take me to that frequency, but I always draw from my life, and I express it in a way where everyone else can relate.”

There was intentionality behind making “Redemption” his first single, even if he thinks that even better music is on the way. “At some point in our life, this is the record that everyone needed to hear,” J.I. notes. “We’ve all felt like we needed to redeem ourselves in some way, shape, or form.”

Thinking more broadly about how this song fits into music today, the Brooklyn native sees his song as almost necessary. “Right now, music is at a weird point where it’s not really timeless music being put out. Not saying definitively that the new single is timeless. God willing, who knows? Maybe it will be, but I think it’s more from the soul, and we all need music that’s from the soul.”

J.I.’s redemption isn’t limited to a single song. He’s also busy reclaiming a genre that belongs to him by birthright. His efforts to establish a connection between the U.S. and Latine markets wasn’t just a one-off undertaking with “Spanglish” featuring Myke Towers or “Suficiente (Hood Life Krisis 3).” “I love doing reggaeton music. That’s my heart. I’m the Prince of Puerto Rico, too,” he says. 

Music is at a weird point where it’s not really timeless music being put out… We all need music that’s from the soul.

While J.I. won’t be diverting completely from the melodic rap that made him famous, his upcoming collaboration with Hades66 speaks to a true intention to embrace his culture. A trip to Puerto Rico earlier this year to work alongside local talent, like PRESSURE 9X19, planted even more of a seed within him. If anything, he’s found a common ground where both aspects of his upbringing — Boricua and Brooklyn — can coexist. “I feel like I’m a Puerto Rican DMX.”

J.I. the Prince of New York_
Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla.
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Who knows if four years ago, J.I. would’ve drawn that same comparison to the late hip-hop giant. In 2020, at 18 years old, he told Remezcla, “I still feel I haven’t found my sound; I believe I have way more to go.” Now, each word out his mouth is cradled with confidence, marked by the assurance that he’s found his place in music. “It’s to the point where I hear other people recycling my sound,” he says now. “I have a very strong passion for this, so I’m going to be here for a while.”

With the full project still in the works, only time will tell how J.I. solidifies the foundation he’s set. His latest muse, his newborn niece Valentina, is giving him all the inspiration he could ask for. “I’m in tío mode. I got more of a reason to go harder now.” And when it comes to navigating your own redemption, the young talent has his own advice: “Take your time and stay down a little bit. Get used to the concrete so you can condition your back to get stronger.” 

“Life picks you up and slams you sometimes. But you know what? Better get back up.