Jenn Morel knows she’s got “it.” The dominicana rapper recently made the transition from dancing in hip-hop videos to rapping on her own, and she’s not waiting around for any suit at a label to validate her marketability.
We recently explored the paths to stardom taken by a handful of contemporary Latinx musicians who have made their own status quo, forcing labels to get on board or get out. And while Morel might not have generated the bandwidth of a Bad Bunny or Cardi B just yet, she’s benefitted from the same environment. She built a fanbase on the Internet as a model and dancer, and began feeding that captive audience a steady diet of lightning-quick lyrics. Jenn Morel can rap, and she’s up next.
On a recent trip to the Remezcla office, it was almost immediately clear why her hundreds of thousands of followers love her: She’s charming, funny, and personable. She’s quick to crack a joke or to threaten to beat your ass — at the same time, even — with a personality that is at once disarming and infectious. And while she’s only got one lead single (“Pónteme”) and a couple features to her name, you don’t have to hear much to know that homegirl can spit, especially when she’s covering Ana Tijoux.
Morel was born in Santiago de los Caballeros, and came to U.S. at age six. She now lives in Los Angeles, but was raised in New York City, formative years that have unmistakably colored her accent, even while rapping. Her sense of rhythm is inherent, and she got her start in entertainment in dance; first as a Go-Go dancer at Manhattan clubs such as Webster Hall and Pacha, and later in music videos for the likes of Trey Songz, Drake, and Nicki Minaj and with LMFAO and Neyo.
She also did a bit of modeling, and in 2014, she took her budding career to LA, where a DM from a star on the nascent video app Vine reached out, looking to collaborate. The first attempt — a morning breath spoof of a romantic comedy trope — led to more collaborations in the six-second video scene. She could clearly hang with the internet’s viral video stars, and not just because her video-vixen persona served as the perfect platform for jokes about horny dudes. Morel’s clips were funny, goofy, and prove she’s unafraid to make fun of herself. Any best-of list of all-time Vines is sure to have at least a little bit of Jenn Morel. Her success on Vine helped drive traffic to her other accounts, exhibiting a wizened understanding of cross-platform marketing. No matter the network, people couldn’t get enough of her. So after Vine was sent to an early grave by parent company Twitter, she set her mind on her next role: Rapper.
“I know who I am, I know what I want, I know what I’m in for.”
Morel’s brother Joelii is a musician, and she would often hang around the studio during his sessions (he’s now her writing partner and vocal producer). He’d nudge her to jump in the booth herself, but she was hesitant. Once she finally decided to give it ago, she figured she’d give herself a little motivation. “I needed to think about something that’s going to make me work, that’s going to push me,” she says. So she took a cue from her Snapchat account — where she fed the tongue-waggers with her “Thirsty Thursdays” posts — and promised her Instagram followers a new flow every Friday. “For me it’s about consistency,” Morel says. ”If you’re consistent, whether they might not like it in the beginning, they’re going to fall in love with you. I did Thirsty Thursdays with Jenn for like a year, every Thursday.” Migrating mixtape culture to her captive audience on Instagram, she spit bars over her favorite beats. For 32 weeks straight, she showcased an uncanny ability to freak any flow, from the contemporary (Migos’ “Bad and Boujee”) to the legendary (A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario”), breathing new life into certified classics — in Spanish:
“Prepárate que el momento es precario, sube sube esta vaina suena mercenario. Prepárate hay regalos para el vecindario, atento atento a mi y a mi vocabulario.”
Morel’s Spanish flow appears all the more impressive over familiar beats, with a verbal dexterity that rivals even the most nimble-tongued rappers. And while her New York Dominican Spanglish means that the occasional English words will creep into her raps, don’t confuse it for legacy Latino media’s tired tactic of dropping songs in English to appeal to an Anglo mainstream. “A lot of people are coming up to me with, ‘That’s dope! You should incorporate more English.’ And I’m like, bruh…I know who I am, I know what I want, I know what I’m in for.”
To that end, she’s already a little tired of the comparisons to Cardi B, even if she does recognize that as a fellow rapping dominicana from New York, they were inevitable. And they each built burgeoning rap careers from fervent fanbases on social media, complementing selfies with humor and infectious personalities. But while Bardi is just starting to test the waters of singing in Spanish — and for the most part, keeping her raps in English — Morel decided early on that she was going to spit in Spanish.
She spent the end of 2017 touring Europe on the strength of “Pónteme;” her latest release is a feature on the Greek-Albanian singer Claydee’s new joint, “Licky.” She’s yet to have her breakout moment, but the most interesting thing about her is that she might not even need one. The barriers to performance are disintegrating, and if her fanbase is rabid enough to consume her art — in all its forms — that might be enough to power a successful career. Regardless of the medium, Morel is a natural performer, and once you listen to her music, it’s unlikely you’re going to confuse her with anyone but Jenn Morel.
“When you get with Jennifer you’ll always going to get positivity, so it’s about getting into the good spirit,” she says. “This world needs that! Pónteme en plena.”