The young rapper is featured on the Never Broke Again compilation tape Green Flag Activity.
RJAE is a 22-year-old singer and rapper from the 9th ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. I met up with him at his hotel while he was visiting Los Angeles for his first ever interview in California. On this trip, he is recording music as well as working on a deal Roc Nation is doing with Puma.
He greeted me vibrantly at the door of his room and welcomed me in. He was preparing for a studio session but made time for the interview before going.
RJAE frequently comes to LA to record at the Roc Nation office since signing a distribution deal with the label. He recently got off tour with No Cap, a popular rapper from Alabama signed to Youngboy’s Never Broke Again label and Atlantic Records. RJAE has been enjoying the worldwide attention on his newly released single, “Mutual.” He’s living out his dreams and he often reflects on what it took to accomplish them.
In 2005, when he was only four years old, Hurricane Katrina destroyed his neighborhood. That forced his family out and started a years-long cycle of them having to frequently move around. He lived in Memphis for several years, then moved back to New Orleans before heading to New York. His family relied on government assistance but still lived in nice areas in the South. ”I grew up on Section 8, so it definitely wasn’t no shit like we was privileged,” he says. “But again, my mom took care of us so damn well I didn’t even know we was poor.”
RJAE says he was a pretty good kid. “I wasn’t too much into mischievous shit like that, I was more so into girls at a young age and into music. I knew I was gonna be a star, especially with this rapping shit. That was my mischievous moment, I was sneaking out to go to the studio to make music.” His love for music came from his father. Even though his dad left when he was 13, RJAE’s first memories of making music were with him. “We would be freestyling in the car. He would bring me around other guys that was rapping. He introduced me to the music… Growing up I just wanted to be like my pops.”
His father was a rapper and his mother played various musicians around the house. When the family headed back to their hometown, RJAE says he found his talent through experimenting. “Just doing the rapping, trying different things and really just seeing what sticks with people. But I always knew that music was something I wanted to do, though. I started young, at like 13, and been going strong ever since.”
When he started writing his own music, RJAE shared it with his father. His reaction showed him that he had what it took. “But once I actually started singing and freestyling in school, and I seen people’s reaction — like, ‘Damn this kid is crazy,’ — that’s when I really knew. Like yeah, I got this. This something I can really do.”
RJAE started going outside and began experiencing what being in the streets was like around the same time. “I started being outside early like 13, 14, running with n****s. Tryna see what it’s like to be a real man and live life outside of being in the house with my moms all day.” He says he realized that he didn’t want to be part of the things he witnessed, but still respected it. “I had a right mind. I always knew what these n****s was doing was something I didn’t want to do. But I still appreciated the ambition and the hustle of them and it made me wanna do better for myself,” he explains. By age 16, he was back to the music.
Although his mother is in full support of his music career now, it wasn’t always that easy. “Our relationship growing up was bad. And I think it was like that because the relationship she had with my pops was so bad, and I’m a spitting image of him. I feel like maybe at a young age, she definitely saw a lot of him in me, so we just clashed,” he explains. “I was tryna go to the studio to make music and she was saying no to everything and it didn’t make sense to me. But now that she sees what this shit could do for me, she’s definitely on board. She’s happy for me. She’s my rock.”
When RJAE was 16, his music found its way to an audience beyond his friends and family. One day at school, one of his friends decided to record him doing a freestyle. “They posted it on Instagram. I went to sleep and I woke up, my shit was on fire. It had like 200,000 on Facebook, going crazy on Twitter. That’s when people started hitting me up like, ‘You have to come to my studio.’ I had never been to a studio before, I didn’t even know what that was.”
Again, his friends helped him out. “I went with who I trusted, and they linked me with this guy. His name was Bang, he’s my brother till this day. He put me in the studio and from there I was a studio junkie. I worked with a bunch of artists, did my own thing. I dropped a project that same year I went viral — that caught traction and I been grinding ever since.”
Shortly after this he dropped his first project and linked up with music manager and mogul Fee Banks. At that time, Banks was managing YoungBoy Never Broke Again, a Baton Rouge rapper with 96 entries to the Billboard Hot 100. “He tried to sign me at a young age. Like 16, 17, right after that project had dropped. But my mom was like, ‘No I’m not signing my son over to nobody. Once he’s grown he can make that decision himself,” he says. “At first I thought that slowed my career down, but looking back I feel she made the best decision for me because I didn’t know shit about the game then and I’m still learning till this day.”
Fee Banks continued to mentor RJAE until he turned 18. At that point, he moved out of his mother’s house to chase the music dream fully. But things didn’t come easily. He ended up homeless, living in his car. “One of my friends called me from New York once he found out I was sleeping in my car. He told me I could come stay with him. I was already familiar with Highbridge the Label, A Boogie’s label. Me and him had conversed before, I figured I could go out there and link with him.”
RJAE flew to New York with $300 in his pocket. “As I was staying with my friend I was working at Applebees. I was working 12-hour shifts, but I was getting off and going to the studio with A Boogie.” He kept this up until he had enough money to go back home.
RJAE dropped a few records during that period and signed with Banks’ management label, Good Money Global. Two years later he was introduced to Youngboy Never Broke Again.
“That’s when YB reached out and he wanted to sign me. He fucked with the music and the movement. I ended up signing with big bro, I feel that was a good move for me.” RJAE has been signed to Youngboy’s record label Never Broke Again for about two years. He’s been featured on various compilation tapes, including Green Flag Activity in 2022.
He describes his deal with the label as being flexible and mostly about promotion. “My deal is more so just exposure. The work I do and the work I put out, they’re behind it 100%. And when they do shows and shit, they’re behind me getting on stage. They put me on tour with the Never Broke Again artist No Cap. And when they have projects, they’ll put me on them.”
Just a few months after signing to Never Broke Again, RJAE dropped a single called “Give Some More.” It streamed so well that he started getting offers from various labels — including a distribution deal from Roc Nation. “We did that.”
RJAE often comes to the label’s Los Angeles offices to record. He hopes to work with Los Angeles artist and labelmate Kalan.FrFr in the near future. All the fame and success hasn’t changed RJAE. He prides himself on being humble while inspiring his supporters to chase their wildest dreams. “If this is something you wanna do, you gotta know you wanna do this shit and you gotta be willing to do what’s hard. This shit is not easy and you gotta do whatever it takes and not let nothing get in your way of this dream. Be yourself 100,000% [and] you could never lose and just don’t beat yourself up so much. I live and breathe this shit. I don’t got no plan B, this is it.”