JNR CHOI’S GUIDE TO BECOMING A VIRAL VIRTUOSO
Jnr Choi has soundtracked your life the last year and you may not even know it. The ‘To The Moon’ audio astronaut has been on a one-way rocket to planetary prominence over the last few years after his song became one of the most heavily used TikTok tracks in the app’s history. However, virality has never been the goal or mission statement for Jnr Choi – instead this once Topman sales assistant turned Givenchy model has been moving with the seasons, fusing fashion with sultry singles to create an elegantly simple and avant-garde approach to artistry.
Much like his singles, Jnr is a trans-Atlantic sensation, bridging the once terrifying gap between two trap tycoons to unite the streets of New York and London. His recent Avengers-style assemblage of artists dominating the trap communities of their respective coastlines has seen him develop a powerful creative partnership with Fivio Foreign – one the pair have continued to develop over his latest single ‘Amused’. Now, fresh off the main stage at Wireless, Jnr Choi is back in the booth designing the next season, sound and chapter of his career.
We sat down with Jnr Choi following his Wireless debut to find out more about the making of ‘To The Moon’, breaking down the details and developments that have made it one of the most viral singles of the year. We also had to find out more about his link-up with Fivio Foreign on ‘Amused’, his ultimate guide to London nightlife and his thoughts on the fashionista MCs who walked this road before him.
How did the Fivio link up develop from the To The Moon Remix to now having a whole track together? Was there a connection that developed there? Did you get to work on the track together in person?
From the beginning of the ‘To The Moon’ journey, I was thinking of who could do an incredible verse on the drill-esque beat and immediately thought of Fivio. I was playing Warzone with some of my boys in New York and they said the same thing and within seconds one of them was like “I’ve got a link!”. He texted one of Fivio’s managers and once they liaised with my management we knew we were good to go get this feature done. We flew to New York to film his part in the music video and when we met we were instantly just mad cool with each other, his energy is a very calm man, his a very cool dude.
Once the remix had dropped I flew back to the states again and from there, our collaborations became very organic, it was just a case of pulling up to the studio and going out – likewise, when he came to London – we had a great time. We recorded his verse for Amused together in New York and it’s funny because I had just sat down at the dinner table in a nice restaurant when my phone rang and got the word that Fivio was in the studio so I had to leave everyone and explain that I had music to go make. Even when I was out in Paris he brought me out at his show and I brought him out at mine so he’s like an older brother right now.
Do you think this heavier 808-soaked New york production that you’ve been swimming in on ‘To the Moon’ and now ‘Amused’ is indicative of the sound we will hear you experiment with going forward or is it just a mood thing where you are in this for now and then may lead back to the ss21/ hell of a night kinda sound?
So for the latter half of this year, I’m focusing on the eeriness and cold vibes you hear here on Amused & Too The Moon but just before summer ends I’m going to be dropping a track that’s very similar to some of the SS21 stuff.
How did the track come about? When did you know you had something? Why did Sam Tompkins re-record the Bruno sample rather than straight sampling? Was it too hard to clear or was Sam on it from the beginning?
So the way I make music is that I make tons of it every day, so anything I get through that I like I’m just going to jump on straight away and ask questions later. To The Moon was made in Autumn of ‘21 and I didn’t think too much about it at the time, it was number six on my short list of tracks for SS21, but my DJ (DJ Kid Flow) plays at all the clubs in London and he hit me up saying he had been playing it and that the reaction was so crazy that I had to come to see it for myself.
So I had to go see for myself what was going on and when the track dropped everyone just stopped and people started running up to the booth to get the track I.D. and I was blown away. Simultaneously, everyone that heard it was saying they think it will go crazy on TikTok so I knew I just had to get it out there in the world without the big single-release build-up. We dropped it and it was doing well, definitely better than any track I had released before, then when I put it on TikTok after caving to the pressure of everyone around me it just took off.
However, I’m usually quite oblivious to stuff and off in my own little world so I didn’t know when I first got the beat that it was a sample, I had no clue it was such a big deal of a song before I got it. It wasn’t until after I released it that I knew it was a big Sam Tompkins cover of an even bigger Bruno Mars track. It turns out the producer that made it found Sam’s cover on Insta and added it to the beat. It’s funny to see how many lives that track has had.
When did it dawn on you just how viral the track had gone, was it because you were just seeing it everywhere on your feed? Were people sending you it, was management showing you the numbers?
It’s weird because the algorithm made it so that it never really came up on my feed at all but I would hear it on everyone else’s just walking around or on the train. So it was more the people around me that were convincing me that every few minutes my track would come up on their feed and that it was all over the globe. People were just sending me it all day and it was nuts to see it jump from county to country, watching it move from places like Ghana to somewhere in the states and back again was something else.
Talk to me about assembling a UK x US avengers style lineup on the ‘Too The Moon’ Remix – a best of both if you will. Aside from it being the two biggest demographics, why was it important to give this song global ownership and how did you decide on a Russ, M24, G Herbo, and Fivio Foreign lineup?
I wanted to connect the dots between the UK and the US. It’s been such a large discussion point in the scene for so long like “Who is going to break out into the US first” but I wanted to make something that wasn’t the typical “here’s a massive bag, give me a verse” type of link up. So we started with the Gunna Remix before we did the two UK & two US artist remixes. That mixture of Chicago, New York and UK Drill put together can be heard and taken in as one whenever you’re listening, it’s for the world to hear not just one location.
I know you grew up on a lot of West African, Gambian and Senegalese music. Part of the viral nature of your music now is that it’s reaching and touching people in the places that once inspired you. Would doing an African tour be the ultimate crowning achievement for you? If not, what would be?
That is one of the things I’m most excited about in my career because that audience out there is just a whole different energy. We are headed to Africa at the end of the year and I’m posting up to do a free show in the Gambia in December which will be so fire just to feel like I’m representing correctly and giving those guys an experience.
What do you think has changed the most about your approach to music from making ‘Moves’ to ‘Amused’? Is it your beat selection, or writing process or perhaps it’s more about the business side of the industry?
A bit of everything, it’s all just evolved organically. My intention after making ‘Moves’, a very summery and vibey track, was to express the more trap-heavy rage side of my personality. That’s why I made tracks like Undress off my Six Days in Stockholm tape or others like ‘Belvedere’ & ‘Stunner’. I had to express that side of me so that when I got to the point now it wouldn’t be weird that some of my catalogue is more Drill and others are just vibey, it all makes sense now as a body of work.
You’ve been able to merge fashion and music in a very interesting avant-garde way – titling your album SS21 was such an elegantly simple way of personifying those two sides of your creativity. I have to get the Jnr Choi Mt. Rushmore of fashionista MCs who expertly made style their superpower.
Prince, Michael Jackson, Kanye, Travis Scott, Skepta, Lil Uzi, Playboi Carti. Skepta doesn’t get enough shout-outs in this way – but I think he likes it like that.
You recently took to the stage at Wireless, what was it like to get that kinda love from a hometown crowd? Did you meet anyone dope while you were there?
It was beautiful man. Yer, I met Lil Uzi Vert there and he is a dope guy, he is so in control of his energy and keeps so calm and collected – super international and protective over his energy. My mum and brother came to the show and it was their second time ever seeing me perform, the first was at the 02 with Davidoo. Saying that out loud right now is so surreal to me haha. My bro jumped on the Wireless stage and all his friends from school couldn’t believe it the next day. I lost him for an hour and he took a picture with every single person performing that day I swear.
Who is one creative person you love at the moment?
SAINt JHN, I’ve been a fan of his for years and we finally linked up in New York. I don’t even know if he knows it but he’s a big mentor in my life.
Lastly, what’s the Jnr Choi guide to London?Maine is really good if you like steak and there is a club right next to it. Bardot St James is an insane Italian place and every day that it’s busy they have live singers and bands and make you feel like you are really in Italy.