New Mixtape, Newfound Fame, Being a Student Athlete

June 10, 2024
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One of the hottest tickets in the Great Lakes region this fall might be for the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point men’s basketball team. Not only will fans get to see the Pointers compete in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, but they may also get a chance to meet forward Josiah Gillie, AKA J.P., the rising Milwaukee rapper known for his hit “Bad Bitty,” who released his mixtape Coming Out Party on Friday. The gregarious nature he displayed throughout his time in our Manhattan office earlier this month makes me unsure if he’s serious about his plans to hold meet and greets before games, but J.P., a Music major and Communications minor, says he’s not joking about doing triple duty as an enrolled student, athlete, and buzzing musician. 

As Coming Out Party’s “Come and See” and “Love Bone” demonstrate, he’s no one-song wonder. J.P. is mastering a formula of feel-good mantras, catchy hooks, and layered, earworm harmonies that demonstrate the depth of his musicality. At one point during our conversation, he spent several minutes giving a live demonstration of vocal progressions in country music vs. other genres. He credits his versatile taste in music to his grandmother, who played songs from across genres. His varied musical rearing made him open to listening to anything.

“The same way you’d pull up like, ‘Play Lil Baby,’ I’ll pull up and play ‘Tourniquet’ by Zach Bryan. I actually listen to the country [deep cuts], not just the shit that everybody knows.“ He also lauds Tiny Tim and others “who made that weird-ass music that’s supposed to be scary, like in a [horror] movie.” In our hourlong talk, he credited everyone from Quincy Jones and Sam Cooke to Ne-yo and Jagged Edge as influences. These were the sounds of his childhood home in North Milwaukee, where he lived with his mother and an assortment of family members. 

“As a kid, you don’t know the difference between the good shit and the bad, you just know you’re having fun.” he says. “I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal for all your peoples to stay at one crib. Regardless of what I was doing, I knew I had my family with me.” J.P. grew up as his mother’s only child until the age of 10, when his mother got with J.P.’s stepfather and had his younger brother. Four years later he had a younger sister. Gradually, he went from getting the lion’s share of attention from older family members to taking care of his younger siblings. He says he didn’t mind it because he’d asked for a brother and sister. 

Along with caretaking, J.P. spent his youth fostering a passion for singing. He tells me about a Black History performance he put on in third grade, where he learned about musicians of the 1920s and ‘30s. Their music made such a mark on him that he began playing it in his free time. “Having to rehearse for that shit, you hear it every single day. So now you want to go back and listen…you’re going to find the Ella Fitzgeralds, the Duke Ellingtons,” he says. 

His natural charisma made him a fit for High School musical roles in All Together Now, and Spongebob: The Musical (he played Patrick). “I love that shit,” he raves of musical theater, noting that it put him around a wide range of people and personalities. He says he’s interested in pursuing acting down the line. For now, he’s on a Jazz scholarship at UW-SP. Along with studying classical music and opera, J.P. started delving into hip-hop in 2022, recording songs on the BandLab app, which he still uses for reference tracks. 

During that formative period of recording in his dorm room he crafted the songs that became Class Act, which he released in November 2022. A month later he dropped “Juicey Ahh,” a bouncy song with a fun hook where he’s crooning over frenzied 808s, all delivered with an intriguing hint of country twang. Even with the song’s shoddy mixing, you can feel J.P.’s presence and knack for melody. At that time he was mainly just having fun, recording music without a particular sound in mind. But his friend and now manager Myles Coleman told him that he should hone in on the approach he took on “Juicey Ahh.” 

“I knew he was talented and could pretty much do everything, but I knew what the people wanted to hear,” Coleman says. “So, after he dropped ‘Juicey Ahh,’ he [made] some other stuff, and it was getting off the track of what blew him up. So I told him, “I know you’re talented. I know you can do a whole bunch of things, but we’ve got to focus on this right now. This is what they want to hear.” Coleman, a business major at UW-SP, typed up a two-year plan of goals that they collectively sought for J.P.’s career. 

J.P. says he took Coleman’s words seriously, not just recalibrating his hip-hop craft, but his entire lifestyle. “We locked the fuck in, I’m talking about for months. Every morning, get up 6, 7 in the morning. He’ll be in there watching his training videos, taking notes down in his journal. I’m in the other room recording some shit.”

Last January, J.P.’s friend and close collaborator 414BigFrank went viral with the twerk-ready “Eat Her Up.” The song motivated J.P., who then crafted and dropped, “Bad Bitty,” a buoyant ode to ”the hoes in the back shakin’ ass” with a melodious hook and catchy ad-libs. His On The Block performance of the track, featuring him gyrating in front of a hanging microphone, quickly went viral. J.P. started pushing “Bad Bitty,” and the positive reception came in overnight. He says his social accounts went from 7,000 followers to 150,000 in four days. “We threw a 100,000 [follower party] at school; Two days later he had 200,000,” Coleman recalls, adding that he quickly had to take his number off of J.P.’s socials because the buzz was getting too heavy. 

J.P. says he recorded hundreds of tracks between “Juicey Ahh” and “Bad Bitty,” but the latter represents him fully locked into his creative intentionality — he said he knew it was going to be a hit as soon as he finished it. “I feel like ‘Juicey Ahh’ went viral, but that wasn’t his sound. I feel like he actually perfected his sound [with ‘Bad Bitty,’]” Myles says. “By the time ‘Bad Bitty’ came around, I was so cold at this shit I could plug the headphones in and make a song in like [three-to-five minutes], just going crazy,” J.P. recalls. 

And that’s the creative zone he carried into Coming Out Party. While most of his prior work was recorded in his dorm, this project’s feel-good vibes were bolstered by fun studio sessions with friends reflecting the turn-up vibes he’s rapping about. The project shows why he’s regarded as the first prominent artist to imbue melody into Milwaukee’s low-end sound. Artists like Certified Trapper and Ayooli are becoming cult favorites with distinctive vocals over minimalist beats with frenetic production. But J.P. says that he brings a distinct flourish to the low-end scene. “You’re not gonna find a low-end artist that sounds like [me] at all,” he says. “I rap about good shit, player shit. When you think about low-end rap, you’re going to think about rapping about stealing Kias. Dumb shit, like going on high speed [chases] and shit like that.” 

And while J.P.’s sound is feel-good, it doesn’t mean things are all good in his world. He rues that his overnight celebrity is changing his relationships with some of his loved ones. “The only thing that’s difficult is watching the people that you’ve been around your whole life change right in front of your face,” He says, noting lifelong friends who’ve become entitled or now call him J.P., which he says he doesn’t like to be called outside of a musical context. He says he resonates with Rod Wave’s stories of betrayal more than ever, reciting the opening lyrics to the Florida rapper’s “Call Your Friends” as if he wrote them himself.

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During an April interview on the podcast No Jumper, co-host Flakko mentioned a woman attempting to expose J.P. for having a past sexual interaction. J.P. admitted that he “had relations with a young man,” replying to the other co-host’s homophobic “no Diddy” rebuttal with “yes Diddy,” and then explaining the situation. The exchange went viral, with many lauding the way he was unapologetic about his preferences. J.P. hasn’t explicitly stated his sexual orientation, but it also seems like he doesn’t care to. “People are going to say what they say regardless. Nobody can really put me in a box,” he says. “It doesn’t matter to me. It’s so [many] bigger things that’s going on that I choose to pay attention to.”

For one, he can focus on the release of Coming Out Party, a project that vies to breathe life into its listeners. “You can expect to have a wonderful time [listening to Coming Out Party], I can tell you that,” he says. “You’re going to feel hella empowered. If you a person that’s in your shell, you’re going to feel like you can go to the club and you can go bag the baddest bitty in there. That’s the energy that it’s going to bring to you.” 



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