At some point in 2021, country music fans were suddenly finding a guy with a funny name all over their radio stations. That name was Jelly Roll.
With his debut country single, 'Son of a Sinner,' Jelly Roll was introducing himself to a new community of fans, most of them never having heard or seen anything like him before.
A tatted-up rapper from middle Tennessee with a past that includes dozens of trips behind bars, drug dealing and innumerable bouts of hardship, the common threads that are weaved throughout his music are hope, vulnerability and raw honesty, something that you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the genre.
Since 2011, he has dropped more than 20 albums, EPs and mixtapes, many of them independently released collaborations with other regional rappers like Lil’ Wyte and Haystak. However, everything came to a head for the now country star with his Ballads of the Broken in 2021.
The genre-defying album included both his first No. 1 at rock radio, 'Dead Man Walking,' as well as 'Son of a Sinner', which broke open the floodgates for his entry into country music.
His debut country album, Whitsitt Chapel, arrived in June 2023 and topped both the Billboard Top Rock Albums and Top Independent Albums. The record also notched No. 2 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard 200 upon release, while his breakout single, 'Need A Favor,' hit the top of the country charts in July of 2023.
With his signature blend of rap, rock and country music that explores themes of addiction, pain, struggle and redemption, Jelly Roll's mission is to make "real music for real people with real problems". Judging by the growing army of fans he's procured over the last few years, that message seems to be sticking.
But with such a quick and almost instantaneous rise to stardom, there are quite a few questions from fans surrounding our newest rockstar.
To help bring a little clarity, background and context to our country-rap maverick, we've compiled answers to some of the most widely asked questions about Jelly Roll.
The artist that we know as Jelly Roll was actually born Jason Bradley DeFord.
The origin goes back to his upbringing, where his mother actually came up with the nickname and lovingly called him Jelly Roll. As he explained on The Bobby Bones Show, he was a chubby kid, so "look[s] the part".
Jelly Roll was born on December 4, 1984. This puts him right on the cusp of 40, at the ripe ole age of 38.
Jelly Roll was born and raised on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee in the nearby neighborhood of Antioch. He grew up in a mobile home community with his parents, two brothers and sister.
Antioch is generally home to lower to middle-income working class families, and Jelly Roll's was no exception. His father was a meat salesman and worked as a bookie on the side. On the other hand, his mother dealt with mental health issues and addiction, which has become a major influence on Jelly Roll's music throughout his career.
Growing up in Antioch, a young Jelly Roll was exposed to running the streets and dealing drugs while in middle school.
At 14, he and his crew were arrested and charged with multiple counts of possession and attempted robbery after an attempted marijuana robbery. He was first arrested at the same age and spent the next decade in and out of juvenile centers and prison, for charges including aggravated robbery and possession with intent to sell.
Upon the birth of his daughter Bailee Ann in 2008, Jelly Roll realized he needed to make some serious life changes. Since then, he's been on a straighter path.
If you take a cross-section of Jelly Roll's discography, you'll find a hodgepodge of genres, including hip-hop, rap, rock, soul and country. However, before transitioning into one of the brightest new talents in the country genre, Jelly Roll launched his musical career in hip-hop.
Inspired by rappers Three 6 Mafia, UGK and 8Ball & MJG, he sold mixtapes out of his car. Following his 2010 collaboration with Memphis rapper Lil Wyte, 'Pop Another Pill,' which reached over 6.3 million YouTube views, Jelly Roll joined hip-hop group SNO. Over the next few years, Jelly Roll released several mixtapes and independent solo albums.
Jelly Roll scored his first No. 1 on rock radio with 'Dead Man Walking' in May of 2022, and in January of the following year, notched his first No. 1 on country radio with his debut country single, 'Son of a Sinner'.
In the last few years, he has leaned further into his country-soul/southern-rock style, which culminated on his debut country record, Whitsitt Chapel, released in June of 2023.
Though growing immensely by the second in terms of his career, Jelly Roll physically stands at 5 feet and 7 inches.
While this puts him slightly under average for an American male – typically 5 feet 9 inches – Jelly Roll is entirely above average when it comes to his artistry.
Jelly Roll is married to Bunnie DeFord, who is better known as Bunnie XO.
The pair first met at one of Jelly Roll's concerts at Las Vegas’ Country Saloon in 2015. Bunnie was in a relationship at the time, but shortly after she became single, their friendship turned romantic.
After dating for a year, the two tied the knot on August 31, 2016 when he proposed during a live concert in Las Vegas. The same night, they spontaneously decided to get married at a courthouse, keeping it a secret from their friends and family.
When she first connected with Jelly Roll, though, Bunnie XO was working as a high-end escort in Las Vegas. Since then she has traded up to become a model, social media influencer and podcast host. She's also the founder of Dumb Blonde Productions, an entertainment company, and is signed with WME for management and booking.
In recent years, Bunnie has taken on the role of stepmother to Jelly Roll’s daughter Bailee, whom she helped Jelly Roll earn custody of in 2016, as well as his son Noah.
Even though Jelly Roll's life has completely changed in the last few years, not everything about the country rapper is all that different.
Jelly Roll, along with his wife and daughter, still live around Nashville. As the saying goes, home is where the heart is and Jelly Roll has made it evident that his heart lies in Music City.
There's been some speculation about whether or not Jelly Roll is related to any other iconic musicians, notably Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. However, he is not related to either of these country legends or any others.
The confusion has mostly arisen from Jelly Roll's past collaborations with Struggle Jennings. As the grandson of Waylon Jennings, this reoccurring pairing could have led some to believe that there was a family connection between the artists.
While not related, the pair have produced some notable music projects together though, including their four collaboration albums named Waylon & Willie I-IV and several singles, too.
Though still finding his footing in the country world, Jelly Roll has already won four awards during his short tenure as a country artist.
In April of 2023, Jelly Roll swept the CMT Music Awards, walking away with three trophies (Male Video of the Year, Male Breakthrough Video of the Year, Digital-First Performance of the Year) for his breakout single 'Son of a Sinner.'
Additionally, in the summer of 2023 at the inaugural Billboard Country Live event in Nashville, the Nashville native was honored with the 2023 Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award, adding to the vast achievements he's earned so early on in his career.
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